The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is in the heart of a state that believes no on should be free. In a state that birthed the demon elf of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, there is a visible wince that I have when you mention Montgomery, Alabama.
When my husband told me he would be going there for a conference, I won’t lie to you. I was scared. I was. I high-key didn’t want him to go, because I was afraid of what might happen. But the thing that struck me was the picture of this quote by Toni Morrison. We live in a world and in a time that seek to take our lives, by any means necessary.
Through his pictures he walked me, and my daughters through this memorial. We found the counties in Mississippi where my maternal family is from. I recognized no one. My husband found three lynching victims in two different counties in Texas (where he is from and counties he grew up in). The fact these men had names, lives and had been murdered by mobs on streets that he walked on, and a park he visited? He told me he broke down crying.
The community, the country, the whole damn world it seems, wants to pave over this ‘dirty’ part of history. No one wants to admit their grandparents went to a necktie party and cut off a ear of a Black man. No one wants to admit their grandmother lied on a Black man, saying he raped her when he didn’t. No one wants to admit this happened to an entire town in Florida. Or Tulsa. Or East St. Louis. No one wants to admit this, too, happened in America.
It’s always easier to forget. To lie. To glaze over. To erase. To classify it as “Well, that’s what happened then.” Or “Let sleeping dogs lie.” No, it is not good to let the sleeping dog lie if he gets up and keeps biting me! There are Confederate solider statutes littered over the South. These statues and monuments are reminders of ‘our Southern heritage’. Well, so is this.
If the Confederate monuments are a slap in the face, and the Bird to everyone whom is not White in the South, then this memorial is a body blow to the racist establishment and its policy kin that would think WE all forgot like they did.
The widows of lynched men didn’t forget.
The sons of murdered fathers didn’t forget.
Raped wives didn’t forget.
Daughters of hung mothers didn’t forget.
So why should a whole region, or any state in the Union get a pass about these sanctioned murders? Why should they be allowed to forget when we can’t help but remember? Why should you be comforted, made comfortable by a lie? Why and when should White Privilege become your Cloak of Invisibility making you impervious to truth, reality and ancestral, generational evil?
The United States of America, in the form of its Justice Department, White Evangelical Church, and social reforms ignored the epidemic lynching. Law enforcement did nothing about it. Law enforcement did nothing to curb it. And seldom where the perpetrators of these egregious acts held accountable!
So why should people of color, Black people, forget?
The most interesting thing that my husband told me about his trip, as well a his trip to this memorial, was the same monuments which were hanging–are laying out in the grass like the dead. He told me that the organization that made the memorial possible contacted every counted represented this: “Come and get your dead.’ They were told to come and get their placard, complete with their etched named of every victim lynched in their county. They were asked to get these placards, these stone reminders, and put them somewhere visible.
They haven’t yet.
Ask me if I’m surprised.
However, this is the cost of accountability. This is the cost of visibility. This is the cost of Black lives. This is what it means to have Black Lives Matter. This is what it means to be serious about social, restorative justice. This is what it means to have all lives matter. Indeed my heart, our hearts, are the prize. The life it holds and all its dreams. The Bible says: “Guard your heart with all diligence because out of it flow the issues of life.”
Guard your hearts, Firestarters. My fellow Torches, let no one take your heart. The world and all your people in it, need you.
[image from tripadvisor.com]