“Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight
and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
“The past is never dead. It's not even past.”
― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Back in August I wrote a piece on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In that post, I simply asked readers to listen to the voices of two African Americans, culinary historian Michael Twitty, and novelist Ralph Ellison. I stated that “I cannot pretend to offer any solutions. I cannot even pretend to claim understanding. I have been trying, however, to listen. The only recommendation I can offer is that we stop and listen.” As you can see, I begin this post by quoting two Southern white people and I offer another brief comment from my own Southern white perspective.
So while my upbringing in the South was full of idyllic moments, I had no understanding at the time of the world that black people lived in. They cooked and cleaned for whites – even raised white folk's children, but they were kept under control by tactics of terror. There were enough beatings and lynchings that were ignored by the legal system, and enough incidents of black people being "accidentally hit" by cars as they walked down the road to act as a warning to anyone who dared to challenge the system. My state even had its constitution re-written in 1901 to keep whites in power and to keep blacks suppressed in poverty and even slave-like conditions. Birmingham, Alabama is, after all, the place that South African officials visited to study and learn from prior to enforcing its apartheid system of government. It is difficult to fathom that my world with such joy and kindness existed side by side with systemic terror and evil. That is why Ferguson is significant. It points out the two worlds that continue to exist side by side in this beloved country.
Photo: Peaceful protest in Durham, N.C. on Nov. 25
Credit: Robert Willett Time News Service