Let’s Talk About Race
My anger and frustration over the murder of Jordan Davis is what made me decide to blog about this today. The man who shot and killed him wasn’t convicted of murder. Thankfully, it was a mistrial and he will be tried again. Ta-Nehisi Coates addresses it here.
I chatted with a co-worker named Bea today. She, like me, was born in the Tidewater area of Virginia. A lot of eastern North Carolinians ended up in Tidewater. She lived in Edenton, where one of my sisters was born. I mentioned fondly the town of Belhaven, where I spent a lot of time as a child. Bea is African American, so I realized she may not have fond memories of North Carolina. I mentioned this to her. She was surprised to hear me acknowledge that.
She’s about 15 years older than me, and lived in Tidewater as a child. She remembers going to the back of the town restaurant (Grant’s) to get food to go, because blacks were not allowed to eat there. She remembers the insurance salesman (always white) who came to their house to sell insurance over the years, and her father never feeling like he could look him in the eye, even in his own house.
She said I was the first white person to ever mention things like this to her. Bea is 65. She couldn’t believe I knew about white privilege and sundown towns. My beloved Belhaven was a sundown town. I’m not sure if it was a posted rule, but here’s how it went: Black people were expected to be at home by sundown. There was a 4 hour window each week when black folks could shop downtown. On Saturdays, by 2 pm there would be no whites downtown. From 2 until 6pm, blacks did their weekly shopping. These are things I didn’t notice as a child. What I did notice was my grandmother lamenting black people walking by her house on Main Street. She didn’t feel it should be allowed. Belhaven is on the water and there is a public beach. I do remember the beach becoming integrated. I remember this because I wasn’t allowed to go to the beach anymore, and that was why.
Bea related a story to me about stopping in Tennessee en route to Oklahoma when her husband was in the service. It was 1975, and she had young children. First the owner of the restaurant called her husband “Boy.” The waitress took their order and brought their food. After they had eaten, the restaurant staff brought a trash can to the table and threw everything away, in front of them. Plates, silverware, glasses and the trash. Please imagine for one minute how that would make you feel.
Please read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article. Please try to understand centuries of feeling less than a total person, or lack of awareness that others unlike us may have that feeling. It doesn’t go away with the Civil Rights Act. Or the Voting Act. Young black boys have to be so very careful how they act in public, lest anyone become afraid of them without provocation, just because they are black. That isn’t fair. It isn’t right. Awareness by white people is the only way this unfairness will ever end. Just empathy and awareness.
As a white, it isn’t easy to hear. I didn’t grow up “privileged”, I used to think. But my baby dolls were always the same color as me, as were my Barbies. So were my paper dolls, and the band-aids that covered my scratches. When I go to a hotel, the shampoo is perfect for my hair. When I go to the drugstore for shampoo, I don’t have to go to the Ethnic section to get it. I have never been followed by security personnel in a store, nor have I been pulled over by a policeman or woman and been afraid of anything more than getting a ticket.
I could go on and on. I’ll save it for another post. Thank you so much for reading this. If you are white, please try to educate other whites. It is the only way we can heal it. By the way, I don’t profess to not be racist. I couldn’t be a woman from Virginia and not have that. I can say I work on it. I really try. That’s the best I can do. I’m not sure I will ever be free of it, but I will try to be educated and empathic.
Now, I shall leave you with a picture of Penny and Monkey, my son’s cat. Penny wants to be friends so much. It’s a new relationship and hopefully it will happen.