Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Story of The South - Through the Eyes of A Child

I'm going to tell you a story. It doesn't have any twists. No plot ploys. No taboos. Just reality. I know that's not in style, but today, more than ever, maybe we need some reality. I should warn you now... It doesn't have an HEA. It has no hero. No damsel and no supernatural badass to save the day. Just some reality from the past of a girl, living in the south... Read at your own discretion.
I was raised in the deep south of Texas. In the very heart of the KKK in this region. So much so that I had family that were in the klan. I was raised around it. Offered allowance to help do banners and signs. It was every day life and just a fact of it.

That all changed when I was six years old. We were coming back from visiting family through a town by the name of Vidor, Texas. See, Vidor was well known back then as a racists community. Everyone knew it. It too, was a fact. There was a time when the government wanted to diversify that small Texas town. So they did what they thought would change it's factual existence.

They moved in people of color.

I remember hearing my relatives rant and rave about action. The government had NO SAY so in what they believed worked for their community. I myself, wondered how those families of color felt. Were they scared like I was when I got in trouble for trying to friend the little black girl in my class? Yeah, my teacher told on me for that. I didn't know it was wrong. I didn't even know those banners and signs meant I was supposed to hate people of color. I would be EXPECTED to when I was older. I didn't even know what the "N" word meant... not really. I just filled in the colors on the signs that were painted.

So back to that one night. I was sitting in the back seat and the car slowed down. I sat up and looked out the front windshield to see a bright light. That made no sense to me. We were on the back roads and far from town. It wasn't Christmas either. We came to a stop and I saw something that made no sense to my young mind.

It was a burning cross. Huge, burning cross. And it was burning in the front yard of a home. All these people had stopped to watch. Some tail-gated. Laughed and cheered. That confused me... why? It didn't look that entertaining to me. But there those people were. All watching this whooping and cheering activity in at a family's home. As I looked, I saw men in white sheets and hoods, much like the ones I've seen hanging in the homes of those around me, cheering and chanting too. Some were pointing at the house, screaming and I am so grateful now that the windows were up to keep out the black smoke as it drifted on the wind.

Then, being the inquisitive kid that I was, I looked closer. And that's when I saw a family huddled in front of a window watching the "show" too. But they didn't look to be entertained. No. They looked scared. Really, scared. Just a father, and his wife with what appeared to be two little kids, younger than me. Their faces lit by the flames that were eating up that wooden cross not even 10-feet from their front window. I remember feeling so bad for them. But didn't know why they just sat there and watched that. How could they? Shouldn't they just ignore it, wait for the flames to go out and it would go away?

As I look back at that night, it's amazing how clear it is in my head. How it's still so vivid. But now, I can answer the questions I had back then as a child who was on the cusp of becoming a racist. Which luckily, that night helped pull me from that horrible edge.

The father was watching out of diligence. Horrified, terrified, enraged diligence. See, he had to watch that to wait AND ANTICIPATE if one of those burning maniacs on his yard threw a burning bottle at his house. If one of those men smashed out his window. Went inside. Harmed his kids. Raped his wife. Killed him. He had to suffer watching people cheer and encourage as they poured on more gasoline on that burning cross to make sure it stayed lit for as long as they needed it to be.
Why didn't he send his kids to another room with his wife? That's easy too. What happened if he did that and someone broke into the back door? Got between him and his loved ones? And he could do nothing? No....that wasn't an option.

Why couldn't he go out there, scream, rant and maybe even brandish a gun at the haters in HIS yard? That's fairly simple too. The haters were armed. What if he went out there and they shot him? His wife? His kids? Or worse, he was killed and couldn't defend them?

See, it wasn't about the house. It wasn't about that cross. It wasn't about the man being weak. Or not as powerful. Nor was it about his family's right for the pursuit of happiness, home and safety.
No. It was about hate. I'm sure the man with his family HATED those men as much as the men that were trying to destroy his family.

But was it the man in that house's fault?
Did ANY of those haters know him? At all?
It was because the color of his skin.
Just pure, total, complete hate.
Can I blame that black man for being there? With his family? Trying to have the American dream just like the rest of us? No.

Don't blame the ones that are forced to stand up for themselves or try to make a choice when others with hate comes knocking.
Blame the ones that brought the hate to their door.

By the way - I'm not a racist. Never have been. And I prove, that it's a TAUGHT nature, but not one that can't be changed.

Please... don't bring hate to any door.

But if someone does? We have to NEVER sit by and just be entertained. Someone, WE have to be willing to kick down that cross and tell them to go...

Because right now? It feels like we have one HUGE burning cross in the middle of America's front yard.

To join in on the discussion of this post, please join me on Facebook where there has been so much insight on this subject. Take care- JTW