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Sunday Question

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Just for you, Laura…

Right now, I’m watching/recording “King,” a documentary about MLK, on the History Channel.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea (outside the prejudice I experience as a lesbian) of what it is like to have to live in the skin of one subject to oppression and prejudice. Often, I’ve sought to understand it, but I don’t think there really is a way to walk in the shoes of others sometimes.

My question tonight: What was your memory of the civil rights movement, or of blatant prejudice, or of any experience that sticks in your mind that crystallized for you that there is inequity in our society?

I remember being about five or six years old, and we were going somewhere on a Saturday night. We took back roads to get to Montgomery, so being out in the further boonies than we lived was no big deal. However, this night, Daddy slowed down the car when we got to a fork in the road. I leaned up from the back seat to see why he was slowing down. There were four men with torches and dressed in white sheets standing in the grass at the forks. They were motioning people to go left. I remember being immediately terrified at the ghostly apparitions, and I scrunched down behind the seat until my eyes barely let me see what was ahead.

I asked Daddy who they were, as we drove slowly by. “The Klan,” he answered. “They must be having a meeting in ______’s pasture tonight.” (I’m not protecting anyone. I just don’t remember the name.)

I turned around in my seat as we drove past and watched their burning torches until we rounded a corner, and they faded out of sight. I did not know what they stood for then and would not for many years.

But as I’ve come to understand who they were, I’ve wondered several times if they hurt anyone that night… and if my father would have joined them had he been alone in the car.


Written by blogicalinks

April 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Whatever

6 Responses

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  1. Wow. That’s a powerful memory. I had the same conversation with my parents. “What do you remember about the civil rights movement?” They don’t remember anything. They say it’s history. And I remember especially in highschool after learning being agast that they didn’t feel compelled to action.

    Your line: “I don’t think there really is a way to walk in the shoes of others sometimes.” feels really true to me sometimes when it comes to this. I went on a bus tour of the south and at the MLK memorial there was a museum nearby showing a collection of pictures of people being hung. One of the leaders Uncle was hung for no reason. I will never forget seeing her pain.


    April 7, 2008 at 8:36 am

  2. O the bus tour of the south was what our church calls Sankofa. A racial righteousness trip. It wasn’t just a nice tour. I cried a lot on it.


    April 7, 2008 at 8:38 am

  3. Wow. That is powerful. I don’t have any memories like that.
    I do remember spending time at the farm and wondering about the differences between the sharecroppers who lived nearby and shopped at the general store. I attributed the differences more to poverty than color. I grew up aware of family members’ beliefs but remember thinking that I was not connected to that – it was not “my truth”. I got in trouble for playing with the kids living in my grandmother’s homeplace up the lane and was told to go across the railroad track to play with the little girl who lived in the brick house. Her daddy was in Viet Nam. I didn’t like playing with her or being in that house. He dad did not come back from Viet Nam. I remember feelings about the war – and the suffocating feeling when we listened to Uncle Walter give the death count each night on the news – more than racial issues. In the 4th or 5th grade I wrote a report on MLK and I was very proud of it. My dad asked to read it. When he finished, he looked at me funny and said “You just don’t understand” and left the room. I was very hurt. I was proud of my report. As an adult I was horrified when my grandmother called a little girl a “pickaninny” – but realized she didn’t mean any slur. That was the word she knew for a little black girl. My mentor, a retired Atlanta City principal asked a year or so ago how it is that I have no prejudice in me. I don’t know. I grew up in a very interesting time, but not in the midst of hate. Recently, Daddy was driving down the road and we passed some Hispanics walking on the shoulder. He made a comment or reference about how different things were for him growing up than kids today. His granddaugher married a black man. He was so very right.
    I hated that a woman stayed in the kitchen during Thanksgiving at the farm, tending the stove and washing dishes as my family ate. I felt it was so unfair and wondered why she wasn’t home with HER family. The scence in the “Color Purple” reminded me of this. Now, a few years later, I realized that my grandmother must have budgeted carefully to afford her help that day and I think they were friends – as much as the parameters of her culture would allow. My uncle still maintains relationships with several of the families from around here – and helped the woman who lived in this house buy a brand new house. Somehow I find pleasure and peacefulness that she enjoyed a brand spanking new house in the year or so before she died, while I deal with a very old house in need of so much. A version of the cycle of life, so to speak.

    Ru's Mom

    April 7, 2008 at 3:10 pm

  4. Sorry I wrote so much. I didn’t realize I did.
    Good question.
    And, thanks for the Sunday Question 🙂

    Ru's Mom

    April 7, 2008 at 3:11 pm

  5. RU I enjoyed your stories 🙂 I remember being about 10 and being at one of our family reunions. I sat at a table with 3 brothers who are my second cousins and are around my age. They grew up on a farm in Illinois. They kept using the ‘N’ word which dropped like a bomb on my ears. I knew what the word meant but also knew it was not supposed to be used. None of the kids where I grew up used the word and if they did they got smacked so whenever my cousins said the word my instinct was to duck. But to my surprise no one every did get smacked that day. Later, I talked to my mom about it. I basically wanted to know why they were not getting smacked. She explained to be that their Grandfather was an active member in the Klan. She explained generally what the Klan was and how our views are very different. I remember feeling ashamed about having a Klan member in my family. I just saw one of the brothers last year. He lives in Atlanta now and is not dropping the ‘N’ word anymore. However, I could not help but wonder about the way his beliefs are shaped today. I’ll probably never know.


    April 9, 2008 at 10:02 am

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