Hubby and I watched (he re-watched) the movie, “Selma,” over the weekend. There was some great acting there, but even more than that, there was a great story there. It was the story of people resolving to overcome the circumstances that were holding them down. (If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out here: Selma.)
I grew up during that era. Even then I wished I could have been part of the march from Selma to Montgomery. I wished I could have locked arms with the black young people and fought their fight with them. I was still too young to leave home and all of my wishes didn’t make me brave enough to risk the beatings and the jails and the killings.
The movie resonated, though, because of memories I have of the time just before Martin Luther King, Jr., and the time of the marches and their aftermaths. Some examples:
- First grade, somewhere in Indiana…there is one lone black girl in my class. She is snubbed by everyone, except me. I was poor working class so something about her plight touched me even then. We became friends. Schools still sold ice cream for afternoon snacks then and one of us would often buy a single Popsicle to share. We moved…I don’t remember her name or know what happened to her but I would love to tell her how much she touched my life.
- Around 11 or 12 years old, a bus station in northwest Florida…my mom and I sit in the bus station waiting to head to my grandmother’s house a gazillion (it seemed that way to me) miles away. I went to get a drink of water and my mother yelled to me to use the other fountain. I asked, “why?” She said, “That one’s for the coloreds.” Again I asked, “Why?” “Why must someone use a different fountain or a different bathroom just because of a different colored skin.” She didn’t know…”it’s just the way it is.” I remember thinking, “then the way it is really needs to change.”
- Junior College, at a baseball game…two little boys, maybe 2 years old, were playing together in the sand at the bottom of the front bleacher. One was white, one was black. They were having a delightful time, just playing and talking. My heart smiled…until the white boy’s mother came up, grabbed him, and said, “I told you, you don’t play with N*****s.” My heart sank.
- College dorm…there were several black women in the dorm. The whites stayed away from them, except for me. I played cards with them and their boyfriends; we hung out in each other’s rooms. We talked about school work and life and the future. They called me their “blue-eyed soul sister.”
I currently live in Texas and travel back to northwest Florida at least once a year. There are no longer segregated bathrooms at the bus station. Black and white children and teens hang out together now. The racial climate has changed but the old biases haven’t totally died yet in that part of the country (or any part of the country, I bet). Racial tensions still run high. Ferguson, MO… Charleston, SC… Waller County, TX… And yesterday, Ferguson, MO again. Just some of the places…so many lives ruined or cut short.
Why does it have to be this way? Why does the bigotry and belief that some colors are superior to others survive? To quote my mom, “It’s just the way it is.” I don’t have answers, either, but my heart still breaks at the divide…and my soul still cries out,