RIDING THE FENCE
Ok Dianne, enough with the attempts at tear jerker stories. We get it! STOP!
Well, sorry folks, that is not what I was trying to do. I stopped writing because I am tired of it. However, when Val suggested we need to talk and share cultural experiences during these tumultuous times, I knew she was right. With enormous trepidation, I’m sharing some more of my stuff since there’s no scandal that I can’t handle.
Another former co-worker, Wes reminded me after my last blog:
that “Why” and “What If” are key life questions. I thought about it and decided he’s right too. The only “What If” I would share is: what if everybody TRIED to get to know more about the one person they know nothing about? I’m sorry to keep picking on North Carolina, but that same weird northern transplant neighbor chose a very shallow way one day to tell me we had new neighbors. She said: “There are some new people up the street wearing GARB”. Growing up, we had no choice but to respect cultures other than ours because we didn’t know anything about our culture until we got home. We had to ride the fence.
My grandfather’s sermons were frequently about the two different worlds occupied by people of color versus others. This is the same man who also tried to bring his “different world” sermons to a personal understanding. Most of my education before college was in predominantly caucasian populated public schools. It wasn’t always easy, but it was enlightening because grandad would break it all down. He explained that we are privileged to know our world and their world: the daytime world outside of the home at school and work and the nighttime world at home with our families. “We know both worlds”, he would say. “The people with whom we communicate outside the home only know their world” Grandad is gone, but I get it. I feel sorry for parents who think that limited exposure to "others" is the best way to raise children, although I don't dwell on it. "Not my concern Mon"
All we can do today is continue to live both worlds, keeping them separate when it’s wise, but using the knowledge of each to educate the other. That’s really hard too because now we’re dealing with hard headed adults, but it is what it is.
Much of grandad’s ideology, many of his words naturally came from personal experience in the mountains of North Carolina. His favorite psalms and hymns are stuck in my head forever. Most of them I will keep in my head due to their relatively radical nature. (Can you see more clearly now?) One important song that he insisted upon every Sunday was the old Negro Spiritual “Good News The Chariot’s Coming”. In my childhood religion confusion, I would wonder why he ordered a traditional Baptist hymn every Sunday in a Presbyterian service. Of course I get it now! There was a world he refused to forget or leave behind and nobody in his somewhat black middle class congregation was going to forget either. On top of that, he knew I would never forget and possibly mention it somewhere, somehow, someday.
It’s not all gloom and doom! In fact, I’m living my best life. I don’t know if it’s the fresh diet, the always fresh attitude or the fact that we both got off that fence of straddling between stressful careers and peaceful lives. The fence hurt all day, everyday. We rode that fence much too long, but we had no choice at the time. We came of age during and after the civil rights movement. We had to walk the fine line of professionally proving ourselves without intimidating anybody or rubbing them the wrong way.
Early on, we made a plan that we could not have made without balancing life on that fence. I am thankful to my family for teaching me HOW to ride the fence. Fence straddling will be much easier for the young people in my family because they’re coming of age in a forward thinking generation. However, we would not have been able to teach them the strategy, had our ancestors not taught us.......in their own way.
To everybody limiting your children’s exposure to the isolated life you were taught…..well we’ll see how that works out for ya’. As for me, the one who has been spewing stories of racism all week, I am actually in a wonderful place in life of total mindfulness. I could not have made it here, however, without the balance of things like the segregated beach AND the news anchor desk.