I grew up raised by color blind parents. One of my best friends in third and fourth grade lived on the other side of the circle when we were stationed at Westover AFB in Massachusetts. I remember going to her home and watching her mother braid her thick, curly black hair. It was beautiful. I asked her if I could touch her hair and it felt like silky cotton. The pomade her mother used smelled wonderful. Once braided, she put her shoes on and off we went to school together. I never once asked about the color of her skin.
In junior high we lived in Montgomery, Alabama and I attended a school in town. Everyone pretty much looked the same, no diversity there. I remember going to a concert with girlfriends downtown. We rode the bus. The entire experience was confusing to me. People of color had to sit in the back of the bus. “They” also used a separate entrance into the theater, a separate water fountain, and there were three bathrooms: Men, Women, Colored. “We” sat on the main floor; “they” sat in the balcony.
High School was spent in Washington D.C. My parents attended many official functions there. Often the event was a dinner dance. One Sunday morning I listened to stories of how much fun they had at the Watergate Hotel. How good the food was and about a lovely couple they met who loved to dance as much as they did. They told me how they would switch partners and others would stop to watch the four of them dance – they were that good! I was excited to hear they had invited this couple to dinner.
I did not give it a second thought when I opened the front door two weeks later to greet our guests. I welcomed this amazing couple in and shook their hands as I introduced myself. My parents joined us in the living room. I had some time alone with our new friends as dinner grew near. It was then that I asked what the gentleman did for a living. He smiled and said he was the Director of the NAACP in the D.C. Area. I had to ask him what that was. Bless his heart! He had no idea the door he had opened! I had so many questions. Television news was filled with children trying to go to school in the south and being denied entrance. Violence was brewing.
I won’t go into all of the details because you all have things to do. I will say that he and his wife were loving, compassionate people without an ounce of anger or resentment in their minds or hearts. They taught me to live lovingly in the face of hatred and violence. They showed me the heart of God. I knew many people in my private Catholic school and church that talked of a loving God. We prayed regularly in our home. None of us had suffered to the degree of the two people I sat with that night. He held a doctorate and she a master’s degree – in the ’60’s! There was no anger or hatred in them. Months later, when my school bus was stoned and the bus driver told us to get on the floor under the seats, I thought of them and I cried for us and for the kids outside who were so tired of being less than. They didn’t know my Catholic school was integrated. They only knew that most white people hated them for existing.
When I read an article this morning of a KKK parade in N. Carolina, I thought of them and my sweet childhood friend and all of my friends since. We cannot go back there. Love heals and restores and moves us forward. Love goes forward. Love will not lead us back but it may well reveal what is hidden so that illusion and delusion are revealed.
Love will lead us. Love reminds us that to harm another is to harm ourselves.