I think that Gaudino did want it to be more than just the experience and I think in part that’s what people who were opposed to the program didn’t understand. He built in, in a very purposeful way, this process of wanting in some fashion to create conflict and to create discomfort. When we went to the South a lot of us naturally were sort of oriented towards wanting to live in the black community and sort of had that alternative identification or whatever. And it turned out that there weren’t enough black families for all of us and so I got placed with a white family. I had to confront living with a family that had very different values than mine and that I felt was racist and who were conflicted about having me there because they knew that all of my friends were living with black families and they themselves were then confronted with their peers, the people in their community, who were upset with them that they were housing this young guy who had friends who were living with blacks. Gaudino came in and talked to the family and talked with me and that sort of unexpected experience allowed me, in a way, to understand what it was like to be white in the South and the sense of pressure that you feel and the sense of fear that you feel if you run against what you’re expected — how you’re expected to behave as a white. But again, I was living with a man who was a retail grocer. And he was expecting me to come in and work in the store. He thought he was going to have an extra hand to help him out stocking shelves. Well, I did for a period of time and there, too, was an issue of my having to sort of compromise because I had different goals than what he had for me. He got upset with me because I was leaving every day. I went to Savannah with the black minister, you know. He was starting to get upset because he was also expecting me just to be there. So I had to find this balance. I remembering making that sort of conscious decision and I think with Gaudino’s help realizing that I had to spend some more time in the store working with him and to some extent seeing what it was like to run a small business in a small town in southern Georgia, that sense of pride that you have as somebody who has got your own business, you know?

Randy Thomas '73