This post was written shortly after Charleston last year….
My southern heritage
This is post after the Charleston shootings. It seems to fit the day…
I spent a lot of time as a child in Charleston. My dad was in the Air Force, but my mother was from Charleston and it was as much home as anywhere else. I have listened to people talk about their “southern heritage” and how taking down the Confederate flag threatens that heritage. I also had a southern heritage…
I remember when I was 6 or 7 going to a store with my mom in Charleston. I remember 3 doors: white men, white women, and colored. I remember asking her why. I could not imagine her being mean to anyone. She stammered for a minute. “It is just the way things are…. ” Those doors were part of my Southern heritage.
I remember my uncle telling me how bad blacks smelled and how lazy they were with his black maid working in the next room. The word he used started with an N. That conversation and that word was part of my Southern heritage.
I remember being told when the civil rights workers in Mississippi were being searched for being told to be happy. “They were getting what they deserved.” That was part of my Southern heritage.
I lived on an Air Force Base in Colorado and my next door neighbor and best friend was black. I remember the day I realized that if we both lived in Charleston we could not be friends and he couldn’t come to my house any more. That was part of my Southern heritage.
I remember the day my uncle laughed and clapped and said God had answered his prayers. Martin Luther King had been shot. That was part of my Southern heritage.
I remember church after church after church where all God’s people were white and no one ever talked about black people other than to be glad they weren’t there. That was part of my Southern heritage.
I remember the first time I was told the Bible mandated the inferiority of black people. That was part of my Southern heritage.
I remember in a high school class shortly after we moved to Tennessee listening as the senior class president proclaimed loudly “I don’t even like chocolate ice cream… I don’t like nothing black…” That was part of my Southern heritage.
I remember when a Klu Klux Klan newspaper was brought to my high school by someone who got it from his parents and how fervently it was discussed and applauded. That was part of my Southern heritage.
I have a Southern heritage and the flag has been symbolic but not of bravery or virtue or any historical truth. It was about the systematic, deliberate and horrible attempt to enslave, brutalize and murder a people… An attempt to cover that crime up as cultural diversity and to make excuses for the fact that freedom, opportunity and justice have been dependent on your skin color.
A couple of days after Charleston a black church was burnt in Knoxville. Linda and I were there today and listened to people talk about the need for a new heritage to be formed and the journey ahead and the transformative power of love and forgiveness taught in Charleston.
A flag has been brought down. Perhaps a door has been opened. There is another place to be, a better place for all, a place of welcome and opportunity. The last days, the last weeks have been some steps.
I liked a phrase I heard there. “If it happens to you it happens to me…”
Maybe a start… Maybe