They say, most people don’t understand your perspective until the issue becomes personal for them, until they understand the….pathology of a thing.
I want to touch on an uncomfortable issue due to conversations that I have had recently, to explain the pathology of a thing, and make that personal to you.
My grandfather’s grandfather was a slave. My last name (Hedrick), comes from the family that owned my family. That’s still kinda weird to say. I’m sure that he lived in constant fear of all the horrors of slavery, being beaten, chained, punished for doing things wrong, killed, seeing someone that he loved killed, being sold, being separated from his family by THEM being sold, legally being denied the ability to read and write (as that was punishable by death), etc. Wonderful times. Well it took a war (a let us keep owning people war). The slave owners lost (In my opinion that is when the hatred of my skin color REALLY started), although sometimes it’s hard to tell that they lost, as I grew up seeing, and still seeing a constant presence of their battle flag all over the south, due to people wanting to exercise their free speech rights, and as states such a Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi still fly it in their state flag. States such as South Carolina, actually fly the flag at their state house, that is until Dylann Roof walked into a church in Charleston and killed 9 people, 2 of which I knew, because of the color of their skin, but we will get to me later.
My Grandfather (Mothers father) was born in Harlem, He became a civil rights leader, and marched with MLK, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc. White men tried to lynch him in a bathroom in South Carolina, as this was a thing, “they” had hanged or lynched thousands of black men during this time. White families in the south would leave church to attend these public executions as Local Law enforcement, Judges, politicians had little care, and would even be involved in this practice, etc. Thankfully he did not die, someone saved his life, and he got away. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
My Grandfather (father’s dad) grew up in southern Rowan county, I bet that was a real treat. Things were segregated, so Little education, combined with little opportunity for education made my grandfather a hard worker, but I know he was so excited to be the 2nd man in his family to not be born into slavery. Did my grandfather hate his country, or anyone for degrading him, spitting on him, etc…because of the color of his skin, absolutely not! In fact, in 1942, he joined the army to help defend his country, and the world against the Japanese, Hitler and his Nazi’s. This was an ENORMOUS source of pride of my “Pappal”, as I called him growing up. He used to tell me stories about fighting the “Japs” amazing stuff…..He also told me of the racism that he experienced in the military at the hands of his white counterparts. Sad stuff, He told me these things went on often, until it was them vs the “Japs”..and then his white counterparts were more than happy to have those black troops at their side, as the sheer determination and honor code of the Japanese solider, made fights with them fierce and deadly. My grandfather should have some home a hero, but he came home to the reality of racism back in the States. He used to tell me, “Gerald..I served my country, I’m proud of that, when white men call me Nigger, I ask them to call me Mr Nigger, I’ve earned that”.
Jim Crow, Separate but equal, the 1965 voting rights act….boy.. that must have been fun to live through. My Father was the beneficiary of the Civil Rights act, and the de-segregation of schools. Was he greeted with cheers and the open welcoming arms of white students? No, not a chance….local law enforcement was a joke, and often helped abuse and degrade blacks in the south, and my Father and his class had to be escorted to, and around school,…by the ARMY. My father, in turn taught me a type of fear of local law enforcement, and to stay clear of those who clung to that old battle flag, not because he hated them, but he wanted to keep his son as safe as he could.
Speaking of his son, let’s get to me. I live and I see, right now I live and I see..I see our great country, and the opportunities that it provides, the idea of America is amazing, and I love it. And I AM grateful, but that doesn’t make me turn a blind eye to the OTHER things that I see.….I see the effects of our mistakes, segregation, and generations of ill-educated minorities. I see the effects of a criminal justice system to disproportionality targets minorities as offenders. I see unarmed person’s of color shot by local law enforcement without charges or consequence. I see the statistics about income equality, housing equality, financial equality. I see those confederate battle flags flying in those state flags. And It reminds me of the Pathology…..So when you ask me, Gerald….do you agree that the NFL players should be kneeling during the National Anthem bc it upsets some people? I would certainly say that I understand. NFL players are not kneeling to disrespect our Country, our Flag, our solders, like my grandfather. They are not kneeling because THEY don’t have financial success, or because they are not grateful, they are kneeling for those without a voice, without a platform. They are kneeling because there are voices out there without millions of eyes watching or listening, that have been asking how do we end this, how do we improve, with no answers. Now hopefully we can stand, and find some answers, together.