Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Watching Until My Eyes Were Filled with Tears

I've written about growing up in the South many times before this post. But as faithful readers will know, some things about growing up in the South were painful.

I grew up in southeast Texas where the weather was so hot, that it took considerable effort to move about. The humidity was so heavy that it was like breathing water. The only thanks for enduring the weather and conditions was the fact that living in such a tropical climate insured everyone a youthful appearance. Although I wasn't concerned with issues such as these.

My days were spent playing outside, throwing a ball around with a friend, or riding a bike up and down my street. That was my youth, carefree and void of the harsher things in life.

The first time I remember becoming an adult, I was by myself and bouncing a ball on the driveway. The sun was almost ready to set and cicadas were just starting their screeching for the evening. I stopped bouncing the ball and listened to them. In the distance, I could hear what appeared to be an old, rattled truck coming down the road. I didn't know if the City was spraying for mosquitoes are not. The act that I believe brought on my Parkinson's disease. As the noise got closer, I decided it couldn't be a government truck. It had to be a flatbed truck.

Finally, the truck slowly came down my street and on back of this truck were huge pieces of lumber and several men standing up, holding on to the cab for stability. 2 of the men saw me and began shouting propaganda that was overwhelmingly filled with hate. It burned my ears as they continued shouting. I noticed all my neighbors quickly went inside their homes. They were such a sight. Their white robes billowing in the wind and their masks carefully hiding their faces. Either from shame or blame. I knew they would be building crosses and burning them in a black family's yard. Later that evening, I watched the news and saw the crosses burning against the sienna sky. The glowing images danced across my face as I sat in the dark.

I continued watching until my eyes were filled with tears.

Quite a few years later, I visited Memphis, TN. I stood on Beale Street around twilight and noticed that tv stations were gathered and crowds of people were in the streets. I checked the date for a holiday. It was April 4th. The day Martin Luther King was assassinated.

I watched the crowd of mostly black people fill the streets with heavy hearts. The images I saw on tv years ago were again in front of me. The young man was now an old man carrying the same sign hung from his shoulders. "I Am A Man." I watched him walk Beale Street with eyes so sad that when he saw me staring he looked at me and tried to muster a respectful nod. I nodded back wondering how he had the determination to keep walking. Surely he must be tired, I thought. I watched him continue to shuffle down Beale against the sienna sky.

I watched until my eyes were filled with tears.


Last night, I silently mused about how warm it was for November in Tennessee. The heat isn't as bad here as it was in Texas, so I was thankful for that. The humidity just wasn't as intense as I remembered it in Groves, Texas. I sat in my easy chair and watched the news. It was another election year where I told others that I "held my nose" and voted Democrat as I always do. I just didn't know much about this man and I really wanted a woman to win the presidency. She had more of a chance than him. She was white, experienced and well....white. Sad to say, that is what it comes down to these days. I continued watching tv that night in the dark waiting for election results. I expected it to be the next day before we knew the winner. I was wrong.

The newsman began to tear up a bit and announced, "Ladies and Gentleman, we have just elected the first African American as president of the United States." I never thought he had a real chance. I voted for him, but I never thought it would actually happen. The camera moved away from the newsman and began to show people gathering at a park in Chicago, Illinois waiting for this man to speak.

The sky was clear and the wind was cool. The evening sky was bathed in silky soothing colors. Far removed from sienna which reminded me of dirt which sometimes soils our hands from the journey we have taken. But not tonight. The images of the news danced across my face in the darkness of my living room and the people I saw were wondrous to me. They showed New York, Ohio, Chicago, Indonesia, Kenya and other countries across the world. People of all colors, creed, and religions hugged one another. Because they had hope.

I thought back to when I saw those men of the KKK in my hometown.

I kept watching until my eyes were filled with tears.


If I know one thing; it is this: YES WE CAN.

More Musings Later-


Anonymous said...

I too was raised in The Groves. I have a couple of little blogs out here in West Texas where I live in the desert -- a much better climate than Southeast Texas. I've already written a series of articles on the election but here is one more in the spirit of what you have written here:

Keep up the good work. I hope you don't mind if I continue checking back. My Google filter for "Groves" picked you up.


Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed to admit this now, but as a white child growing up in the mid to late '60's, I was prejudiced towards African Americans. It was in the N.Y. City suburbs of Long Island, the south wa not an excuse. Thrugh time and experiece, I came to my senses by realizing we are all one and equal. In closing, I can only say, "It's about time America. Best of luck to Obama. May he lead with wisdom'