My sister and I were lucky to have a mother and father who brought us up the right way.
Both of my parents were Southerners. My dad, who worked at a copper mine, was born in Mississippi, and my mother, a teacher, in east Tennessee.
My mom made no secret about her ancestors being on the confederate side in an area that was heavily union. Family lore had some of the ancestors on my dad’s side were slaveholders.
Still, I was firmly corrected one day when I repeated a nursery rhyme that used the “n word”
My education continued one day when my dad, a World War II veteran, shook his head after reading a flag-waving newspaper column that praised the efforts of all races in World War but failed to mention segregation
As Martin Luther King and others staged peaceful protests accompanied by police violence and vigilantism, my parents became more vocal in their support.
Not that our area of Arizona was perfect. Hidden away were the many injustices suffered by the Hispanic community. To this day, it is not unusual in some areas to be pulled over for “driving while brown.”
We will need more than the usual “frank conversations” to deal with an economic, education, and social divide that persists in a city and state that brags about a construction boom but has failed to build a new public school building in decades.
We were shocked and saddened at the violence of the time – children dying in a church bombing and the dam where the bodies of three civil rights workers were buried in my dad’s native Mississippi. Linked to a cover-up of the deaths was a sheriff with the name of Lawrence Rainey (no relation). Yes, we were asked that question.
As the marches continued, in Montgomery, Selma, and throughout the south, my grandmother – who never lost a Mississippi accent as thick as molasses – said she was ready to march.
Fast forward to my time in the largely white upper Midwest. During my nine years there, I heard the “n word” uttered more often than during my three decades in Delaware. The original lesson from my parents stuck in my mind as I heard the word and felt the ugliness that goes with it.
That brings us to the upper Midwest city of Minneapolis and a policeman who casually kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and killed him while fellow officers looked on.
Author and basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar summed things up as follows in a Los Angeles Times piece. “So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.”
After a largely peaceful Saturday afternoon protest in Wilmington, we saw a tragedy unfold on Market Street in the evening as a small number of people, not brought up the right way, looted stores and broke windows. One WDEL reporter took a punch to the head.
The next night, a rebellious but largely peaceful protest in Dover was overshadowed by looting at one mall store
Also distressing were the unfiltered social media comments that accompanied the Market Street video. Many amounted to thinly disguised racism with the various dog-whistle terms one hears every day. Undoubtedly these people had parents who passed along their racism.
The good news Sunday was the quick clean-up that occurred with the help of city crews and volunteers who arrived in spite of a community effort being called off.
Wilmington and the nation is a long way from being out of the woods as looting continued on Sunday a short distance up I-95 in Philadelphia. There are also the wounds that date back to the National Guard occupation.
We will need more than the usual “frank conversations” to deal with an economic, education, criminal justice and social divide that persists in a city and state that brags about a construction boom but has failed to build a new public school building within the corporate limits in decades. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.