↑ Know what that means? ↑
It means I’ve drawn a line in the sand so deep that if you attempt to cross it now you will fall into a deep cavern and I hope you don’t come out till you are a worthy, yes worthy, earth citizen.
This isn’t “The Dukes of Hazzard” this is real life and not that it hasn’t always been this serious but Charleston has changed me and part of the commitment I made today when I tweeted #IStandWithCharleston means I walk it and talk it and call it out. So here I am.
I’m calling us out.
Nova Scotia has a horrifically racist past that has made very few gains with this issue given the deep and long standing history of racism that exists here. In many ways we have the ability to relate to what is happening in the Southern United States with our shared histories.
We consider ourselves very friendly and giving here, and we are. So we look at things like what just happened in Charleston and feel a bit somewhere between superior and grateful that it’s “not as bad” here. President Obama has been quoted everywhere I look talking about how the scale and frequency for these acts of terror are so much more frequent there. That brings up discussions about guns and rights to own them, etc. Something else we share here. Lots of guns and hunters. But despite our “polite racism” we don’t have mass public shootings. Many of ours seem directed at Police Officers or women. So we cling to, “not like that, not so bad” and about our daily lives we go.
Every time you let racist attitudes, remarks and actions slide because of whatever reason you have come up with – it just takes us away from any small gains we are making. One person really does make a difference, I promise. I know it’s complicated, but every one of us has contributed in some way and we have to tackle it now. I promise that too.
It’s time to stop. Here in Nova Scotia some people still openly fly the confederate flag in their yards, use it as a licence plate, some people burn crosses on the lawns of those who they deem not worthy of them. Doesn’t that make you want to vomit? It does me.
I can’t find a way to properly vet (provide proof for) something I’ve heard and been told over and over again since I was a kid about the town I went to High School in and now live close to. I’ve been told there was a “law” in place (not now, but not that long ago – Grandparents generation) that prevented black people from owning land and living in the area. I feel even if it isn’t a written down on paper law, it’s a “country law” so to speak. And I think it was and is still a pervasive attitude here about anyone non-white and I’m sure that law or not we’ve created a lot of segregation. I mean, who wants to live where they aren’t wanted? Where your house might get burned down because of the colour of your skin and nothing more. We are so severely non integrated here that people notice when there’s a black person in town and I actually hear people say,
“What are they doing here? Must be lost” and “Who let them in here?” and then laughter like that somehow justifies ignorance and intolerance at the very least.
I remember the same words as a child when a Pakistani (And I now realise that I am ignorant here and relied on the slurs/knowledge of others and could very well have this wrong. If so, please correct and educate me) family moved in and opened up a restaurant/convenience store.
Once some locals decided they “knew their place” which was they were allowed there to serve us they were called, “The Pakies.” I heard stories of “they don’t pay taxes” and “they use the money to move all their damned relatives here” and jokes about the cars they drove and on and on. I remember people doing it to their face, and they’d chuckle but I always felt uncomfortable and like it wasn’t funny. I was a little girl, I hadn’t developed the language skills yet to say something. I have now.
I remember the very moment I was introduced to racism. It is seared into my brain like an unwanted visitor.
Our family was friends with a black family when I was maybe 7? 8? They had an unusual last name. Not unusual in the hard to pronounce or maybe from another country way. My last name at birth was “Hill.” Just kind of, how’d they get that last name, way? Remember, I’m a literal Autistic kid who was also examining words and language so I could understand the world around me.
So I set out to find out how people got their last names and in my families case – Hill was a more modern version of Hyll. Not an inventive lot, it’s Scottish and English and is an extremely common and widely distributed topographic name for someone who lived on or by a hill. This makes me laugh. There are also English and Scottish and German on another side with last names like Cook and Baker. Want to take a guess how they got those?
Not so cute and funny for black history. Know how many of them got their last names? Black slaves, IF they were GIVEN a name by their owners would often be given the last name of their captors. It’s called a “Slave Name.” It was sickenly not enough to own another human and think you are entitled because you are white, but to totally steal their identity, their family name??!! It’s just so wrong. We need to be ashamed. Feel the burn of humility so we never go back.
So we’d always go see them and one weekend they were finally coming to see us! I was excited! Their one daughter and I were the same age and got along really well.
The adults were acting weird though. There was this stress that never existed before. I didn’t understand.
It took a lot of convincing but finally I got permission to take my friend to play “kick the can” with the neighbourhood kids. I was SO excited introduce them my friend!
They were in mid game and when they saw her, everyone froze.
I kicked the can. No one moved. I explained how the game worked, kicked the can again and told her to run.
No. One. Moved.
There was eventually some awkward talking, a small effort to play the game but, and this is the part that makes me feel so upset, no one wanted to touch her so one by one they all left. Now understand this is not a judgement on how any of us acted. We knew what we knew, we did what we did. We mimicked our parents, our older siblings. This was the middle 1970’s in a really, really small community – not even a town. I’m sharing an experience that I’m choosing to re-examine and learn from. That’s what I do, part of who I am. I suppressed expressing these things for 4 decades now. It’s not about shaming the actions of the past but it is about making our actions now better.
When her parents left that day we never saw them again. Small town living you don’t rock the boat, especially the white boat. I can’t imagine what was said to my parents. Yes, I can actually. You and I know what was said. You and I know the snide remarks they’d get about their choice of friends and bringing them to “our town.”
I’ve carried a lot of confusion and guilt about that situation. I’ve wanted to apologise for a long time. I can in part do that now by speaking out, by calling it out.
I’m not going to take or let go unchallenged racist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist language any more. I’m done.
I will not abide the idea that a little girl, barely older than my friend all those years ago had to lay down on the CHURCH FLOOR AND PLAY DEAD TO LIVE.
This was not an act of mental illness, not in a way that gets a pass. It’s not mental illness when white people do it but when non-white people do anything on any scale they are a terrorist. That gives mostly white man-made laws, enforcement agencies and courts carte blanche to carry out nearly unspeakable punishments against all minorities. No, this was a thought out, cold, calculated terrorist, racist attack in a place of worship where people gather in love and prayer. This waste of human flesh (he will not be named here) sat with the people he murdered, for a hour – he said he almost didn’t do it because they were so nice. Let that sink in.
I don’t care about our precious, special white person feelings any more. Take the flag down, lay your hatred down and mostly just grow up!
I stand with Charleston. Will you stand with them too? Will you pledge to not let this type of behaviour continue by signing the Petition to Take The Confederate Flag down once and for all! And equally important will you please, remember them! Know their names, learn their stories.
I encourage you to do what I did, take a few moments and if you can and say their names and ages out loud or in whatever way accommodates you. It’s very sobering and I think really important that we continue to keep their memories alive while honouring them by doing better.
Cynthia Hurd, 54, branch manager for the Charleston County Library System
Susie Jackson, 87, longtime church member
Ethel Lance, 70, employee of Emanuel AME Church for 30 years
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, admissions counselor of Southern Wesleyan University
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, state senator, Reverend of Emanuel AME Church
Tywanza Sanders, 26, earned business administration degree from Allen University
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, retired pastor (died at MUSC)
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, track coach at Goose Creek High School
Myra Thompson, 59, church member
Here’s a link of:⇓
Cast Your Net
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