I was born in the south in the late sixties. Mere months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr … mere weeks after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. A time when protests against the Vietnam War were ongoing. A time when marches for the Poor People’s Campaign descended upon Washington. So much violence and civil unrest but a time when peace and equality were ideals to march for. To strive for. To die for.
And now here I am, in the year 2020, and I’m too lazy, too indifferent, too worried about what the neighbors might say to march and strive for those same ideals. Oh I ordered all the bestselling books of the moment on racial inequality and, I might add, I’m reading them with a veracious literary appetite. I also donated to several current, hot-topic organizations that are fighting against racial injustice.
All from the comfort of my sofa.
So let’s be brutally honest here: that’s not creating change. That’s just donating dollars.
I’ve got a long way to go.
And having been born and raised in the south, I’ve got a lot of baggage to unpack along that way. A deconstructing, if you will. For make no mistake about it, I have a love/hate relationship with this land and her people. I love her natural beauty and her gracious hospitality and her country drawl, but I hate her ugly history and her stubborn tendency to cling to a heritage that is more prejudice than pride.
And my uneasiness with southern, bible-belt views and morality goes a lot deeper than just race. I raised my own children to be open minded and accepting of all – but is that enough? Of course not. In the past, I’ve had very close friends who were black and some that were gay – but is that enough? Of course not.
Because in the end, it’s not enough to be good. One must do good. And doing good requires action.
And I was taught … well, to be passive. To be quiet. To let the men folk be in charge. I’ve been questioning that, fighting that, arguing against that most all my life. A life that has thus far been a succession of three steps forward, two steps back.
It can be hard to stand up to your parents. Even in your fifties, like me. (Did I mention that my father is a minister? So going against him is like going against God because everything – and I mean everything – is answered with a scripture.)
My mother texted me the other night, upset that Lady Antebellum had felt the need to change her name to Lady A. “What’s next?” my mother asked. “Are they gonna burn down all the antebellum houses too?”
“No mother,” I replied. “Houses aren’t racist. People are.”
My family used to live in one of those antebellum houses. Yep, this is gonna be a long journey.