The Silence Despite the Legend

Posted: January 19, 2013 in From Student to Teacher
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I like to observe people at bus stops, as I drive by.  I catch quick glimpses of their faces, moments frozen in my mind. The speed limit in Chapel Hill is a silent form of torture for a New York transplant like me, so it is really quite easy to do.

Chapel Hill, being a college town, offers a free bus system, which many people take advantage of, to maneuver back and forth with ease, all the while reducing their contribution to pollution and ozone depletion.

This week was filled with lots of rain, but when I did get out, I happened to glance over at the bus stop close to my turn on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. There was a Black lady sitting on the bench, protected from the cold, biting rain. The really interesting part in this visual mouthful was that two young White guys chose to stand outside the dry shelter and get wet, rather than stand under the alcove, or even sit next to the lady.  Fascinating.

This speaks for itself boldly, especially the irony that it took place on MLK Boulevard.

Silence is golden in Chapel Hill

Silence is golden in Chapel Hill

I have been pouring over pictures of this venerable icon in this country, and I am struck every time by the distant and introspective look in his eyes, captured so easily in photo after photo. He looks haunted, as though he knew how his efforts would turn out. Perhaps he saw this coming, and he knew:

…that it wouldn’t be easy to erase hundreds of years of deeply rooted racist sentiment towards people of color.

…that he was destined to die young, because the maelstrom he helped to ignite in the heart of a discontented country was too huge to be tamed easily.

…that humans are resistant to change and are only willing to do so if drastic measures occur which affect large masses, and devastation sweeps in under everyone’s feet.

I have learned a great many lessons since arriving in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and they have been unpleasant, but have provided me with tremendous opportunities to learn and grow, and discover who I am, what I want in my life, and for my children.

But one thing I am never going to accept, adhere to, remain silent about, and brush away blithely, is the silent yet pervasive odor of racial disparity that clings to this town like the stench that wafts from a county landfill.  I don’t ever want to be so educated and hipster, wealthy or comfortable that I embrace a falsehood of existence that looks down upon other people.  This is a huge struggle for me, to try to grow as a person, and not feel stirrings of resentment towards these condescending, supercilious, people who I was so terribly wrong about when I thought them progressive.

Equality, true equality and brotherhood does not exist here.

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