I have a couple of distinct memories from the Civil Rights era that are very telling of the times.
One of my girlfriend's at Phillips father was a preacher who was an outspoken advocate for integration, and a lot of the students at Phillips made her life miserable. I tried my best to remain friendly to her, but I remember how hard it was. I was afraid to associate with her, but angry that everyone was taking her father's views out on her. I don't think I did a very good job of being a good friend to her, but I did my best at the time.
The other incident that sticks out in my mind is another one that I look back on, and I'm not proud of myself at all. The one friend that I had gone to elementary school with rode home with me on the bus after things had settled down a bit. The buses were still segregated at that time, but there was still a lot of demonstrating going on.
When we were not too far from where she would have gotten off the bus, some other school kids decided to get cute. They took the board that said "Colored," that divided the front and back of the bus, and they moved it several seats behind some Black passengers. We saw them do it, but didn't dare say anything. The next thing we knew, the bus driver had pulled the bus over, and was coming down the aisle, yelling hateful remarks to the Blacks! (Of course that's not what he called them, but I don't use that kind of language.) We thought he was going to get onto the kids, but instead he just assumed that the Colored folks had moved in front of the board.
How I wish the two of us had had the courage to speak up and tell him that the kids had done it, but we didn't. For all we knew, the whole bus was about to erupt into a violent confrontation. We both ran for the exit and all but ran to her house. I think I stayed there until my parents came and got me after work, I was so scared.
I've looked back on those two incidents and wished I had been braver then. I don't know if I would be any braver today in similar situations, but I sure hope I would. I've always been ashamed of the way I let my friend at school down, and the way I didn't stand up for those people on the bus who were being blamed for something they didn't do.