second-hand bigotry in the Land of Lincoln
Our contest is soon to enter the next phase, where finalists will be chosen based on the power, poignancy, passion, persuasion and pugilism in pursuit of palliative healing of the entries submitted. (Yes, I like alliteration a lot) I recently had outrageous activities on the kitchen table that may have scattered some of the remaining entries, so it’s possible a few of the entries never got to cyberspace. As in the past, when something slipped through the cracks, that contestant was automatically enrolled as a finalist, and that will apply here as well. This entry by Lady Pafia Marigold may be the last, so, please, if you submitted (and, oh, I love submission!) but did not get posted (now there’s a misogynistic oxymoron!) please alert my staff (I’m on a role here, recalling our mission statement that pre-dates the austerity of this contest: Putting Gravitas on a Lo Carb Diet) and we will make amends and see that your story gets full exposure! We (actually, moi,)will formulate the method by which finalists are chosen. Lady Marigold has chosen to provide a brief narrative and a small dose of editorial in response to our prompt:
The Divided Emancipation of America
By Lady Pafia Marigold
Ten year old Pete, 100 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, lost his innocence to racism in America.
Agnes Ross, Pete’s second mother from the day he came home from the hospital, walked her Christian faith with selfless love given to Pete in life lessons about forgiving, dignity and equality. Her husband, Dr. Ross, the principal of the “Negro” grade school also honored their ancestors both free and slave.
In 1963, Dr. Ross’s white boss had only a master’s degree and less teaching experience. The Ross family could be served in “Negro” stores, but not all “White” ones. They owned a house in the only part of town they could. The overwhelming majority of town whites were bigots of insulting language and clear threats.
Despite the town’s historical Appellate Court where Lincoln once tried a case, segregation, discrimination and inequality remained in “The Land of Lincoln.”
The raw white supremacy fears meant backlashes in response to Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail and the ordering of the Alabama National Guard to enforce “Negro” admission to the University of Alabama. During the next two years there would be murdering and maiming of King’s supporters who joined his cause, scars carved ever deeper upon a divided nation culminating in three weeks that included “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma to Montgomery March.
Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1965, but the bigotry of Pete’s town burned like hateful crosses. Pete cried in joy when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared his “Dream,” a forgiving sanity to an insane nation, but neither could heal the ignorance.
In 1968, Pete’s high school was called to assembly days after the King assassination. The 50 “Negro” students were placed in front of nearly 1600 white students. The principal mildly condemned the murder only to avoid racial riots from erupting.
At closing, anyone wishing to stay to watch the King funeral broadcast could or if not they were to return to their classroom. Pete covered his tear-stained face from the thunder of folding seats and departing footsteps. When the ghostly silence settled, Pete was the only white person remaining. Below him sat the African American students. He later regretted staying motionless while mourning at a distance. Second-hand bigotry is a metastasizing cancer within the soul of even good people.
Returning afterwards to class, Pete was ridiculed by Mrs. Echols, his history teacher. Without an ally in the room, Pete called her a bigot and Christian hypocrite. She was too embarrassed to remove him.
Pete was later censored by Mrs. Echols’ all-white church for preaching against racism. He left that church telling his birth mother that he wished to join Agnes’ church of true Christianity. She forbade him, fearing the trouble it would cause their family. Sadly, Pete obeyed.
Pete has passed away, King’s Dream remains unfulfilled, police murder people of color and alt-right mobs march with weapons espousing Aryan supremacy, privilege, purity, coloring G-d and Jesus white.
A divided people cannot stand forever.