I spent a morning at the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. I am still processing everything that I experienced and felt during that day. And, echoing in my mind were the words of Jesus from the Eastertide texts, screaming at me–Love One Another.
I will continue to reflect on my experience on future blogs. But, I feel compelled to focus on how we, and I mean those of us who are caucasian, pervert a movement to remind ourselves that we matter, too. The reality is that we need to say every day that “Black Lives Matter.” It is true that other lives matter, but few in this country have experienced what Black Americans have experienced.
I was reminded for some reason today of a trip my mother took me on to drop off some groceries and clothing at our housekeeper’s home. We lived in Alabama at that time. We had never had a housekeeper before, and my mother would normally clean the house before the housekeeper arrived for fear of anyone thinking that she had a dirty house. Our housekeeper, like most in Alabama, was a black woman.
As we drove out of the city into the country, and finally onto a dirt road, we started to pass broken down wooden sheds. My mother slowed down to carefully read the directions she had been given and the addresses on the mailboxes, since there were no clear street signs. We found the shack our housekeeper and her family lived in. It was a rustic one room shack. I remember the garden to the side of the house, the long porch, the rusted tin roof, and the pig pen with a large pig inside it. We were invited in, and my mother graciously accepted the coffee and cake that our hostess provided. This was my first experience with extreme poverty in the rural south. I don’t remember my mother saying much on the way home, she didn’t lecture much when she had a good illustration to remind me that I was very privileged and needed to be taken down a peg or two every now and then.
My mother grew up on a farm in Nebraska, in a house that was not much different than the one our housekeeper lived in. But, there was a world of difference in opportunity. My mother was able to go to high school and her husband went to college. The expectation was that she would be wealthier and better situated in life than her parents who were the children of German immigrants. And, she had every opportunity to live out that expectation. For our housekeeper, there would be no moving out of poverty. Her children would have no special advantages, they would live and die in the county they grew up in. The red clay would stain their feet, their clothes, and their souls.
Thinking back on that day, I am grateful for the lessons my mother taught me. I am grateful that she taught me to love others. But, I am saddened that we still have prejudices in this country that prevent people, especially black Americans from living and growing to their full potential. So, for now, for me, Black Lives Matter, because they have not for so very long.