“Last week as we honored Martin Luther King, I remembered some things in my childhood that I didn’t understand at the time.
African Americans were not called ‘Blacks’. Sometimes they were called ‘Negroes’, and we all know how sometimes people weren’t kind and used the N Word. Sadly, even today, I hear it. I will never understand that kind of cruelty.
Public water fountains were separated by signs: White/Colored. The same with public restrooms. I never questioned it until I was sitting at a counter at Kress’s in downtown Tampa. They had counters for the Whites and one for the Coloreds. That particular day, a black woman holding her daughter’s hand passed by as I was sitting at the counter, eating an ice cream cone. The little girl told her mother she wanted an ice cream and her mother said: “We can’t sit with the whites and the colored counter is closed.” I turned to my mother and asked why that little girl couldn’t sit with us.As I watched that little girl leave with tears in her eyes, I remember that ice cream cone didn’t taste good anymore.
We were Catholic and attended Sacred Heart Church in Tampa. I remember sitting on a bus bench waiting for my mother to come out after mass. A black woman was seated there and I sat beside her, gave her a smile, and said, “Hello.” She asked me if I was a member of the church. I merely nodded and what she said shocked and disillusioned me.
“I wanted to go to your church to attend mass, but the priest told me I couldn’t go in the front door and would have to enter through the side door. I also have to sit in the back of the bus.”
I told her I couldn’t imagine a priest doing that. He was a role model; a priest who taught Christianity; one who preached that all men were created equal in the eyes of God. As far as the bus rules, I never paid that much attention or gave it any thought. I always believed it was where they preferred to sit.
When the civil rights movement began in the sixties, Martin Luther King was a man I admired. He advocated PEACE. Not to say that riots didn’t happen back then, but those who believed in the movement had faith that we could change the world and make it a better place for everyone. I was so idealistic. Even though things have gotten better, I was hoping that by now, we wouldn’t have some of the same issues. I wonder if King were still alive, if some of the recent rioting could have been prevented. In my opinion the black leaders now aren’t worthy of followers. Violence can never be the answer to anything. If changes have to be made, there has to be a better and smarter way in which to do it. Violence doesn’t solve anything; it merely alienates one against the other and destroys the purpose. Again, just my opinion.
As a writer, I want to address conflict; give my characters depth and substance. With my debut novel, Stolen Destiny, I introduced Bongo Bay Beach, but so far the residents have all been white. I have made a decision to create one or more characters of different races, cultures and religions in the near future. Bongo Bay is supposed to be a paradise; a heaven on earth. God doesn’t discriminate and neither will I.
Until next time, stay in The Write Zone.
Jeanette Lynn Dundas