Bearing Witness to Racism from a Privileged Perspective

Barbara Bray
10 min readNov 12, 2021
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

I was raised in the 50s and 60s in Silver Spring, Maryland. I’m white and everyone around me was white. That was normal for me.

I thought being in Maryland outside of D.C. was an exciting place to grow up. Through my own experiences and what I’ve learned about deed covenants, I am becoming more aware of what was responsible for controversial issues happening today around voting suppression, bans on teaching and books, and inequities that have always been there. There are Photographs that Tell a Story by Elliot Erwitt from this period and images from events in some of the articles I reference in this post including a painting by my mom.

I didn’t have all the information about segregation and how it was planned. I decided to research and learn about deed covenants that restricted certain people from living in Silver Spring. I found what I was looking for in the Columbia College of Arts and Science History News Report: Silver Spring, Maryland Has Whitewashed Its Past and A Little Silver Spring History both by David S. Rotenstein. The first restrictive covenants attached to properties in Silver Spring were included in deeds executed by Virginia attorney and real estate speculator Robert Holt Easley (1856–1941).

“Silver Spring, an unincorporated place in Montgomery County adjacent to the District of Columbia’s northern boundary, excluded African Americans through racially restrictive deed covenants. Silver Spring was a strictly segregated Southern town that vigorously resisted integration well into the 1960s. African-Americans could not live in Silver Spring but they could be domestic workers and built the homes that they could not buy.”

Maryland, north of Washington, D.C., is where I grew up

I was unaware that I grew up part of this intentional divide. One of the places where I lived was next to Rock Creek Park where I used to play [map]. I found a picture of my first-grade class and everyone was white. All the teachers and the principal and the other staff were white. In fact, everyone was white in most of my schools K-12. Growing up I didn’t know anything different and thought that was what it was supposed to be like. Rotenstein shares his…

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Barbara Bray

Story Weaver ~ Podcast host ~ Author “Define Your WHY” ~ Co-author 2 books on Making Learning Personal ~ Author "Grow Your Why" ~ New Podcast "Real Talk"