Ya know, a comment I just wrote was so darn good, I think I’ll turn it into a post! More on why Obama’s speech was an important one:
Yes, it was an important speech. We southerners especially have endured horrendous situations in each and every family over racial matters, whether we are black or white.
I watched as a child, for my entire childhood, still do for that matter, as my mother and stepfather struggled to overcome the racism and hostility and hatred and ignorance espoused within their own families.
It wasn’t so much “espoused” though; rather, it was simply a way of life. (I could, at this point, insert a picture of my mother as a child, flanked by a retinue of black servants, but it would be too embarrassing for everyone involved.)
But my folks were stronger and wiser than most. To use some old counter-culture verbage (see, it is good for something), they tuned-in in to the times and the messages rumbling around the rather limited cultural sphere they could have just stayed hunkered down in all through the 60’s.
They chose instead to open their hearts and their minds in every possible way, and to look for a new way and a new path on which to raise their own children.
I admire their bravery and their courage every day of my adult life, as being “products” of the deep, deeply segregated South, the road to enlightenment for an average white person in the South was also a severe and brutal path, and one that included ostracism and estrangement for their beliefs and convictions from the very people they loved the most.
I think too of stories told within families of the Civil Rights era, such as the one my stepfather tells of how, in the mid-60’s in Columbia, S.C., he approached a well-known, black civil rights organizer he chanced upon in a bus station. As he walked towards this man, he put out his hand so that he, my stepdad, could shake the civil right’s leader’s hand as a way of thanking him for his courageous work in such violent times. The black man flinched and jumped backwards; in South Carolina in the 60’s, a black man was expecting to be beaten by any white person who would approach him.
Thus, I remain grateful for my mother and my stepfather’s foresight and understanding, and a capability for sheer, old-fashioned open-mindedness with which to understand the moral imperative needed of them, and from within them, to overcome what was no less… their entire culture and heritage.