Ya’ll are gonna have to bare with me on this one…my thoughts are jumbled and a mixture of years of watching things unfold and praying for a way to make our voice heard.
It’s Memorial day, in which we remember the fallen soldiers that gave their lives for our freedoms. Without going into opinions and politics on Covid, because my heart is ALL over the place on that particular subject, I do think that my thoughts and thankfulness for those freedoms is more present now than ever.
We watched a movie a few weeks ago. We love Denzel Washington so we typical stop our scroll if we see his name. We had never heard of this movie, but it was called Glory. It is a story about the 54 union regimen. Look it up and watch it. We can talk about it at another date.
I was thinking this morning of all the American soldiers that had lost their lives and I started googling. I am a google addict. If you ask my mom she will tell you I have been as long as she can remember- it just wasn’t always google. We had a set of Encyclopedias when I was little. We were dirt poor, so I can’t even imagine how we got those things, but they were my golden prize. They sat on the bottom shelf of a brown bookcase. I LOVED those books. I would be in bed and jump out to look up something. I would play outside and see something that caught my eye and I would run inside to look it up. I would hear grownups talking about things I didn’t understand, and I would flee to the brown bookshelf. I am the same today. I look things up on google probably 20-30 times a day. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, and I can’t focus for long on much, so anytime something pops in my head, I look it up. I have screen shots out my ears. So anyway, I this morning I looked up African American soldiers. They have served in EVERY American war. Many of them have lost their lives, and their names are recorded. We wouldn’t know that they were that race, because that information wasn’t allowed to be recorded. In one sense I like that- because in war, you are brothers, and I pray that as they fought those battles together, that they went down like that, as brothers, in unity, and with no color to be seen. History tells me that I am naive and that’s impossible, but my love for others wishes that nonetheless.
I told you this one would be hard to follow, so just stay with me. If you have ever met my Tatum, especially when she was younger and was naive to the world we live in hadn’t started seeping into her thoughts and realizations, you would know that she is different. We noticed within the first few weeks that she was. Tatum never wanted to be hugged or touched, she liked to nurse and then lay on the floor. She didn’t like loud people. She also didn’t like anyone big, no one really tall, no one very overweight. She would coward away from people and hide behind Matthew and I. She also didn’t talk much. She just kind of sat in silence and took it all in. We noticed her love for blackness very early on in life. We would go on vacation, to a birthday party, to a restaurant, and Tatum would always find a black family and just jump in to whatever they were doing. She was enamored by them, their culture, their lifestyle. Around age two we laughed about it, not in a derogatory way, but we knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was going to cross cultural boundaries and that she was going to do her part to change the world and that made our hearts soar.
I wasn’t raised to look on anyone any different for their skin color. My mom was a military brat. Her daddy served with his brothers of all races without thought. My mom lived on military bases all of her life, she also just loved people for who they were.
Before I start the next part I want you to know something. This is not your “love is colorblind” post. I do believe that love is for all, and that God loves us all more than anything and not one more than the other, the Bible clearly tells us so. I also KNOW that Jesus isn’t a pasty white man. I have eyes, and there are people of color all around me. Black people don’t need us to see them as no color, or as “the same” as us. They need us, white folks I am talking to you, as they are, black, with different ideas and thoughts, and cultures that deserve to be seen, loved and respected just like everyone else.
The first time I remember knowing there was a difference between white and black, I was in the sixth grade. I spent the majority of my elementary years in Rowan county, and it was predominantly white. I looked back to confirm in one of my annuals, there was two black kids, one black teacher in the school. K-5. When I wasn’t there, I was with my dad in Alabama, Louisiana, Germany and Texas, where, you guessed it, he served in the Military and we lived among all races. I don’t remember knowing anything different than people were people until I was about 11. We lived in a rural community in Orange county, NC. We rode a bus in middle school that shared with the high school kids. That day on the bus I was talking with a guy named Kelvon, and I can’t even remember what we were talking about, it was school related and I had the answer at home, so I told him to call me when he got off the bus and I would tell him what I found. He did call me when he got home, and my stepdad answered the phone. The conversation went south really quick and ended with a statement to me about black boys calling our house. I just remember thinking “what just happened”.
