The sting of the N-word and a perfect gentleman

angelatuck:

You called me a what?

Originally posted on LOVE MY PEOPLE:

The late Pauline Knight Ofosu took part in the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides in 1960 and 1961. The late Pauline Knight Ofosu took part in the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides in 1960 and 1961.

A man goes into a church and shoots nine people while they are studying the word of God. Young black men are being murdered for playing their music too loud or walking home from the store with a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

The deaths of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, teenagers killed in Florida by white men who weren’t comfortable in their presence, upset me to no end. That could have been my grandson or my teenage nephews. The thought of them being targeted simply because of their skin color makes me very angry.

The Charleston murders have shaken our collective core. How could a 21-year-old man hate people he didn’t know? How could his parents, who had to know he was disturbed, purchase a…

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The sting of the N-word and a perfect gentleman

The late Pauline Knight Ofosu took part in the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides in 1960 and 1961.

The late Pauline Knight Ofosu took part in the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides in 1960 and 1961.

A man goes into a church and shoots nine people while they are studying the word of God. Young black men are being murdered for playing their music too loud or walking home from the store with a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

The deaths of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin, teenagers killed in Florida by white men who weren’t comfortable in their presence, upset me to no end. That could have been my grandson or my teenage nephews. The thought of them being targeted simply because of their skin color makes me very angry.

The Charleston murders have shaken our collective core. How could a 21-year-old man hate people he didn’t know? How could his parents, who had to know he was disturbed, purchase a .45 caliber handgun for him as a birthday present? When will this country get serious about addressing mental illness? When will people of color no longer be the targets of racists?

On Sunday, our pastor spoke about the kind of hate that breeds prejudice and racism. Children aren’t born with hate in their hearts, it is a learned behavior.

While running some errands in Kennesaw, GA after church, I attempted to turn into a shopping center but held up traffic for a few seconds because I was in the wrong lane.  The kid behind me, who looked to be in his late teens or early 20s, was furious.   “You f…ing nigger!” he yelled while pulling around me.

Being addressed in that way stung me, but it wasn’t about to ruin my day. My Dad has cancer and my thoughts are on him and the rest of my family.

My first encounter with the “n-word” was much more traumatic because I didn’t understand what the word meant. I did know by the way my 5-year-old classmates said it that it wasn’t a term of endearment!  Me and another black girl were the only people of color at this catholic school in Winchester, KY. Shortly thereafter, my parents moved our family to Lexington, where the schools were integrated and there were never any problems of that sort.

One of the scariest times I was called a nigger was in the parking lot of a Stein Mart in Lexington. I was in my late 20s and must have been walking too slowly across the parking lot while crossing in front of a man in a big truck.  “Nigger bitch,” he proclaimed loudly. We were 20 feet away from each other and I was terrified. In this instance, and the one earlier this week, I was happy the men didn’t have guns because they may have shot me.  All because they were angry and I happened to be the wrong skin color.

Let that marinade for a minute. How ridiculous to hate someone you don’t know simply because they appear different from you.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looked forward to the day when his children would be judged by their character, rather than their skin color.

I have to ask, are we there yet?

And speaking of character, the day after my encounter with that misguided young thug in Kennesaw, I had an encounter with an elderly white man. I left my jacket on the back of my chair in a restaurant and he bolted out into the parking lot to give it to me.

“You left your jacket,” he said, holding it up for me to put my arms in it. “I just didn’t want you to miss it later.”

It was a great reminder that there are good and bad people in every race. Let’s all start by being kinder to one another.

Words matter — especially one with the history of the n-word.  But we can choose to give it power or we can elect to take away its power by ignoring it.

A few years ago, I interviewed the late Pauline Knight Ofosu, a 1961 Freedom Rider who took part in the Nashville Student Movement a year earlier. She and other protestors were trained in the way of Muhatma Ghandi.

