The Rev. James Dixon said he has dealt with racism for much if his life and, in some ways, the problem is worse now than ever.
But, Dixon, who is Black and a long-time resident of Masury, said there are signs that the future could be different, and he has hope that society will get there.
The associate pastor at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Masury, said he did not experience much racism as a child. He grew up in New Castle, in a neighborhood with families who were Polish, Italian, Slovenian, Slovakian and Black.
“We all lived together,” said Dixon, 83. “You cared for one another. The parents watched over the kids, and they even fed you. They knew that my mom had six kids. It was nice coming up. I didn’t know about the South. We didn’t have no problems.”
Dixon met his wife, the former Shirley Perry, a North Carolina native, in New Castle, and they moved to Davis Street in Masury in about 1960, following her parents, who already had a home there. It was a great neighborhood – as it remains, he said – but it was an area mostly populated by Blacks.
“We kept to ourselves,” he said.
Dixon got a job at Wheatland Tube, and the work climate was not friendly.
“Blacks had the worst jobs,” Dixon said. “We had the dirtiest jobs until ‘64.”
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the union started pressing for better treatment of Blacks, said Dixon, a crane man who retired in 1998.
“We had the right where we could bid on jobs,” he said. “Then we started getting into good jobs.”
Dixon served on the civil rights committee at Wheatland Tube, and he remains a member of the Mercer County Branch of the NAACP.
Because the Davis and Ulp Street areas were mostly populated by Blacks, and they developed a reputation as a not-so-nice part of town, whites would drive down the street to gawk, he said. The police could be “snobbish,” and would “pinpoint certain people,” Dixon said.
The reputation was undeserved, and people such as John Schuster, a white man whose restaurant was on Brookfield Avenue, “up the hill” from Dixon’s house, spoke up for the neighborhood and its residents, Dixon said.
Noting that he hasn’t had an issue with local police protection for some time, Dixon said forming a relationship with the police department is important.
“That’s a good thing when they come down here and they know you,” Dixon said. “They know you don’t have no problems. They know we’ve never had to call the police down here.”
As a parent of two, Dixon had to be vigilant as to how they were treated at Brookfield schools, he said.
“You had a lot of problems with the schools,” Dixon said. “They discriminated there. You had to keep them in check. As long as they know that you’re coming, they’re not gonna do nothing. They loved our Black boys as long as they played football or basketball or something like that. After that, they were through with us. You seen that. That’s the way life is.”
Dixon said he is alarmed with the actions of police in the killings of Blacks in other areas and agrees with the protests. He also decried that President Trump “seems to be the type of guy that he wants us split.”
But, his hope for the future starts with the changes within his own family. His son, James, now deceased, married a white woman and had biracial kids.
“I got a lot of cousins in New Castle, they’re all mixed,” Dixon said. “How you gonna split your family in half?”
Dixon called the rise of families like his own “a big move.”
“In my day, you kept with your kind. It was very seldom you seen the Black and white, back in my day. Now, every time you look up, you don’t know who’s Black and who’s white. You watch them on television, you don’t know whether they’re Black or white. It’s coming. I think what the white man is fearful of, he’s gonna be eliminated because there’s not gonna be all white and all Black. It’s gonna just be one group.”
Showing his faith, Dixon said there will come a day when there is no racism.
“If we don’t make it here, we’re gonna make it in eternity,” he said.