Racial discomfort lingers
I was astounded that our newspaper publisher (“Unmistakable progress,” Nov. 20) asked his readers to show “some courage and call out” Kristen Green for writing a memoir that has “trashed her hometown.”
Stewart correctly states that our community has undertaken many efforts “to make amends and move forward” from the past, especially citing our recent election when several African-Americans were chosen for significant offices, claiming this “redefines a town” that is becoming “more colorblind with every passing day.”
Really? What about the aging, intransigent local caucasian citizens still insisting, “This is history that is over and done with; ‘they’ (i.e. African-Americans) got what ‘they’ wanted. What we need now is for everyone to move ahead!”
Despite undeniable progress, our continuing racial discomfort is as inescapable as centuries-old ethnic struggles in southeastern Europe. It cannot be “elected away” or “museumed away” or “preached away.”
Green’s book “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County” reveals how generations of her own family personify the biblical assertion that the sins of “the fathers” are carried into “the third and fourth generations.”
I take our visitors to the Moton Museum so they will understand how far our community has indeed come in the past half-century. The greatest evidence is the successful application of Longwood University to host our nation’s vice-presidential debate next year. Otherwise, the national bipartisan Commission on the 2016 Presidential Debates would never have spotlighted our symbolic location.
Green is deeply one of us, which is more than we can yet say about our newspaper’s new publisher. I also suspect that the 1817 Harper Collins publishing firm can judge a qualitative story better than our newspaper publisher.
The uniqueness of Green’s book is that she is the first white person born into, and nurtured by, her admittedly privileged caucasian family, who has written with such empathy about (1) those 1951 student strikers yearning to have equal educational facilities that were allegedly guaranteed in the 14th Constitutional Amendment and follow-up Virginia laws, and (2) the enormous cost paid by that generation of black parents who desperately scrambled (from 1959-1964) to find accessible education for their children.
Furthermore, every white parent who treasures having had children safely gathered around a common supper table back then needs to feel this author’s description of the black parents who sat down at their supper tables, aching to know what was happening to their absent children who were forced by our county’s white power structure (including Green’s grandfather) to journey miles away to gain something many now take for granted.
When Green accepts invitations to speak locally, she is not making “her victory lap in a community she insulted on a national stage,” she simply wants our community to acknowledge what we once were, and what we now are and what we may yet become.
William Thompson is the retired pastor of the College Presbyterian Church at Hampden-Sydney, where he was also the longtime college chaplain. His email address is email@example.com.
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