Charlottesville: Only Love


diversity, race, equality, Charlottesville


On Friday night before sleep, I took one last look at Twitter and saw pictures of the torch-carrying, white supremacists in Charlottesville. I was shocked and overwhelmingly disturbed. When I awoke Saturday morning, I turned on the news and watched in horror the scene that unfolded throughout the day.

Over the last two days, I’ve read what many others had to say about racism and hate and fear. I’ve not had adequate or eloquent enough words to add to the dialogue. The only conversations I’ve had were with my husband and children. Mostly, though, I’ve kept quiet and watched and listened.

I grew up and remain in Alabama. I learned early about racism, though what I learned was how to be racist, not how to combat racism. I used the n-word without a second thought because it was so commonplace amidst my very-white, very-privileged, fundamentalist environment. If anybody ever thought it was wrong, no one ever said so.

The KKK was something to be laughed about, not something to be condemned. I remember a pastor dressing as a Klan member with a white sheet over his head before a church service one evening as a joke. Looking back, I am horrified.

When my first child was born, a change began to take place within me. I wanted my children to learn how to be and do better than me. I wanted them to learn to love and accept people, whatever their race. Eventually, I would come to see that diversity in all its forms is good and wanted my children to learn that, as well.

It’s been seventeen years since my first child was born, and I’m still learning how to love. I watch, I read, I listen. I want to understand the oppression other people feel, whether it’s because of their skin color, their gender preference, their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, or their economic status. Largely, I’ve been ignorant, but in the current state of the world, ignorance is not an option. Ignorance doesn’t combat hate; only love can do that.

I want to be compassionate and do whatever I can to make the world a better place. Too often, I don’t know what that looks like, so I start with my children and my small sphere of influence. These days, as they are all in their teenage years, I learn more from them than they learn from me. We discuss what it means to be accepting of people’s differences. We name injustice when we see it.

This morning, as I attempted to summon the Muse, I read some of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics. I recognized it’s often the artists — the poets and musicians and painters who are prophets — that attempt to set the tone for our culture. So, today, I pray a little prayer that my words help set the tone for love and equality and peace in our streets and in our homes. May we be willing to name our prejudices when we recognize them and willing to let go of the beliefs that cause so much damage to others.


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  1. Beautifully shared. Thank you

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    Rebekah, plain and simple: We learn hatred. We learn bigotry. We learn to be racists. I recall the song that was in South Pacific (a musical in which I performed in high school): “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”
    You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    When all the horror and vitriol was burning in Charlottesville, my family and I were attending a reconciliation event at the Missouri History Museum. My dear friend, Lynne Madison Jackson, who is the great-great granddaughter of the slave Dred Scott, who lost his fight for freedom and whose egregious defeat catapulted the Civil War, had gathered a panel of descendants . . . descendants of Dred Scott (black), SCOTUS Justice Taney (white), Peter Blow who owned Dred Scott (white), President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis (white), and President Thomas Jefferson (black . . . Jefferson had fathered some of his children through his slaves). These five descendants of Dred Scott and those people who were involved in his horrific (and courageous) case (except P. Jefferson), sat on the stage dialoguing, sharing insights, offering forgiveness, accepting it, offering reconciliation, embracing it (and each other), and in the end loving each other and resolving to keep on loving. All this was happening in stark juxtaposition to the horrific crimes occurring in Charlottesville. It was stressed repeatedly in the panel discussion that love is the only way to overcome the hatred that we learn as children (and Shannon Lanier, descendant of President Jefferson said racism can only be *learned*). And dialogue is the only way to understand. Thank you for dialoguing with your children, and teaching them to love others.

    • Wow, what a song! I’ll have to look that up.

      It is amazing that you were attending that event at the same time everything was happening in Charlottesville. There’s always good to be found (even when evil is at work) if we look, isn’t there?

      • Lynn D. Morrissey says:

        Yes! And we must look. This song was sung by Lieutenant Cable (in the musical) about to a fellow sailor (I think–it’s been aeons ago since I was in this) . . . and he was talking about falling in love with Liat, a beautiful Polynesian woman. He loved her, but in the end, didn’t marry her because of the racial prejudicial reaction he would receive back in the States. Racism (condemning it) was a theme of R & H in their music.

  3. Thank you, Rebekah, for your poetic words. I continue to appreciate your insights. Thanks for sharing.

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