Do you remember as a child being in the car with your parents and asking, “Are we there yet?”. The answer is we are not, and we have a LONG way to go. I hope my story opens your heart.
Sometime around 1978 when I was twelve, I was exposed to my first real experience of “color.” We didn’t have a lot of extra money at the time but Sissy and I had convinced Daddy to finally let us join “the pool” which was officially called the Hickory Tavern Recreation Center. The Pool wasn’t a country club by any means. It was a nice facility with — obviously — a pool, a ping pong table, shuffleboards, mini golf, a couple of pinball machines, a foosball table and a tennis court. It was a “country” club, not a “Country Club.” The fee to join was a whopping two or three hundred dollars which to us was a small fortune. Sissy and I had been pestering Daddy for years and he had been telling us the same thing. We couldn’t afford it. We kept right on asking anyway because Daddy wanted to make us happy he finally agreed.
In the summer of 78 we had been members for a year or maybe it was our first. I don’t remember exactly — that has faded with time. What I do vividly remember is what happened and I pray that never leaves me. I want to always remember and hope my sharing might help you remember a time in your life like this too. I hope you never had one but I am betting that you did.
Daddy and I went to the beginning of the summer meeting where the members discussed the upcoming summer and other business. This particular meeting would shift my life lens and take off some of the rose coloring from my glasses. The pool up to that point was all white because it was private. A black family wanted to join and that didn’t sit so well with a couple of community members. There was discussion with folks lobbying for and against. Most were completely in agreement and saw no problem. To this day I can still hear one of the prominent community leaders stand up and say, “Well, I don’t want my grandyoungans bumping heads with no ni**gers.” I cringed then and I cringe now even thinking about it. There was more discussion and a vote and the vote was that there would be no black children or black people allowed at the pool because of the couple of folks who were opposed.
Daddy was not happy. I was dumbfounded. It was my first taste of what it felt like to be “white” and my first feeling of sadness for what it must have been like to be ‘black.” I asked Daddy how on earth anyone could feel so harsh. Daddy told me then and there that some people saw themselves differently and unfortunately thought the color of their skin made them superior. He said he would much rather I marry an honorable black man than a sorry white one and he hoped that I never let color blind me to God’s truth — that we are all the same on the inside.
I took that lesson with me and while I am sure I was way too young to see it then it shaped who I would become. Even though segregation had ended, it didn’t end the need to be separate which still alive and well today.
We white people can tell ourselves that we don’t see color but the truth is that we do — some more strongly than others. We see it so strongly and feel it so fiercely that it blinds us to the truth of who we really are — God’s children. We all came from the same place and when we die that is where we will return. Saint Peter won’t be at the gate looking at the color of our skin.
I wish that I had the answers and the solutions but I don’t. Racism does exist and we have a long way to go. I am not saying that all white people are racist but I am sad to say that I know some who are and have no desire to change. I think it will take a whole lot of God’s love to help us move beyond where we sit at this moment in time.
I will keep hoping that one day soon I can ask, ”Are we there yet?” and the answer will be an astounding YES. Finally! And then I know that God will really smile because that is the way it was meant to be.
Much love to you!