Sunday, July 8, 2018

the last book I ever read (In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu, except four)

from In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu:

Terence Blanchard felt the weight of history. Long before I began reading and relearning about New Orleans’s booming antebellum economy as the nation’s largest slave market, Terence knew that every day, to get to his high school, named for the president who championed civil rights in the early 1960s, he had to pass by a mounted white warrior, a symbol of the war to preserve slavery. Terence got the message promoted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, politicians, and city officials associated with the Lost Cause all those decades ago. In their telling, the South had fought a noble war, for honor and independence, and it would rise from defeat to rule by white supremacy. Terence got it, he swallowed it, and he hated it.

That message went right over my head when I was young. I have often heard it said by elders that you can’t know how a man feels until you walk in his shoes. It has taken me the better part of forty years to find those shoes. This is what I have come to call transformative awareness. We are all capable of it; but we come kicking and screaming to a sudden shift in thinking about the past. To get there we have to acknowledge that we were inattentive, insensitive, myopic, or God forbid, hateful in our earlier view. This is one of the hardest things for human beings to do, especially when someone calls us on a belief. It is much easier to make the change when you know that the person to whom you offer an apology will readily forgive you, but hard as nails if you think condemnation will follow.

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