“I’m Sorry”


My first day at my new, Lynchburg, Virginia high school, a classmate confronted me: “You’re a Yankee, aren’t you?”

In a baby-blue shirtwaist, a white cardigan with pearl buttons draped across my shoulders, fourteen-year-old me nodded.

“I hate Yankees,” she snarledβ€”and recited horrific facts and figures regarding Sherman’s march to the sea.

“But I wasn’t even alive, then,” I sputtered indignantly. “That was the Civil War!”

Civil?” she pounced. “There was nothing civil about it!”

Nearly sixty years later, what might I now say to that woman?

“I’m sorry, ” I’d begin, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book underpinning my careful words. “What Sherman did was unspeakableβ€”well, no, that’s the wrong word. Because you and I, we need to talk about that bloody, horrible war. You and I need to talk about how that war was about maintaining aΒ “peculiar institution.” Let’s talk about slavery, you and I. And I need to talk about the unspeakable injustice my Pilgrim ancestors did to the people whose land they stole. We both need to acknowledge our shared history of oppression. We need to own that our forefathers were the oppressors! So, to begin, Carole Fielder*, let me say this: I am truly sorry for what Sherman did.”

And I would mean every word.

*Voted Most Likely to Succeed by the Class of 1962




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  1. Sorry to hear you had such a negative at a new school at 14!
    And I agree that as you wrote, “we need to acknowledge our shared history of oppression. We need to own that our forefathers were the oppressors!”

    And we need to be aware that the Civil War also happened because so many of its leaders were religious fatalists. Abraham Lincoln in 1864 or so claimed that it was God who was causing the war! Robert E. Lee made similar sorts of statements. Even though he wrote that slavery was “evil,” he thought that it was God who must bring it to an end. And, of course, there was Stonewall Jackson who was a very hard Calvinist, who thought that every single action of his and every other human was predetermined by God. And see the C.W. history book, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War by George C. Rable

    Rather ironic that now some of the leading Christians supporting the present administration are also hard Calvinists. One of the most famous Calvinist academics, Wayne Grudem, whose book is used in grad schools, wrote a long article on why Donald Trump was the leader that everyone ought to vote for, though later changed his mind.

    And most ironic, that originally, it was the Yankees who were the hard Calvinists, such as Simon Wigglesworth (“The Day of Doom,” where reprobate infants get the “easiest room in Hell”) and Jonathan Edwards.

  2. Dear Patricia,

    Well, hello, there, Patricia, and greetings and salutations TO YOU AND TO YOU AND FOR VERY ESPECIALLY FOR YOU FOR ALWAYS, my awesomely precious and dearly special soul sistahfreind Christian Quaker woman who you’re FOR ALWAYS so, so very much AND TODAY, on the very special day of your very special birthday I pray, wish and hope FOR YOU a very HAPPY BLESSED BOUNTIFUL birthday full over the brim with such OVERFLOWING ABUNDANT BLESSINGS!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 Please have so, so much fun today on your very special day AND CELEBRATE YOU AND JUST HOW SO, SO VERY SPECIAL YOU ARE, my so, so very dearest and darling sisterfriend, Patricia!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 WOW!!!! YAY!!!!! YAY for YOU, Patricia!!!!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3
    WOW, my absolutely WONDERFUL sistah and friend, Patricia!!!! WOW!!!!! What a brilliantly honest and healing blog post article this is here by absolutely AWESOME YOU, my friend!!!! WOW!!!! Sister, you've masterfully composed in such an earnest, sensitive, and caring manner such a lovingly heartfelt and delightfully caring blog post article which gets right to the very heart of the manner. it is a very major and traumatic part of our history and our past in our still beautiful and beloved country with the severe oppression which had, and even continues to take place like with vile racism and oppression against very many peoples of color. Also, what General Sherman did was to lead such a vast massacre which is still felt by many persons even today, We are still plagued by our past history and share in the very hurtful and harmful legacy this harsh past has bequeathed to us both those who are oppressed and others who are more privileged.

    Sistah, what a joy and a blessing to read about your time starting highschool at your new school and city being new to the South!!!! Wow, that was such a awfully painful and uncomfortable confrontation from that mean woman, my friend!!!!! I could just almost see as I envisioned in my very imagination what that looked like when that happened to you, dear sisterfriend, in visualizing that happening to you with that awkward conversation with the woman. Sisterfriend, you've gone straight to this black woman's very, very heart, and very, very heart, mind, soul, and spirit with your very sincere and so chock full of love and honest contemplation with this very engaging and endearing blog post article here!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 You just went straight to my very heart of hearts and spirits when you shared and declared that some of your Pilgrim ancestors did wrong in doing injustices. Sistah, oh, how I so want to say to you, my dear, dearest, precious Patricia and your blog what is on my heart as a black woman. I come to you with such a sweet heart and spirit!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 I never ever want YOU, dear Patricia, and other white people to be overwrought with guilt. I speak from a very gentle and loving heart and spirit in wanting to say and to show my so, so very dearest love for YOU, Patricia, and for other marvelous white persons having all of the very patience and all of the very time in the world to work with each and every one of you right where you are all at in your very process in having such complete confidence, love for, trust, faith, belief, and hope in each and every one of you rooting for you all and very delightfully cheering all of you on along your very understandably gradual and imperfect lifetime's paths and journeys as this is a lifetime process of learning, healing, and growing!!!!! It is perfectly alright, normal, okay, and natural to make mistakes, even bad mistakes, as splendid white people in your life. EVEN with the racism and oppression I no longer hold on to resentments, bitterness, and anger just knowing and believing with all that I have with all of my very being that there is the power to change and for white persons to learn, heal, and grow in how they lead more whole lives and love others who are different from them in an even greater manner. EVEN when horrid racism and terrible oppression has taken place we all together as a people: white people and people of color alike can find a way out of no way in navigating this very tricky terrain in making our precious country, society, and world an even more blessed place where each and every one of us can not only survive but also thrive, Patricia. It is perfectly okay for YOU, my so, so very dearest and darling sistahfriend, and for other superb white people to be imperfect. Something just wonderful came out of the sheer horror of some of my ancestors who were enslaved and of some of my Native American ancestors(my paternal great-grandfather was a Native American from the Blackfeet tribe who was partnered with my black great-grandmother)who /,had land stolen from them and how they were otherwise maltreated. EVEN with the great injustice with what my some of my ancestors faced endured, and experienced because they were here in this great land I ended up as their descendant being born in our very special country being a rejoicing and proud American. So something really good came out of something really bad, sistah!!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3