While protesting outside a movie theater, a white man spit in her face. Her reaction was to ask him for a hankie to wipe his spit off her.  He was completely disarmed – – so much so that he walked away without saying another word.

Now how’s that for taking away his power?

Pauline Knight in 1961. She and other Freedom Riders were arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for “breach of the peace.” pauline

John S. Carroll: More than a giant in journalism

John Carroll (left) with Dean Baquet  in the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times when he announced his retirement.  ( Los Angeles Times photo)

John Carroll (left) with Dean Baquet in the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times when Carroll announced his retirement. ( Los Angeles Times photo)

If you are fortunate in life and work, you will be blessed with bosses and mentors who see your potential and take a personal interest in your career.

John Carroll was one of the first of many bosses who did that for me. And I will be forever grateful.

John was more than a boss and mentor, we became friends. When Joe and I got married, he and his wife Lee came to our wedding and gave us a beautiful gift we still treasure today.

Today, family and friends gathered in Lexington to say farewell to a wonderful husband, father and colleague. John was a giant in the newspaper industry whose work at The Baltimore Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Los Angeles Times produced multiple Pulitzer Prizes.

As executive editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, he stood firm and fearless when the paper received bomb threats and cancelled subscriptions after publishing a series of articles about University of Kentucky basketball boosters lining the pockets of players. If you know anything about Kentucky basketball, you know it’s considered  blasphemy in some quarters to speak ill of the Wildcats. The series won the newspaper’s first Pulitzer Prize.

In 1987, when I was a young, very green reporter, John allowed me to work on a series of articles about race relations in my hometown. I was paired with a brilliant veteran reporter, Andy Mead, and an excellent projects editor, Harry Merritt.  John could have chosen a more seasoned reporter to take on the project but he saw I was passionate about the subject matter and had the local contacts to pull it off.

As our reporting progressed, I’m sure John fielded calls from civil and political leaders who questioned the paper’s efforts. John was the kind of editor who wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power or to the people who worked for him.

Andy and I examined race relations in Lexington schools, workplaces, churches, funeral homes and social settings.  We even went to a University of Kentucky basketball game and attempted to count the of African-American fans in the audience. It was a very small number.  When I interviewed then Lexington mayor Scotty Baesler, who graduated from the University of Kentucky and played basketball under legendary coach Adolph Rupp.  Baesler seemed dumbfounded at my suggestion, backed by months of reporting, that Lexington had a race problem.

“Divided We Stand” won several state and national awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. More importantly, it was reprinted and distributed to teachers, administrators and students in Fayette County schools.  John was instrumental in making that happen, along with managing editor Jim Green.

John used to take daily strolls through the Herald-Leader newsroom, stopping to talk with reporters and give advice. He was so cool and most of us looked forward to having him stop by our desks. It was his way of making himself available to reporters who may have been intimidated by the big glass office at the end of the newsroom.  One day, when John asked me what I was working on, I made the mistake of saying I wasn’t working on anything in particular.  He very calmly  told me that I needed to fix that right away.  I got the message loud and clear and always respected his gentle correction.

He was a great leader, but more importantly, he was a good person. When he returned to Lexington after retiring, he once ran into my father and someone introduced the two of them. My father asked, “Are you the John Carroll?” To which John asked, “Are you the Fred Duerson?” It was his way of saying my father was just as important as he was.

I will never forget that. And I will never forget him. Rest well John!

Murder and hate in God’s house will not prevail

These people lost their lives in a shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C.

Nine beautiful and talented people, including the church’s pastor  lost their lives in a shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, where they were having Wednesday night bible study.

His picture is all over the Internet. Reporters are looking into his sick, tortured background. His father bought him a .45 caliber hand gun for his 21st birthday. He hated African-Americans. He plotted murder. He left three witnesses to tell of his wicked deed. He believes he succeeded.

