America is shifting in awareness of racism and social injustice. I feel compelled to recount this story, which speaks to the realization of what has to happen to break through conflict resulting from differences. Communication is the key to respect and understanding.
Goin’ In: Two Perspectives
WE CLICKED THE MOMENT WE MET, this white woman and I. She became a part of the church I pastored. She had a husband with cancer; my husband transitioned from cancer; we socialized at our homes, and appreciated antiques together. She became my friend. Her backyard was welcoming, and “my spot” included two comfortable chairs and a small table between them. One afternoon, we sat in her beautiful yard on the two chairs to chat. We did not intend to “go there” with race relations and politics, but we found ourselves on a path that was narrow. So, we fell into our own stories.
She told me about her remembrances of Cicero, in Chicago, where she was raised in the 50’s (just the mention of Cicero gave me an Eckhart Tolle “pain body”). She never knew folks of color in friendships back then (nor did I), and her dad was “Archie Bunker.” Every race and culture met his venom. While she was uncomfortable with the viewpoints of her dad, she was comfortable with the status of America in the 50-60s. She felt the span of the eagle’s wings that symbolized America’s strength and stature. She felt safe. She pondered, “Why can’t things be as they used to be?”
I spoke to her about one of my experiences growing up in Chicago. I lived on West 57th Street, maybe 20 miles from Cicero, where my friend grew up. My family lived, literally, on the other side of the tracks from an exclusively white neighborhood. Each week, we ventured across those tracks to the only large grocery store in our area. Every trip, we were chased by white kids. They threw rocks, and called us…well you know what they called us.
My friend and I spoke about the march on Cicero and the Civil Rights Movement. We spoke about the America she did not, and could not know, and why America had to change. She heard me. We discussed the political discomfort of our nation.
At the end of this conversation, (there would be many to follow), my friend lamented, “I just wish things were the way they used to be.” I rebutted, in the same sad tone, “Thank God, things are not the way they used to be”. We crossed the divide of the table and held hands. She looked into my eyes; I looked into hers. We both knew a shift had occurred.
Photograph by Vicki Goldston
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