I was 12 - on a Southern vacation with my folks. I've never forgotten those signs I saw on the bathrooms.
We didn't have those signs in the racially mixed neighborhood where I grew up. So I didn't have a file folder for "colored" and "white."
Jackie Robinson did. As America's first black baseball player in the Major Leagues, the baseball field was a battlefield. Before President Truman integrated the military. Before Rosa Parks. Before Dr. King.
Jackie faced a firestorm of brutal insults. Racial taunts. Death threats. But he passed the test. And opened a door that helped change a nation.
America's talking a lot about Jackie Robinson now. Thanks to the movie titled after his number - "42." We're discovering the powerful human drama behind a decisive victory in America's long journey to racial equality.
And two brands of courage that are in short supply these days. Courage that's still game-changing - in a family...an office...a church...a neighborhood.
Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager in 1947, had the courage to sign Jackie Robinson - and shatter baseball's color barrier.
His was the courage to defy a culture that's just plain got it wrong. A status quo that many have accepted as "just the way it is."
And, man, do we need that courage today, especially with so many land mines surrounding raising our children. How do we help them defy a messed-up "normal"? By not letting our children do and see and listen to what's popular but poisonous. By refusing to join in - or condone by our silence - gossip and backstabbing. By not accepting that a certain amount of deceit and surrendered integrity is "the way it's done these days." By not being tolerant of today's more subtle - but just as destructive - versions of prejudice.
Branch Rickey displayed the courage to defy the ugliness around us. Jackie Robinson displayed the courage to deny the ugliness inside us.
Let's follow their example - because our kids are following ours!