He killed nine God-fearing men and women in a beautiful, historic church in Charleston, S.C.  Emanuel A.M.E. Church is sacred ground. It was once burned to the ground by white supremacists.  This latest twisted soul claims he had to kill black people because they were taking jobs from white people and raping women. Complete and utter nonsense.

Twelve people had gathered to study God’s word. To pray and to seek God’s favor. They welcomed him in as Christians are called to do. Love your fellow man. Minister to those in need. Be a comfort in a time of storm.

He sat in their midst for one hour before he stood up and began to shoot.  The storm raging in his body would not be quieted. I will not dignify his acts by speaking his name.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch declared his act a hate crime. But this 21-year-old monster will not get the victory. Hearts are broken, as they were in Sandy Hook, in Columbine and in so many places where gunmen have inflicted their rage upon innocents.

The church’s pastor, S.C. state senator Clementa Pinckney was among those killed. He was leading the bible study. Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctory, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. Sharonda Singleton and Myra Thompson were all murdered.

In processing the evil of this deed, one can’t help but draw a parallel to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. On that September morning five little girls were in the ladies room preparing for Sunday services when a bomb exploded, killing 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.  Sarah Collins, Addie Mae’s younger sister, was badly injured and lost an eye.

The message that morning: “A Love that Forgives.”

But the Klan members who planted the bomb didn’t realize their act would backfire. When people saw dead children being carried from the rubble, the Civil Rights Movement was galvanized. What those men meant for evil, God meant for good.

Hate never prevails.

Rachel Dolezal was right to resign from the NAACP, but not because she is white

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

Lies and misrepresentations are always harmful. But whom among us hasn’t told a white lie or two?

When I first heard about the curious case of Rachel Dolezal,  a white woman pretending to be black, I wondered how that made her different from entertainers and actors who embrace and celebrate black culture.

People like  Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Gary Owen, an actor and comedian who happens to be married to a black woman, giving him a unique window into black culture. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a culture that brought the world Etta James, Muddy Waters and B.B. King? Or Muhammad Ali, Usher Raymond and Beyonce?

I have always been proud to be an African-American. Next month, our family will gather in Atlanta for our 57th annual reunion. It’s a place to share love,  recognize academic achievement and celebrate our heritage.

But when I found out  Ms. Dolezal identified herself as African-American on job applications, my opinion changed. We don’t know Ms. Dolezal’s full story because she is dodging reporters. On Monday,  she resigned as president of the Spokane, Washington N.A.A.C.P.  That’s a good call on her part. Her lies have damaged her credibility and made it impossible for her to continue to lead.

American history contains several instances of white people who gave their lives in the fight for civil and human rights.  In 1964, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, two young, Jewish men from the Northeast, were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi along with native son James Chaney as they attempted to register blacks to vote during Freedom Summer.

In 1965, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a wife, mother and N.A.A.C.P. from Detroit, was shot to death in Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan as she worked to register black voters.

And let’s not forget the fearless Freedom Riders, hundreds of black and white Americans who in 1961 were beaten and arrested in South Carolina and Alabama; and  jailed in Jackson, Miss. on the ridiculous charge of  “breach of the peace.”  Their goal was to test the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting segregation in interstate bus travel.

Ms. Dolezal’s case reminds of us a time when light-skinned black men and women passed for white to avoid such violence or to gain employment or a better education. Typically, they were the descendents of slave masters who raped black women they considered nothing more than property.

These painful facts may help explain why so much anger is being directed at Ms. Dolezal.  Our history is undeniable; and no matter how many times some folks try to rewrite it or justify it, the facts speak for themselves. They are part the reason we still have such much trouble talking about race in America. It’s personal, especially for southerners.

You have to wonder why Ms. Dolezal, who was so active in an organization whose goal is fairness for all people no matter who they are, chose to be someone she is not.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were reported missing and later found dead in an earthen dam. They were shot and buried by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were reported missing and later found dead in an earthen dam. They were shot and buried by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

ViolaGregg Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was murdered by Klan members while helping register voters in Montgomery and Selma. She was shot to death while driving with a black man in her car.