Disclaimer: I love my step dad with my whole heart, and his way of thinking is something that has been passed down the line generation after generation, as many folks have and continue to do so today, in both races. Part of me writing this is because I believe with my whole heart that this is part of my calling, to make people think and learn enough to start breaking some chains and stopping some cycles. Look up Toby-Mac- Starts With Me (Story Behind the Song) on YouTube, and then listen to the song. That’s what we feel called, us at the Rhyne house, to share and do.
After that phone call I remember my eyes just being opened to life and the coldness and hate that I never realized was there. I remember some of that even rubbing off on me and my thoughts wandering to maybe I was missing something. Shortly after that incident we moved to Ellerbe.
If you have never lived in Ellerbe, for a long period, of don’t have close friends here, you don’t really know what it’s like. We are a family. In a like live off the grid only trust each other type of way. Our schools were made up of Ellerbe and Hoffman kids. And in Ellerbe, we saw no color. At least in my eyes we didn’t. My best friends were black and white and we all loved each other fiercely. We spent the night at each other’s houses and we played together, we prayed together, we sang and laughed and we cried and mourned together. We were family. If you see us at the Parson’s Field today, you will see the Keller girls and the Spencer girls, we laugh and fight, we literally tell our kids that they are cousins, and we mean it, because even in our arguments, those girls are our sisters and we are theirs. I remember going to Richmond and the very first day seeing the divide between black and white. I remember vividly going to my locker and a senior saying something to me about my locker and being in his way, and he said something to the effect of “little white girl” and I was like whatttttt? My friend Shemia Evans was beside me and was the same, except she was brave enough to say “shut up and get away from us”. Richmond was hard for us Ellerbe kids. In more ways that one. But noting that racial divide was huge for me. I was lost in that, in what to do, how to stop it and how to not let it change me.
When Matthew and I started dating, we didn’t go out much, not like to movies and to eat. We would grab a drink of choice, and a sandwich and ride back roads. We logged more hours than I could ever dare to count just riding or sitting somewhere in a car and talking. We talked all the time about everything and anything. We had this conversation more than once about race. One time I asked him what he would do if his child dated outside of his race, and he answered that he could care less what the person looked like, he wanted to make sure his kids never dated outside of their belief in God, because that was what makes a difference in life. We talked that day about black/white and things that are handed down from generation to generation. He truly believed in not passing that down to his kids.
Tatum started the ninth grade academy last year. Matthew and I sat her down to warn her that her world may look different than it ever has. We told her to stay true to her friends and to those she loves and we told her to ALWAYS stick up for anyone that needed it. She didn’t let NGA change her a bit. But she did quickly see a change in some of her friends. She came home visibly upset one day, actually, for lack of better terms she was pissed. So much that she was in tears and was shaking. If you know her, that’s not her. She is happy, bubbly and loves everyone. It was in January, just a few months ago in reality, but ages ago in the midst of a pandemic. She had changed semesters and she changed lunches. She was actually excited the day before because her lunch was different and she was getting to see some of her Ellerbe and Raider football friends. This day though, she was devastated because a group of white girls were sitting a table back and she could hear their words. She said that some of them were the cheerleaders, and popular girls. They were talking about some of the black people at her table. She said she was so mad she didn’t know what to do, and she was physically sick. It was the first time she has ever seen or heard anything from her own eyes and ears and it broke her heart, literally. She said she was disappointed that the same girl that was friends with everyone at Ellerbe was now too good for anyone that looked different than her, and she was sick that there were cheerleaders that are supposed to be good role models and a pep for the whole school sitting in on and participating in that. She told me the other day that she didn’t think she would try out for cheer this year and that was why. Cheer is her life, and that makes me sick. She won’t tell me who the people were, because she knows me well enough to know that I would blast them and their parents, and I wouldn’t think a second thought about it. She is praying for their eyes to be open and praying for a way to talk to them that isn’t confrontational but that actually makes them stop, think and change. I told you she was different….
Kinnley shared the Toby Mac video I referenced earlier to me a few days ago. She and I were talking about the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. I told her that I didn’t care what other videos surfaced of that man. I didn’t care if he robbed every home on the block and the four surrounding ones, no one gets to be a judge and jury to someone running on the street. We talked about how white people always jump to “he’s a bad person” mode when something like that happens. That led us to a great conversation in which she was able to tell me so many things. Kinnley is a white girl, who has been best friends with a black boy since they were four years old. They invited another black girl into their group in second grade and the three have been inseparable since. They are all in different directions now with college and jobs, but they always make time together on each others birthdays, holidays and anytime something happens to the other, the other two come running. Kinnley talked a lot about the looks and comments they have had to block out over the years, from family, friends and strangers. She also talked in depth about some of the experiences her best friends have had as opposed to how she has experienced them.
