I have been looking back over the events of this week and my heart is very full...
The elections have come and gone and we have a new president-elect, Barak Obama. Although I have had my differences with him politically, I believe that he is a decent man and will do his best. God bless and help him in these troubled times. The fact that he is our first African-American president has not been lost on me, either...
As many of you know, I partially grew up in the segregated South. I was very, very fortunate, because both of my parents believed deeply in the Civil Rights Movement. They raised me to look at people of color as being of equal worth to whites. They took advantage of teaching moments to get across to me the foolishness of prejudice.
One such moment came when I returned home from First Grade with a new word. I had learned it in a little rhyme from the other kids. Remember, "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe"? My sister and I always followed that with, "Catch a turtle by the toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eeny, meeny, miny moe." The new version I learned didn't say, "Catch a turtle by the toe". It said, "Catch a n****r by the toe." I had never heard that word before and figured it was just another way of saying "turtle". So, I sing-songed that rhyme with my new little word all over the place...until, I got home.
When my mother and father heard it, they sat me down. I was only 5, but I remember very clearly what my father said. He said that "n****r" was a mean way of saying "negro" and that "negro" came from a Latin word which meant "black". That's what they are, black; not "colored", or "darkies" or "n****r". Then he held up his arm and grasped some flesh between his thumb and index finger, to show me his skin. He said that skin pigment was to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun. People who come from very sunny, hot places have more pigment than people like us, where our ancestors came from cloudy, cold places. That's all the difference is, he said, pigmentation. Skin.
I took it for granted that my parents were wise and would never behave in an ignorant manner towards another person. It wasn't until I was an adult, living far away from home, that I realized how fortunate I was to have the parents that I did. Knowing where they came from, and how many other members of our family felt, it was a miracle that both of my parents were so enlightened about race issues.
Years later, we moved back to the South. First we were in Memphis, just after Dr. King was shot there and later, back home in NC. It was in Wilmington that I experienced bussing for the first time. We had terrible riots that were on the national news. I saw the worst of both sides, the R.O.W.Ps (Rights of White People - similar to KKK) and the Black Panthers. Both spewed hate and vengeance. All the while, I sat side-by-side with my black classmates and we got on fine. In fact, I had my first crush on a boy who sat across from me in Art Class. He was a senior, while I was a softmore. He knew I liked him (while I was kind of clueless) and was extremely kind to me. His name was Isaac. I think he may have even liked me, but neither of us would have dared something like that in those days. The world around us was way too violent.
On issues of race, in those days, I hoped for peace...The possibility of one day having a black president was nowhere in the realms of what I could see.
Fast-forward to today...We have a young, black president. All politics aside, I can hardly believe my eyes. What a blessing and a miracle to have an election where other issues, such as the economy, are more important that the skin color of the candidates. I am happy for my African-American brothers and sisters. I am happy for myself. I am happy for those I've loved, like Isaac, who can tell their children that they can grow up to be anybody and it will be true.
Have a wonderful Sabbath!