The first time I remember being referred to as a “n**ger” is permanently etched in my mind. It happened in 1967. I was eleven years old and in the 7th grade. There were only a few black students (all female, but that is another story for another day) attending the “white school.” My classmates and I were standing in the lunchroom line. A white girl (let’s call her Missy Anne) took note of the fact that she and a white boy were standing in between me and the only other black girl in our class. She then said to the white boy who was standing beside her: “Look at us, standing ‘tween two n**gers.” Continue reading
Category Archives: Black/African American
I was ten years when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
I remember the night so vividly. My mother and stepfather had gone to a meeting and my younger brother and I were watching television. It was an episode of “Bewitched” and we were eagerly watching to see how Samantha would, with a combination of charm and magic, extricate herself from another sticky situation.
Suddenly, the episode was interrupted with one of those “Breaking News/News Flash” type of announcements and the newscaster reported that Dr. King had been shot.
When the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision was handed down in 1954, most white people and school systems in the South viewed the notion of white and black students attending school together as nothing short of the apocalypse. In 1955, when Brown II said that desegregation had to occur “with all deliberate speed,” southern school districts took that language to mean that they could use all sorts of tactics to delay compliance. Even the use of federal marshals or the National Guard to protect black students seeking to enroll in “white schools” did not convince the majority of southern school districts to desegregate the public schools.
With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the filing of additional school desegregation cases by the federal government, many southern school districts grudgingly began to realize that doing nothing with respect to desegregation was no longer an option. My county, Meriwether County, Georgia (the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House) decided on a two-pronged response.
First, as was being done in so many counties in the South, the white parents decided to create a private school for their children. In the fall of 1967, Flint River Academy opened in Woodbury, Meriwether County, Georgia. The official dedication was done by none other than the Governor of the State of Georgia, Lester Maddox, who, prior to becoming Governor, had achieved hero status among segregationists when he and his supporters wielded ax handles as they turned away three black students who were seeking to be seated and served in his restaurant. In fact, that episode was largely responsible for the launching of his political career.
This comic has appeared in my newsfeed several times in the last week. It captures what many of us feel when we are the minority in any given situation. It captures the overwhelming feeling of loneliness when faced with the contrast of your difference. It captures why I don’t want a seat at the table.
March is Women’s History month. As I think about this in the context of Mormonism, I think about how personal history is such an important part of our religious practice. This personal history becomes part of our individual narratives. Unfortunately, my attempts to collect my personal history do not extend beyond this continent. Even genealogy is a penetrating reminder of the continual tragedy of slavery and its far reaching effects. Despite this, I have realized that I have found connection to the women from my personal history through personal ritual. Sure, it doesn’t reach far beyond the continent and beyond the grips of slavery, but it makes me feel closer to the women who have gone before me.
I originally wrote this post for Ordain Women. It explains one of the reasons I support women’s ordination. This was originally posted on OrdainWomen.org on February 1, 2016.
The story of black women within the Mormon church has often been ignored. Instead, we focus on those whose oppressions are easily categorized without intersections. The racial oppression of black men through their exclusion of the Priesthood and the pious suffering of white women as they endured the sacrifices and the sexism of polygamy take center stage. At best, black women are a distant afterthought.
I watched this video yesterday of the most adorable 106 year old woman named Virginia McLaurin dancing with the President and First Lady. I got a little teary eyed when she held their hands and told them that she never thought she would see the day when she would be welcomed into the White House to meet a black president. It was a beautiful moment, and reminded me of how important it is that we see ourselves represented in our leadership. It meant something to Ms. McLaurin that she was able to look into the eyes of the President of the United States and see one of her own looking back. It was powerful and wonderful and it made me appreciate the special time in history that I am blessed to be a part of.