Trouble in Mind
Lord I’m Blue
But I won’t be Blue always
Ya know the sun is gonna shine
On my back door someday -- Richard M. Jones
According to our Supreme Court racism in America no longer exists. There is no longer a need to assist minorities with initiatives such as affirmative action.
On Friday evening my wife, Alison, and I rented a movie, "12 Years a Slave." It’s the true story of a man named Solomon Northrup. Mr. Northrup was an African American born a free man in Minerva, New York in July of 1808; a tricky time for black people. He grew up as a farmer and learned how to play the violin. On Christmas day 1829, at the age of 21 he married Anne Hampton; a multi-racial woman, and they had three children.
His fiddling provided him with enough extra income so that he and his family could move to Saratoga Springs, New York. His good reputation preceded him and in 1841 he met two well-dressed, well-heeled men who said they owned a circus and asked Mr. Northrup to join them to New York City.
This sounded like a pretty good opportunity so he agreed. Once the gig was over in New York City he was asked if perhaps he might consider going just a little further to Washington, D.C. He should have trusted his instincts and gone back home. Upon arriving in Washington he was drugged, beaten mercilessly and hauled off to Louisiana where he was sold into slavery for 12 years.
Twelve years of this free man’s life were robbed from him. For 12 years he endured relentless violence not only from the owner and overseers, but from the owner, Edwin Eppes’ lunatic wife.
He was able to get word out to his friends and colleagues back in Saratoga of his whereabouts and his condition. Unlike 99 percent of the black slaves in this country Northrup was rescued. He came back to Saratoga and found his family. His wife, assuming he was dead, had remarried. After 12 years of praying to be reunited with his family, his position as head of his household was now occupied by another. He understood and moved on.
For the past few days (few years -- maybe forever) I’ve wondered about the hard and harsh feelings of those who were wrenched from their perfectly happy homes only to become slaves for rich white people who were unable to work their own farms without free labor. The level of hate harbored by the slaves may very well be incalculable.
Then I can’t help but wonder if that hate is handed down from generation to generation and if so, how long before it dissolves completely; or does it ever dissolve completely? The Bible says in Exodus Chapter 34 number 7, " ... the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation."
I’m not a religious person, but it’s hard to imagine that this line might not work both ways. What about the deeply held feelings of gross injustice being perpetrated on others who did no wrong? How deep is that anger held and for how long is it handed down from one generation to the next? If the sins of the father are handed down for three or four generations, is it not fair to assume that those who had the sins imposed upon them might well be expected to have their sense of foul play handed down through the generations as well?
It seems to me as though there is only one answer to the question of racial divide and that is for the sons of white people to never forget what their ancestors did and to never stop making amends. By doing so there may well come a time when the descendants of those so horribly wronged can come to the place of harmony that is needed for all to co-exist.
I’m not talking about having a "get over it" party. I’m suggesting that we need to continue to do whatever we think we can do to reach out and make amends. Neither I, nor any of my ancestors (as far as I can tell) held others in slavery. However, that does not allow me to believe that I have no responsibility in the matter of racial divide. We all do; or at least we should.
Feelings still run deep in this nation; predominantly in the South, but as we saw last week from the words of a very wealthy basketball team owner, racial prejudice is not isolated to southerners.
After eight generations my family is of mixed race and mixed cultures. We served as guardian of a young black kid who is now grown and having a child this summer. My son-in-law is black and my daughter-in-law is Burmese. Their kids are now of mixed race.
This might be the answer. If we become one then there’s nothing to fight about. But we’re a long ways from getting to where we need to be. The Supreme Court’s ruling does little to move us forward and everything to push us backwards.
Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.