The horror of the past few days has touched a place of despair in me.  I can’t turn on the news.  I can’t bear to even read my Facebook feed.  The divide between the people I love seems insurmountable.  And it breaks my heart.  These people that I love with so many different colors would truly like one another if they really knew each other.  I have seen the beauty in each of them.
This despair leaves me feeling vulnerable and I would rather be defensive and angry.  Anger is easier to deal with than despair.  But, anger is what is driving this divide in our world.
“We were shouting angry and screaming all night but we finally understood each other’s position and compromised,”  Said no one ever….
Anger has gotten us here and holds us prisoner.  I am so tired of the story – the hatred, the fear.
Like many people, racism feels personal to me.  You see, I was born in the way down deep south and I grew up embedded in the history (pain) this region of the country carries.  I showed up in the world at the height of the civil rights era to a mother whose deepest desire was for me to understand equality. (A HUGE thank you to my mama.)  It was never ok with her to judge a person based on their color.
Unfortunately, the culture of racism was too big for my mother to be able to spare me from its lessons and it was a very real part of my life growing up.  Like most cultural norms, racism was simply accepted as “normal”.  It was just the way it was.  We didn’t talk about it a lot and we certainly didn’t act on it regularly.  But, it showed up in very real ways like the local high school having a white homecoming queen alongside a black homecoming queen to avoid racial tension or the city white recreation center and the city black recreation center.  It showed up in the ways we spoke about race and in the color of the people we all surrounded ourselves with.  It was an unconscious part of our way of life.
I left the south in my early twenties in search of adventure and a burning desire to leave the stench of racism behind.  I raised my daughter in a sea of color.  I have silently cheered the birthday parties where there was no one color dominant at the table and every child understood they belonged right where they were.  There is such simple truth in watching children.  They are so accepting.
That concept of racism / rejection / separation / inferiority / fear we are all talking about now?  It is learned.  And all things that are learned can be unlearned, relearned, changed, modified.
Learning requires a conversation.  It requires us to get quiet and listen to the other side.  Not listen to argue but listen to understand.  There’s a difference between the two.  It requires us to be vulnerable to the fact that we may not like what the other is saying.  We don’t have to like it, but can we make space for the fact that others don’t think and feel like we do?  Can we accept that our thoughts aren’t the only ones with validity?
My personal journey with racism has taught me many life-altering truths.  
People are more alike than they are different.  But, the differences are real and deserve a place in the relationship.
Mamas and Daddys can teach their children about love and acceptance and change this whole thought process.
Everyone I know longs to be accepted, loved and happy.  
Anger is a defensive posture.  When I soften in the presence of that emotion others have permission to soften also.
My life is so much richer and deeper with people of every color, race, religion, sexual orientation, and political belief in it.
Your pain is real.  My pain is real.  Love is stronger.
My culture also has a stereotype.  I learned what it was and decided to be different.  
Intellectual pontification about right and wrong does nothing.  We change this world one relationship at a time.
We have come a long way.  It isn’t far enough.  But, it will take every last one of us to keep moving forward.  The past is too painful for any of us to do over again.
Life lived open and accepting feels better than a life lived defensive and guarded.
Talk to someone you normally wouldn’t.  Ask about their life.  Decide to be the one who starts change in your world.
Love is greater than hate.  Always.
Rosemary

20 comments on “I am White and I was born in Selma, Alabama

  • First, my thank you to your mother for believing and teaching different thinking than what was thought and taught in the south. Many thanks to you for this deep emotion discussion. Deep emotion not emotional. You wrote the thoughts felt deep inside of not only me but of others I’m sure are out there and I hope they’ve had the opportunity to read this. I’ll do my part by sharing this.

  • Hi Rosemary, just happen to be on facebook and came across your post. Especial when it stated that you were from Selma it really aroused my interest to read it. I can honestly say, after reading it, I totally respect and submit to your efforts to go that farther to understand both sides of the fence….I am also from Selma, and grew up through the Civil Rights Movement. It was only when I went to New Orleans and opened a business after the military is what brought me out of that spell. I got to work more around Caucasians independently and it taught really how to understand more. I learn that people of the same races all don’t think the same way. I experienced highly respect from people all over the world. The best part about it is no matter how successful we are the creator place us all here to live which would be psychoticly to change. No matter about the preferences of who you chose to live with or where. It’s all about the respect of the Most Highest’s creation and respect everyone’s choice. Thank you for sharing, your words are very healing.

  • Thank you Rosemary, I felt your connection as I was reading your post. I’m from Selma and my mother’s name is RoseMerry! I know this nation will heal and change through love and prayer.

  • Thank you for this. I was born and raised in Selma, AL from 1969-1996. I moved to St. Louis, for married and have raised my daughter here. I had a mother just like yours and I teach my daughter about love and acceptance. I had just graduated the year before the National Guard was called in to allow the white kids into school. I loved my hometown but went in search of more. Thank you again.

  • I am white and have lived in Selma 33 years. I do not know these people who hate one another. I, too, grew up in an era where racism was prevalent but my parents taught us to live the golden rule and love one another. I work in the medical field and my patients are dear to me, no matter their race or religion. It is so foreign to me when I see these things on the news. I am thankful that I am not exposed to the hatred and violence but am very aware these feelings still exist in our country. I am praying for peace. God Bless America.

  • Thank you so much! I’m black and I was born in Selma too. I couldn’t understand why we had to have two homecoming queens but actually I didn’t want to understand, just wanted to not rock the boat. Thanks for this beautiful post. May God bless you tremendously.

  • I really appreciated your post. I grew up in Lowndes county. My brother was a foot solider on Bloody Sunday. My mother help and fed many and oh boy, don’t I Live the life of Civil Rights Movement. Highest 80 when Dr. King walked from Selma to Montgomery. Thanks for sharing and I wish there were more people like yourself. Your mother was an awesome lady to teach you to love and just not ONE RACE of color. God Bless You.

  • Hello Lady Rosamary, and thank you for the love you show daily, I to was born in Selma and reading your story made me reach out to you and anyone else who wants to chat. I left home at and early age and never cane back, because I knew things were not as they seem and I choose to make my home away from Selma. I have friends and family back there and wish them the best, but it doesn’t work unless we all come together and acknowledge that we’re in this world together and we should want to make it better, no hate each other because of the color of your skin. I’m a Deacon now and I can say I love everybody no matter what if you hate me or not, I still have love for you!!!

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