Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Black Friends I Never Knew I Had.

I found this delightful little film on youtube the other day. It is about an English village in the 1940's. What struck me in particular about it is that it has two black children in it.

Now as far as I am concerned, when I was a primary school child at about the same time as this film was made, there were no black children in England. If there had been I am certain that I would have known about it. Especially when you bear in mind that I was living in a children's home with several hundred other kids. Surely in such a situation, on the outskirts of what was then the worlds biggest city, London, one or two of its inhabitants would have been black? But no. I cannot recall any black children from that time.

So these two little black girls living in an English village must have been a very rare sight indeed, wouldn't you agree?

But now here is a strange thing. When I went to a reunion at that children's home a few years ago I was talking to a couple of blokes of my age, who had been at my primary school at the same time as me. One of them lived in the house next to to mine and the other just a few doors further down. They were very likely to have been among my playmates. What is so strange, I hear you ask? Well, the thing is, both of these men are black! Unmistakably black too. I would have sworn that I had never seen a black child there. Ever.

The point of all this, if indeed I might be trying to make one is: At what stage in our lives do we stop looking at each other as simply another person, and begin to notice differences? Perhaps more importantly, why does it happen?

Anyway here is a link to the youtube film. I am not sure if the link will work directly, but if you do want to see it I suppose you can go to youtube and type it in.



  1. Children have such pure minds. It is a shame that we as adults have to sully them with nonsense.

  2. For a child what is, is. Although children can be the cruellest creatures under the sun, they accept any given without asking questions.
    That you forgot that your play mates were black is unusual though.

    1. Most of the time a child is cruel only because they have not acquired that filter that keeps them from blurting out the truth. Once the filter starts to form, nastiness comes into play.

  3. A childs mind only starts noticing differences when it is programmed by outside sources to do so. Sad that it happens.

  4. It makes me wonder how reliable other memories we have of the long distant past are. Kids see things in a different way. One 4 year old I know was certain I had real squashed children stuck on my shower curtain - actually they were stick figures like you get on the outside of loo doors (it was a rather arty curtain).

    Leaving aside the fact that they were about 3 inches tall, too small even for dwarf children. And would someone as nice as me really squash children and put them on the shower curtain? I was quite offended really

  5. What a lovely little film. I wonder if some of the children in the film had been evacuated ? I can remember standing in line and marching into school like that. I wonder when that practise stopped.

    When my eldest daughter first started school, 30 years ago, she made a friend on the first day and asked me if I had seen her when they came out of school. She described her hair and eye colour and what kind of cardigan she was wearing but didnt mention her skin colour which was different to any other child in the school. I think Emma Springfield said it all.

  6. An insightful reflection, John. As children we are more accepting of each other and don't look for differences!

  7. Children's mind are pure and never really notice the difference in color etc. All they know is as long as they could play together, get along, they are friends. That is why I love chatting with children more than adult. They do teach us a thing or two from time to time. Happy blogging to you

  8. By the way, I love that handsome photo of yours as header.

  9. In the early 1960s I was at a prep school in the UK. Each evening I would leave school hand in hand with my friend. People would love to watch us...I was fair ,blue eyed and blonde...my friend brown eyes , brown hair and brown skin. I left that school and went to another school. I never realised my friend "Ahmed" was black until I was an adult. I saw my sister talking to a black guy...I asked who it was...it was my friend from school.
    Jane x

  10. I once taught a child with not a skeric of hair on his head, no eyebrows, eyelashes, nothing. His parents were really concerned, on enrollment that this child would be the butt of jokes and bullied. He was in my class for nearly and entire year without any mention of him having no hair, til one day when he was taking his painting smock off and some plue paint got on his head, then another child said, "Alister's got no hair". Children are just so accepting especially when in Kindergarten.

  11. Too often we left our social progress in the hands of peevish elders, but happily rediscover society in the accepting children we remember being. Funny old world.

  12. Get hammered!
    I thought of you today when I posted my 'odd jobs' post. Hammer, guitar, voice a jack(off) of all trades?