Wake County, North Carolina libraries chose the book Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson as their reading book for this year. I didn't read it in time to attend any of the book discussions (and I doubt I would have found time to do so); however, I am very glad that I chose to read this book.
The book details the authors' experience of small town life in Oxford, NC. When he was 11, a black man was shot in Oxford by a white man. The black man allegedly made comments about a white woman. This happened in 1970. There were riots. The man accused was found not guilty. This was 1970. The book challenges the reader to think about where ideas about race come from. It tells the reader about the struggle for civil rights that continues even to this day.
In my mind, 1970 wasn't all that long ago. Initially, I felt that I live in a different place and time in the South. But I have been challenged by things in my past as well. I was born in 1976, and 1970 doesn't seem that long ago.
When I married my husband ten years ago, my mother was very concerned. My husband is a first generation Taiwanese immigrant, and therefore, Chinese. His race is what caused my mother some concern. She worried about how our kids would be perceived. His race did not matter to me, and I really couldn't understand where she was coming from. However, 1970 wasn't that long ago.
Chinese and white are different from black and white. Are they? It is two different races when you start to think about it. When I was in high school and had just started dating this man who would become my husband, one of my friends came up to me with the gossip that such and such white acquaintance was dating a black guy. The secretive whisper was there. The accusation that some sin was being committed was there. Yet I immediately wondered why this friend was telling me. I was dating someone of another race--wouldn't she think that I would be offended by her whispers? Why was she telling me this?
I know where this friend was coming from--I had been there, too. There was within me something inbred. It instructed me in some myth about white superiority. I have reflected about this in the past few days, and I know it was present in my life at some time early on. Maybe it was the all-white elementary school I attended in the 1980s--all-white because there were no black families that would dare to drive through our community, let alone live there. Maybe it was the way the n-word was tossed around so casually--to describe the state of the yard, for example (though never to describe a black person, at least in our family).
How did I move myself away from this myth? How did God direct me to a place where I can know that my thoughts about race early in my childhood were wrong? These are questions I still ask myself. I marvel that I am at a place where I can face my past and realize that God has led me away from this sinful way of thinking.
I will be reflecting more on race and how my thinking has been shaped in future blogs. There is simply too much to say.