When Kinnley graduated a few years ago we had a party. Her and Shemiya and Jaylin were getting ready to leave and they were giving goodbye hugs. Kinnley hugged my grandma and grandpa and Jaylin was standing near her. My grandpa held his arms out and said “well, come give me a bye hug” to Jaylin. My grandparents live out of town so he had never met them in person. It literally shocked him, that an old white man would open his arms to hug him. I could see it all over his face. I equally could see my grandpa hugging his first great granddaughters best friend with all of the love he had without a second thought. Moments like that stick with me, because they are the ones where I am reminded that not everyone sees the world as we do. And that the world I live in is different for me, for my girls, and my husband. We have something called “white privilege”. ( don’t lose me here, I know that phrase strikes a chord with some folks)
White people immediately go on the defense when they hear the phrases “black lives matter” and “white privilege”. I want to share something with you. My prayer is more than anything, that you listen because I am a white girl, married to a white guy, with a house full of white kids. And that somehow in our “whiteness” you will be able to hear or understand something that you refuse to from a black person.
When Kinnley got her license, a friend of ours’ son was getting his too. We were sitting upstairs in the parent viewing area at a cheer practice laughing about how fast they grew up and how worried we were going to be with them on their own out and about. We were talking about what all we had talked to them about. I was telling her about putting pepper spray in Kinnley’s car, explaining to her what to do if she had a flat tire. Cici was talking about some of the same and then said that she and her husband had sat her son down the night before to talk to him about what to do if he got pulled over. I may be wrong, but we were pretty close, I don’t think she was telling me this because I was white, it was a flawless back and forth conversation, and she was just talking. She said that they talked to him about putting his license and registration in his sun visor, and to make sure when the officer came to the window to have both of his hands on the wheel and to tell him where his info was before he reached for it. She said all of that together and then kind of looked over at me, maybe with a I know response, or maybe for me to tell something else, I am not sure. I do remember vividly tears pouring from my eyes. And realizing once again, that there is a such thing as color, and I have never ever EVER thought about having that conversation with anyone, much less doing it myself, and that my friends, is white privilege.
White privilege does not mean you haven’t ever experience anything, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be poor or that everything is handed to you. It means that you cannot see the world through a black person’s eyes. And that there are circumstances and things that happen that no matter how hard we try we cannot see them as they are because we have never experienced that.
Black lives matter, doesn’t mean that any others lives don’t matter. It means that their lives matter too. If you go to the ER with a bleeding spleen, broken leg and a bruised face and the doctor spends his visit examining your bruised face and fixing your broken leg but never looks at your bleeding spleen, you’re going to die. It doesn’t meant that your broken leg and bruised face don’t matter, but if your bleeding out spleen is not fixed, the rest is irrelevant. When I say black lives matter. I don’t mean that police officers don’t. I have MANY officer friends, black, white and asian. None of them matter any less than me. If you take the time to research the Black Lives Matter movement, it is a peaceful movement. Those that aren’t peaceful as far as violence go, do not represent all black people. Same as KKK doesn’t represent all white folks.
Do you realize that segregation was not into actual effect everywhere until 1954. That is SIXTY SIX years. That is NOT that long ago. Of course there is still a discord, and distrust and a thought process in both races minds. In the same breath 66 years is TOO long for there still to be a divide between us, too long for someone not to be speaking up on both sides to make a change.
I don’t know what my role is in this world. But I know that I always choose to speak out on topics that break my heart and that lay heavy on my heart. This is one of those topics. This is something we discuss on a regular basis with our girls. Teaching, discussing, and listening. If it’s that important to us in raising our children, I feel it is equally as important for us as a family to speak out on. I pray that you have been able to take something away from this that makes you study, google, think, pray, maybe even change. I may have offended you so much that you never want to hear from me again, and if so, I am okay with that as well. I just know that I have an opportunity to write and share, and if I can use that in any way, shape or form to bring a different view or light to a subject, then that’s my responsibility.