Willie Mae Samuel

Willie Mae Samuel, founder and director of the African American Connection for the Performing Arts in Rome

We must be mindful of the tone as we call out the damage discrimination has done and is still doing to our society. The Band-Aid did not cure the disease and its effect. The Band-Aid could not reach the deep bruises, cuts, scrapes, punctures that are there because there is no medicine in the Band-Aid. Discrimination may never die, but we as humans must attempt to reduce the level of intoxication it brings to the table because nothing fails but not trying. So, in our dialogue, let us be a little kinder so that we will call others into the circle of reconciliation. It does not work if anger, distrust and hate enter the scene. Those are repelling forces.

As we move into the Black History Month celebration we must form circles of individuals calling for reconciliation, just as Peggy Wallace Kennedy and others have decided that it is past time for reconciliation. Our local Turn Your Back on Hate group is one to marvel at. They are making that call. What is happening across the nation, from the White House to Richmond, Virginia, and deeper into the South, is a call for open dialogue. The debate is long overdue. The discussion is long overdue. Facing this growing creature called racism head-on is long overdue. We can no longer act as if the people who got hurt need to forget their pain. There has never been an apology from America for having slaves and the damage that it did to our society. Many will come back with the age old response that many nations have had slaves, but please remember and do research about the “peculiar” nature of the American slavery.

I have not one white friend with whom I cannot have open dialogue. Every Caucasian in my immediate circle is willing to speak honestly about the damage that bigotry left on this country and the havoc that it is still wreaking. If there is an individual in your life who will no longer want to associate with you or have lunch with you because you share the truth of your hurt or the hurt of others, then that individual is one that you should walk away from anyway.

Have you not seen and felt the hurt and pain that Gov. Northam is experiencing alone with his family and friends, both black and white? This all comes from not facing the truth of our ingrained attitudes. Facing the truth in the kind of dialogue that I am advocating will hurt only once. If we let it linger, the simmering will do more harm to the moral fiber of the American people.

I can recall one of my white friends who was in the habit of talking down to those in her circle, including me. She had her doctorate and was well educated. She always spoke from a privileged white-girl position. I allowed her to do that for a year or more, but one day she came by my office, and she asked me a question about her treatment of particular blacks and people not her color. She had witnessed another white person mistreating less educated persons of color in a demeaning manner.

She turned to me and asked, “Do I treat people like that?’

I said, “Yes, you do, but because I know who I am, and you do not, I have not spoken to the issue. I also know that this thing that we have turned a deaf ear to is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of both races that most of us let it go.” Our discussion continued that day, and she went from anger to accepting and back and forth. Powerful emotional reactions of pain and relief came forth that day from both of us. We continued to walk forth with each other until another serious situation developed which caused us to part ways. Years passed, and we ended up at a funeral together of a mutual friend. (There is something about me and funerals). We were cordial to each other. She had had time to examine her actions and was willing to try the relationship again. I had had time to realize that my approach of calling out can be rough. I must learn even at this point to gently call in as opposed to calling out.

 My youngest son told me many years ago that my words seem to pierce the soul when they land. Because there is a sense of urgency about what needs to be done, my attempt is to send the words out in the same manner. I have started putting “a skirt on words” so that they will land gently in the lap of the intended and be received. We must remember that when we come to the table it still is and was about dealing with tough family issues. Dinner time or supper time at home was the time to tell Momma or Daddy what was hurting and where it was hurting and why it was hurting. It was also used as a time for parents to set the house rules in order. Meaningful conversation takes place at the table.

The HUGS team has started the dialogue by bringing Peggy in, now let us continue it with each other as well as those who were not involved or who may not understand that the sore is festering and we must all play a part in the healing process. Looking the other way or sticking our heads in the sand will no longer work.

The day for reconciliation is at hand for Rome and Floyd County. This is not about Democrat or Republican or independent or any of the others. This call is about the better self being put forth as we realize that all people bleed red blood, cry when hurt, laugh when happy and die when the heart stops beating. 

Our First Lady calls for us to “Be best,” yet on the other hand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated it in simple terms that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny. It really boils down to this, “that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome.

Comments disabled.