    WOW, Patricia, it is so great reading again like you said in your very powerful book, Way Opens, that you were from the high school class of 1962. That was the year when I was born with my birthday being on February 22, 1962. I am from the high school class of 1980 from my amazing Cleveland Heights High School from where I'm originally from in my Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Patricia!!!!!!

    Sistahfriend, YOU truly spoke to my very heart and spirit with this beautiful, very empowering,healing blog post article, Patricia, with such an honest look at all of this written in such a salient, succinct, and a cogent manner, my friend!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 I reflect on how I so, so very much love YOU, dearest Patricia, and other awesome white persons as my sisters and brothers and our Sweet, Most Precious Spirit's children, and just how I so, so very much love and cherish you all, very, very especially YOU, dear Patricia, and other so, so very right on, wondrously wonderful white woman just so loving and cherishing each and every one of you!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 EVEN with what we all must work together in the great spirit of unity and solidarity to eradicate and dismantle with racism and oppression and EVEN when racist acts happen I truly think, feel, and believe in the deepest depths of my very heart from the very bottom of my heart with all that I have with all of my very being that white women so deserve unlimited, well-deserved chances to learn, heal, and grow in being even healthier people who connect to Spirit and to others with an ever greater blessedness and joy!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3 I think so, so very highly of YOU, Patricia, and of other super white women thinking of each of you as such good people being so, so very goodhearted and goodnatured, loving, caring, sensitive, kind, nice, nurturing, friendly, and gentle!!!!! I so, so very much care about and for each and every one of you as such absolutely AWESOME white women and you all as white women are my by very, very far very favorites among white people but also by very, very far my very favorites among all people in general, Patricia!!!! πŸ™‚ <3

    WOW, I"m just so, so very glad, thrilled, overjoyed, and happy that I was FINALLY able to write to you and your blog, Patricia!!! Doing so was very helpful for me because I sometimes have trouble sleeping so this was such a great comfort for me to write to you and your great blog, my wonderful friend instead of being aggravated tossing and turning to no avail!!!!!! Patricia, now I feel even better and bright from very joyfully reading this very uplifting and inspirational blog post article and very joyously responding with my very heartfelt and detailed, thorough thoughts, ideas, and comments!!!! Patricia, I thank-YOU and Spirit continually FOR YOU and FOR YOU VERY PRESENCE IN MY VERY LIFE!!!!!!!!:) <3 YOU are my life and eternal blessings, Patricia!!!!!!:) <3 YAY for YOU, Patricia!!!! WOW!!!! YAY!!!!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!! Please have such a so, so very chock full of such great fun very special day on your birthday, a superbly super Sunday and wondrously wonderful rest of your weekend, and may all of your very days be so, so very especially blessed, Patricia!!!! Sisterfriend, YOU are just the very greatest and the best and such the very, very epitome of such overall awesomeness, Patricia!!!!! Sister, Spirit so, so very much loves and cherishes YOU A WHOLE LOT AND SO DO I A WHOLE BUNCH, TOO!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my so, so very FOR ALWAYS, awesomely special and dearly precious soul sistahfriend Christian Quaker white woman who you're For Always so, so very much, Patricia, sisterfriend of mine, and with My and Spirit's Very Peace and Love FOR ALWAYS, friend of mine, and with Such BLESSINGS and Such VERY EVEN MORE BLESSINGS FOR ALWAYS, sister of mine, πŸ™‚ <3

    Yours FOR ALWAYS, soul sistahfriend Christian black woman and FOR ALWAYS in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa πŸ™‚ <3

  3. Oops, I meant to also say that the title of this very open blog post article is just perfect and perfectly fitting and applicable to the very great themes and topics of your very fine and excellent blog post article, my friend. The picture which you have very brilliantly featured and included with this outstanding blog post article is very interesting and just perfect, picture perfect. As usual as always once again you’ve very graciously and generously featured and included some very interesting and informative links here which are such a joy, pleasure, and blessing reading through, my so, so very dearest and darling sistahfriend, Patricia!!!!! πŸ™‚ <3

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