Since writing my blogs, although I’ve written over 40 articles, the ones which get the most comments have had class or race as subjects. These comments come from around the world, so I can assume that people from foreign lands are interested in the social situation in the U.S., particularly from the perspective of a black person. Therefore, I offer this as speaking from my heart about my feelings of being an African-American.
I was born in 1943 in a place called Shreveport, Louisiana, which is one of the southern states. These were the primary states which blatantly carried on slavery, although racism existed and still exists today throughout the U.S. My maternal grandfather and grandmother were born on plantations, and my paternal grandmother conceived my father with her white plantation owner.
My parents were very subservient to whites as I recall as a child, which angered me because my siblings and I attended a Catholic school and had been told by the “white” nuns that we were all created equal. I wholehearted took that information as factual and apparently so did my older sister and brother. Although we observed the “whites only” signs on water fountains and knew “our place” in other areas of interactions with whites, our hesitancy to totally bow to the status quo made my father decide to relocate us to California after I graduated from 8th grade.
Race and race relations were not discussed in our home, so I had no yardstick to measure my parents’ feelings. Whatever they, our extended family, teachers and neighbors truly felt about segregation was kept pretty close to private conversations between adults, and we children were sheltered from their discussions. It was not until I was a young married woman watching the flames of riots in our San Francisco neighborhood and the horrors of inhumane treatment during the civil rights movement of the 60s did I fully realize the extent of what was happening to my people.
The first time I saw a cotton field, in 2003; I broke down and cried to think how long and arduous the journey had been for all of us who are descendents of slavery. We have accomplished many great things and continue to do so today despite overwhelming challenges. All Americans are aware that the wounds of slavery have scabbed over, but in many instances, still fester. Nevertheless, we love our country.
As a black person, African-American, American citizen, I am grateful for my parents and teachers who ensured that I would be able to live with dignity and have no animosity toward those alive today who reap the benefit of my ancestors sweat and tears, but who accept the responsibility to help maintain the freedom which we all crave. It is a tightrope stretched between both races that we walk in the U.S. But there are humane Americans on both ends of the rope which help to keep all of us in balance, even those who want to see us tumble.