I went home to my home town last week. A place I spent 18 years of my life, I lived in the same house, on the same street all those years; and my mom still lives in that house on that street. At the end of my road and across the street sits a little white church with a sign out front that reads “God Save America Again.” Now that sign may seem annoying, ignorant even but nothing too out of the ordinary in Small Town America until you know one little thing about the people that enter that church every week. . . those people are known White Supremacists. They had their hey day in the 70’s and have been rather quite since but they are still there at the end of my street in my little hometown.
Now this has become a fun fact I share with people when they ask about my childhood. .. “Oh I lived in a small town, the only really note able thing about it is the white supremacist church.” People will gasp and ask me how I handled that growing up… you know being a black woman and all.
But the funny thing is that I didn’t handle it, I didn’t have to handle it. They stayed down there on their end of the street and I felt as safe as any child could running around the town until all hours of the night. They never bothered me, there were no confrontations they simply stayed in their little church, probably hating my existence.But you know from inside their space I couldn’t have cared less about what went on inside their heads. Because as long as they stayed inside, some part of me knew that they understood the inappropriateness of what they were feeling. They knew they would be met with such resistance in this time in in America that they idea of coming “out” as what they truly were wouldn’t even cross their minds.
Flash Forward to today— 2017—- Small Town America—-
You would think we would have made progress right? Maybe that little white church has been closed up for the last year, maybe the people all scattered around the country, or with any luck made a friend of a different race and realized it was all just a lie.
Think again my friend, here we are in 2017 and for the first time in my life I felt unsafe in my hometown. The people in the little white church still ignored my presence, but someone else some stranger who has never met me and wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a line up felt they had the right to scream
At me out of the window of their car as I walked into Hobby Lobby.
Wait, let me back up just a minute, yes you read that right. 2017, a northern state, a girl and her friends are walking into Hobby lobby to buy wedding supplies and out of no where a grown-ass man yells
out of his window.
It was like my whole perception of my home town came crashing down like the ideals of democracy around me, this place that had always been safe and protective was now foreign and angry. Angry at me because what? I was born with black skin, because the sun doesn’t turn me an angry shade of red, because my hair reaches for the stars while yours falls flat, or angry because a black man in power did something the white men before or after him could not. .. turned so many aspects of the country around.
But there I was furious and hyperventilating in the hobby lobby parking lot, and as much as my friends wanted to help to tell me “anger and fear is what they want.” or “Don’t let them get to you.”
They truly had no idea how that moment felt; eating away at my insides as I contemplated the true meaning of that statement; White Power .
And over and over again I came back to the same thing:
These people have always existed, there hasn’t been a magical time in the last 40 years when there were no white supremacists in America, they have been stewing and hiding for 40 years waiting for their opportunity to come out of the shadows. Waiting for someone to validate their feelings again, that look all these dark skinned humans whom we have oppressed for hundreds of years have someone done us wrong feeling.
However over the last 40 years they saw the world do the exact opposite they saw a black man become president and the world embrace him they saw his wife become beloved and they had to continue to hide in their holes, angrily sipping on Bud Light and ranting about “if the confederacy had won” But something has shifted; they began to climb their way out of their holes, see the sun and once again think that they deserve so much more than I do simply because of the color of my skin. They were given the chance to once again be validated enough in their feelings that those nasty words; White Power aren’t just uttered in their Klandestine (yes the K is intentional) meeting but rather they have seen the power and they are welcomed back into the fold.
And this is what truly made me the most sick about that sad, angry man who yelled at me that day. Not that he felt that way, because I am obviously not going to be the person to change his mind. But that he felt strong enough, that enough people would support him and that I was little enough so far below him that he could once again yell it in the streets.Because when these people are strong enough to climb out of their holes, when there are enough people in power that support them that tell them they will fix all their problems by “building a wall” that assure them the wrong doings they perceived against the White Man are legitimate then the real question is
Did the last 40 years even happen, or should I start looking for the colored drinking fountain.