Long ago, in the mists of pre-history, it started.

We were on this side of the river, and they were on that side. Our people were valued, theirs were to be slaughtered if they stepped foot in our village.

The Constitution of the United States defined a Negro as equivalent to three fifths of a white man (technically, only in terms of political power). They were good for pickin' cotton, but you wouldn't want your daughter to marry one.

Out West, there was a lot of land. Tens of thousands of Indians lived on it; tens of thousands of "white folks" (who at one time were from this village or that, or were Roman or Germanian, but those minor tiffs can be forgotten in the face of such differences as this) wanted to. Clearly, those people in the way were stupid, brutal, dirty; fit for extermination. The only good Injun was a dead Injun.

When they were pretty much cleared out, there were plenty of "heathen Chinee" to look down upon. Build our railroads! Do our laundry! Head down when we pass!

In our own modern age, it was the official position of one of the most powerful states in the world that the Superman could only be tall with blond hair and blue eyes. Jews, Gypsies, Catholics and Queers need not apply.

Sometimes, we in the U.S. have fooled ourselves into thinking we'd put such attitudes behind us, but we found other obstacles to place between us — rich and poor, or even recent immigrants vs. more established ones.

It was always something. You do your business on that side of the road, and we'll do our business on this side. … Don't ever let me catch you with him again. … You don't know what they're like.

When I was a child, the Perez family lived down the street. Mikey and Millio, a bit older than my two older brothers. Sometimes I couldn't understand what they were saying.They taught me how to throw a Frisbee. They showed me how close brothers could be.

Directly across from us was Nancy, my playmate. Her family were Protestants. Talking with her (on a very shallow level) brought me my first real realization that not everyone was Catholic. Even then, it was a while before I learned that they believed in some quite different things. But I still enjoyed playing "let's get married" with her.

One year in high school, I was in summer school and didn't know anybody. James, a Chinese boy, took notice and hung out with me at recess.

Dave, the vice president of the company where I had my first real job, was from Pakistan. He dressed amazingly well, and remains in my mind the archetype of social grace.

My one-time girlfriend of ten years was Filipino. When I would visit her, I would often receive several days of immersion in a foreign culture, as virtually all of her acquaintances here were also from the Phillipines. I was her "white friend".

The first real friend I met after moving to Santa Barbara is Iranian. He improved my tennis game, resurrected some of my dormant ability to speak German, and suggested that we live together, despite my unwanted sexual desire for him.

Why would I have wanted to shun any of these people? Or them to shun me? Somewhere within me, deep or on the surface, to a greater or lesser extent, each one of them is a part of me. I've not yet had a close Negro friend — maybe that's what that little chip on my left side is waiting for.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
Martin Luther King, Jr.