Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

Within the past year, I met two new people. Real, live people whose names I choose not to divulge. Though it is unlikely they will read this post, I am not ready to communicate with them on this level. But, “I do know for sure,” our “acquaintance relationship” will never develop into a “real and trusting friendship,” until we have an honest conversation about what I have shared in this post.

If our eyes met in the Exercise Room at the Y, on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., Georgia Hubby and I would share a nod and a brief smile. For three years, Georgia Hubby and I followed this ritual; and I saw no reason to do anything more.

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In all honesty, satisfied with the status-quo, I would silently say, “I know who you are,” but, “I really don’t want to know you.” On the surface, Georgia Husband seemed like a nice enough man, but, I had already formed my opinion of him. Based on two things, Georgia Husband is a:

WHITE MALE from GEORGIA with a SOUTHERN ACCENT

Georgia Hubby and My Hubby’s “acquaintance relationship” upgraded a teeny-bit to a “small talk relationship;” and; I eventually entered the “small talk circle.” Late last year, Hubby and Georgia Husband, scheduled a date for us to go out to dinner and meet his wife.

Georgia Wife is petite, barely five-feet tall, probably weighs no more than 120 pounds, still in her forties, and very focused on her career as a health care provider. I was surprised at her striking contrast to Georgia Husband, who is at least 6 feet tall, retired, 69+ years, and a happy house-husband who is quite comfortable in this role. Something, I have rarely, if ever seen.

But, again I couldn’t see Georgia Wife and my relationship going beyond a casual “couples dining out” because she is a:

WHITE FEMALE from GEORGIA with a SOUTHERN ACCENT

As we begin to have deeper conversations with the Georgia Couple other questions arose; politically, Hubby and I are as far to the left as they are to the right.

Perhaps, I can overcome the “differences” when I feel comfortable enough to express that a “difference exist.” Georgia Couple is probably assuming that Hubby and I share their views because we have failed to offer a counter-argument or voice our opinions. Politics, poverty, race, and other social issues on unfair conditions and unequal treatment, are difficult conversations to have.  Especially, with those who see things differently.

Summer vacations, as a girl, spent with my grandparents in rural Mississippi was the training ground that taught me to fear WHITE PEOPLE from the SOUTH who spoke with a SOUTHERN ACCENT. Yes, my grandparents were guilty of stereotyping, but their lives were self-programmed to fear based on the inhumane and often vicious attacks against black people in the south during their lifetime.

Compounding this, I lived through a period when scenes like the following were occurring in the south.

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Overcoming my stereotypical views of the Georgia Couple will take work. I do not fear them; but, my perception of their past life experiences as well as knowledge of their current beliefs creates a major barrier to our entering into a “real and trusting friendship.”

But, I have not given up.  This could very well happen when I decide to have an open and honest conversion with the “Georgia Couple” about my current values and beliefs as well as open up to them about my  past life experiences.

 

 

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired….

I struggled with writing this post; but I had to speak out after the Travon Martin trial.

A young military wife, in 1963, with two toddlers, sitting in our cramped living room, watching the March on Washington, listening to Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech; and, realizing, his dream was the “dream” I wanted for my son and daughter.

I HAVE A DREAM that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true

meaning of its creed:  We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all mean are created equal.

I HAVE A DREAM that my four little children will one day live in a

nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by

the content of their character.”

Back then, I was hopeful and optimistic that a change was gonna come.  Today, fifty years later, I am disappointed and pessimistic wondering how long is it gonna take.”

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired[1]of the racial injustices where people continue to be Judged by the Color of their Skin.”    

Emmett Till

I lived in FEAR throughout most of my teenage years.  Though, only 13-years-old, even today, I vividly recall the murder of Emmett Till on August 28, 1955.  He was a 14-year-old African-American male, from Chicago, visiting his grandfather in Mississippi.  Two white men decided to end Emmett’s life.  Why, because he either, whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hands, of a white cashier at a grocery store.

Brutally beaten, mutilated, shot in the head; his young body was tied up with barbed wired and dumped in the river.  Despite overwhelming evidence, on September 23, 1955 his two assailants were acquitted.   The Jim Crow Laws allowed Emmett to be “Judged by the Color His Skin.” 

With the exception of gender, Emmett’s life pretty much mirrored mine.  I, too, lived in Chicago and visited my grandparents in Mississippi every summer.   During those visits, they schooled me on what was acceptable behavior for a young black girl in Mississippi.  On the first day of my visit, they reminded me to “say yes mam, no mam, look down, speak quietly, never question or talk back to white folks.  They don’t play here you ain’t in Chicago.”

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Travon Martin

On February 26, 2011, this seventeen-year-old boy was shot and killed at about 7:00 p.m. while walking home on a rainy night in the gated community where he was visiting his father.   Killed because “HE WAS JUDGED BY THE COLOR OF HIS SKIN,” Mr. Zimmerman assumed an African-American male teenager, wearing a hoodie was a thug; and, therefore, a threat to him and others who lived in this gated community.

Loud voices cried out for justice and after some 45 days he was finally charged.  A jury trial resulted in a Not Guilty verdict.   Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, Mr. Zimmerman had the right to shoot rather than retreat.

As the grandmother of three young African American males, ranging in age from 13-24, I identify with what happened to Travon.  Living in a gated community, about 20 miles from where Travon was killed, we now have “safety guidelines” for our three grandsons to follow when they visit.  I am frustrated that my grandchildren are forced to deal with the FEAR of DEATH because someone

  • Chooses to  Judge by the Color of  Skin; and
  • Understands the protection afforded under the Stand Your Ground Laws.

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Like Jim Crow, Stand Your Ground Must Go

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”


[1] Fannie Lou Hamer, Civil Rights Activist