When comedian Tommy Davidson was just a baby, his birth mother abandoned him in a pile of trash in their poor, Southern community. The woman who found Davidson ended up officially adopting him, and from that moment on, he was part of a family filled with warmth and love.
It's a remarkable story, especially when viewed through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement during which Davidson grew up. He was an African-American boy being raised in a white family -- "My sister looks like Cindy Brady," he once told "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" -- and interracial adoption was a rarity. Although Davidson and his siblings weren't fazed by their differences, not everyone was as welcoming.
The moment Davidson realized that the world didn't operate the same way his family did occurred when they moved from Colorado to Washington, D.C., when he was 5 years old. The family had arrived just two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and racial tensions were at an all-time high. Unaware of what had been brewing, Davidson and his siblings left their new home one day to visit a local pool. That's when they had a run-in that Davidson won't forget.
"We went to the pool and all the black kids beat us up," he recalls. "They did that, like, every day. They were attacking us."
In addition to the physicality of these encounters, Davidson says he and his siblings also endured vicious name-calling, and they were terrified.
"They were saying, 'White cracker, white cracker, white cracker,'" he says. "We were running home for our lives."
Davidson was shattered.
"My whole world just split in half," Davidson says. "I didn't know colors. I didn't know people were colors. I thought people were like animals, like a cat was born gray or white."
The realization that some people couldn't see past color -- and that it could lead to violence -- was a difficult one for him to reconcile.
"Man, that tore me up," Davidson says. "It broke my heart."
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