As soon as I crossed into Memphis, Tennessee, many things as I knew them were different. I grew up in California (the San Francisco Bay Area to be precise), so I had pretty much always been surrounded by diversity. Don’t be fooled by what that means, though. When I dated a black man during my junior year of high school, my parents were not happy. Fast-forward to five years later, when I told them I was going to marry a black man and was pregnant to boot, my mother flipped out. In truth, she all but threw me out of the house.
I have seen plenty of racial discrimination over the years, and honestly, thought my ex-husband was just exaggerating or being dramatic when the topic came up of places in other states where we should not travel. Moreover, I saw way more segregation and racism than I care to admit in the U.S. Military. However, being in the Deep South (staying in Alabama now for 10 days) has been eye-opening, to say the least. I go to bed many nights with a very heavy heart. There appears to be so much racial anger in what seems like every city down here and it seems even more prevalent among the young people. It pains me to see so much segregation and what seems to be anger from both the white and black sides. I had a very interesting conversation with my friend’s son, who shared some of his beliefs. While I was glad he opened up and shared, he is definitely not open to hearing another view or challenging his beliefs. It strikes me odd that so many people treat their beliefs–either taught by their families or society–as law.
The friends I am staying with also had a friend and her niece over for the night, both of whom were born and raised in Alabama. They both sat up with me for a couple of hours looking at my pictures and talking about “the way things are” in Alabama from paddling in schools, to the common views of the different races, to interracial dating, and much more. It was fun getting to know them and for them to get to know me. They were very interested in my travels and open to hearing about life outside of Alabama. Moreover, they were far more open than my friend’s son to seeing things in a different light, which left me with mixed emotions. On one hand, I thought the next generation could make some powerful changes, however, that does not seem to be the case down here.
I am learning so much here. I always considered myself lucky to have grown up in such a diverse and open area, but in a way, it makes me feel like I grew up very sheltered. The Bay Area feels worlds away from here and this is just the beginning of my time in the south! I am not sure how deep to delve into the South and the way things are here because it pains me to see the way things still are down here. It feels like what I only imagined life was like decades ago, and it makes me feel like I am going backwards instead of forwards. However, it would be great if I could plant even the smallest seed for someone down here and show them a life of more love as well as acceptance for everyone!
Blog by Lori LaMantia