Viola Gregg Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was murdered by Klan members while helping register voters in Montgomery and Selma. She was shot to death while driving with a black man in her car.

Leave your comfort zone to learn, teach, do good

ErinPerry ThePerrys

By Erin Perry

GUEST BLOGGER When my engineer-husband said: “We may have to move to Brazil for my next assignment,” the journalist in me bombarded him with questions. “Who? What? When? Where? Can the dog go?”

The dog’s flights were covered, so I told my husband I needed a new bikini. A life abroad on a global company’s dime often comes with perks to offset the hardships that may include terrible roads, blazing heat, and to be frank, roaches. My favorite bonus was the maid. I adored her – not just because she cooked and cleaned, though I won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy that. Having a maid was a blessing in another, more significant way. She taught me more in my 18 months in Brazil (near Salvador) than I envisioned I would learn.

In Brazil, maid is not a disparaging title. It is a noble career. The moral people in this line of work take great pride in establishing and preserving everyday order for families. Lecia was a single mother in her early 30s (a few years older than me), and she had been a maid since age 11. She took classes at night until she earned her diploma at age 20. College never was an option; for the daughter of a farmer and a homemaker, it was just too expensive. She considers herself as mixed race, as does about 43% of Brazil’s population. Lecia is among the 90% of literate people in Brazil. We often exchanged stories in the kitchen about our lives  I learned just how unaware she was of the disparities in opportunities that continue to plague Northeast Brazil as well as women, and black, mixed race and indigenous populations throughout that country. She was oblivious to the unfairness that allowed my husband and I to sit in a restaurant in our neighborhood and be the only non-white people in the establishment who were not on the clock. (For context, Brazil has more than 202 million people, and non-whit

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Faith: The substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen

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By EMILY MCMILLAN, guest blogger 

I will never forget that rainy, cold day in October, when my then 3-year-old son and I arrived from Atlanta to the Memphis VA hospital purposed to drive my father back to Mississippi from a doctor’s appointment.The ride was unusually quiet as we always had great talks whenever we were together.

The silence was finally broken when I asked, “So what brought you to the VA hospital?” He turned and looked at me as though I suddenly made an animal-like metamorphosis back to childhood when children were seen, but not heard! “Well you know these doctors tell you things, but they really don’t know,” he responded. Then the silence resumed. Neither of us really said anything further as I actually began to take on the child-like transition during the remaining 90-minute drive. Even my normally  precocious son remained quiet.

We arrived at my parents’ house and quickly, yet nervously, exited the car and made our way to the door, almost in a daze. My Dad asked that I unpack his things while he freshened up. Still wanting to know more, but not sure how to approach the subject, I began unpacking the small bag he had carried with him. Carefully tucked away in a suitcase pocket was a small green pamphlet titled, ” How to Live with Colon Cancer.”

Immediately, my heart sank in disbelief as I nervously thumbed through the brochure. How could this be? Why is this happening? When? Is this his way of telling me this news? All types of emotions raced through my mind. My return to Atlanta began with a new spiritual change in my life. The thought of this “Daddy’s Girl” losing the first MAN she’d come to love and admire was quite devastating.

However, God intervened and let me know that my first love should always be the Love of Jesus Christ. Our carnal hearts and minds would have us to rely on man for consolation and even place our dependency on things or people that we can see or touch.God let me know that His unconditional love will see me through even the hardest things that I will face in life — even Daddy’s colon cancer diagnosis!

Here I am 26 years later still trusting and knowing that God is the author and finisher of our Faith. I still believe Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.”

God is still in control.

Emily is a wife, mother and writer living in Atlanta. She is a native of Mississippi and a graduate of University of Mississippi journalism school. Her father, James  A. Gelleylen, died of colon cancer in 1988.

emily's dad