Funny you say this. Twain was my immediate thought when I read your piece. I get what you were doing, I do. Or I think i do…my generation (I hesitate to say “our generation” because I am not sure of your age) grew up in the 70s. The first decade following the Civil Rights Movement, right? And as everyone knows, you can change laws but changing hearts takes a great deal longer. And I believe hearts ARE changing, but it is a slow, agonizing process. Because everyone is on his or her own timeline in that regard.
I’ve said it before, here: my father (and my mom, to a lesser degree) was a rampant racist. He still is. And I didn’t really even know there was another way until we moved to Alaska from SE New Mexico when I was 10. That word was used in casual conversation in my household, but rarely or ever was it used (even by my racist father) in relation to a human being, but rather an object or an event.
And I thought for a long time that is what those objects were really called. I remember the first time, at a friend’s house, I used the term as it had been used in my home. I remember the shock on everyone’s faces. My friend’s mother (an extremely patient, empathetic woman) explained to me why it was wrong. I never (and HAVE NEVER) used the word aloud again, though it took longer before my internal dialogue stopped whispering the terms to me when I was around certain things.
Still, for me, the word never really attached itself to race. Or to a set of characteristics.
It should have. But that’s how ignorant I’d been raised to be, at that time.
It does, now. And when I read Twain, even though it was another time and place, I cringe because I am reminded of what horrors we, as white Americans, have been responsible for unleashing upon other members of OUR race, the HUMAN race.
I think it’s important to be reminded, and you definitely reminded me. And I think it’s easy to be outraged because we want to think we’re better now. And in some ways we are, but certainly, systemic racism is far from dead.
We can make laws, but we cannot change hearts. We can only pray to whomever we pray to that hearts are changed.
You are on the right side of things, of that I am sure. And it’s definitely a discussion worth having. NO. It’s a dialogue that MUST remain open.