W - H - I - T - E
AND DON’T MAKE IT HARD ON YOURSELF
In the spring of 1965 while I was home for spring break of my senior year in college my sister and I went to the SC Registrar’s Office so I could register to vote. I turned 21 in December of 1964 about four weeks too late to vote in the presidential election and I was eager not to miss any upcoming elections. I don’t remember why Dunlap went with me but I do remember that we were very gay and giddy, two silly young girls, one of whom happened to be 21. The woman in the office took me in a little separate room to fill in a form and take an oath in which I was to swear among a whole array of other things that I had not committed sodomy or buggery. I had to fill in a form before I took the oath. When I came to race on the form I thought I would be very correct and put “Caucasian” but unsure of the spelling, I called out to Dunlap “Dunlap, How do you spell ‘Caucasian’?”; the answer was immediate and came from the steely voiced woman registrar “W-H-I-T-E and DON’T MAKE IT HARD ON YOURSELF.”
It was in a different mood and as a different young woman that I left that building. I have never missed an opportunity to cast my vote. And every time I vote I thank that woman for teaching me in one terse sentence exactly how precious a right a voting is.
In doing the research for this piece and looking back at all the regional and national ferment that surrounded that woman’s life in the spring of 1965 I realized that everything that she held true was being upended. No wonder that she felt angry. I still do not agree with her point of view but, perhaps, I can be more understanding of her.