What I’d Do Different Now

[Woolworth’s Sit In, Jackson, Mississippi, May, 1963]

Some years ago I began to wonder: Whatever happened to those two African-Americans who desegregated E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1962? So I found Dr. Lynda Woodruff and Reverend Owen Cardwell, Jr.—and wrote a book about what unfolded because I’d wondered.

These days? Now I am moved to wonder: What would happen if I found one of those despicable young men abusing the Jackson, MS sit-inners? (Surely some are still alive?) Could I possibly sit down with one of them; could I ever listen with an open heart? Face to face with a white supremacist, could I remember to seek “that of God” in the old man seated across from me? Not try to “fix” what I’d hear; offer neither advice nor comments but merely ask questions? (Why do you suppose X happened? How do you make meaning of that? Why do you think Y said that? How did you feel when Z happened? Tell me about how you learned about X? etc. ) And then write a book about what I heard? And learned? Could I?

Not lacking in (compelling, passionately engaged-in) writing projects, I am nevertheless tugged at, nudged to wonder: Where does hate come from? What, in all my studies, all my close attention to race and class and gender and education and all the other variables that make each of us who we are; what have I missed, what have I never understood? What do I need to know?



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  1. Dear Patricia,

    Well, hi, there, Patricia, and greetings and salutations to you and to you and for you and for my absolutely awesome dearly special and awesomely precious soul sisterfriend Christian Quaker woman who you’re For Always so, so very much!!!! WOW, Patricia, WOW!!!! What a beautiful, absolutely beautiful blog post article this is here by absolutely FANTASTIC YOU, sister!!!!! Sister, I love how you reflect here about yourself as a young teen-aged high school senior and how you wondered later in your life what all the two black teenagers had to contend with in integrating your high school in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1962. Sister, WOW, I so, so very much love, enjoy, and appreciate how you were very diligently conscientious at a later date in looking back at that time with the greater awareness and anti-racism you had gained at a latter point in your life and as to how as you asked yourself deeply like with the great title to this blog post article, “What I’d Do Different Now,” in how you learned to have more clarity with your empathy about what these so very dear black students faced, endured, and experienced. Sister, it is very powerful that your quest in searching for your former classmates and in answering the question you asked yourself creating your very engaging and endearing book, Way Opens. WOW, my friend, I love this very insightful book of yours, I just love this very emboldening and enlightening book, sisterfriend!!!! It is very well crafted with such heart, spirit, and introspection, Patricia.

    Sister, the title of this very inspirational blog post article is right on here with this deep question you ask yourself, and, in fact, all of the questions which you ask yourself are very relevant, on point questions getting to the heart of the matter and to the deepest and innermost core of discerning where hatred comes from like with the then young white men who harassed and physically assaulted the white and black folks at the sit-in at the diner. Sister, you have such a great idea here as you wonder what it would be like to interview one or more of these men if they are still alive as a neutral, non-judgmental interviewer seeking answers to questions like where did your hatred come from, and what led to this action, that action, this point, and that point, what you did, what the others did, what was the next step, and the step after that in the altercation. I love this idea here, sister! Sisterfriend, I’ve heard of stories of people both white and black interviewing white supremacists and white nationalists. I’ve even heard of people like a black man named W. Kamau Bell interviewing some members of the KKK(I saw this on TV-gives new meaning to the old words “going where angels fear to tread.” It was on his series called United Shades of America on CNN. As well, I saw on TV a story about a black man named Daryl Davis who interviewed very many members of the KKK and other similar groups leading very many of the white supremacists to give up their racist ways and to see the light in changing with the very power of redemption. Sister, I’d love to ask these questions, too, but I am too scared to face-to-face as a black woman, black person, and lesbian black woman. Sister, I wonder how in the world did W. Kamau Bell and Daryl Davis come up with the sheer courage to interview the KKK and other white supremacist people face-to-face. Wow, they are just absolutely amazing and, WOW sister, I just couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t do it because I’d be too, too terrified to do so but WOW, I just have to hand it to them, though, sister and friend of mine, Patricia. My so, so very dearest and darling friend, I pray for daily and very frequently with my lovingly heartfelt and sensitively caring prayers, warm thoughts, and sending such great positive energy for people in the KKK and in other like-minded groups for them to find the very power of change, and also I read some books on people who are like this up to a point-it can be kind of intense so I only read what I can digest and handle. My friend, I just so, so very much love and cherish YOU, and how you have made it a point in your life to ask the challenging questions, and along your life’s journey, process, and path to reflect and to be even more and more open as more and more time goes on at a later point in your life gaining in your marvelous anti-racism and awareness, and dealing with and working with your white privilege. Patricia, YOU are just the very greatest and the best, and I thank-YOU for trying so, so very hard and asking yourself, and others, too, the very necessary questions, and as to how you do the very necessary work toward racial reconciliation, and in co-creating with myself and others racial justice, equity, and fairness. YAY for YOU, Patricia!!!! YAY!!!!!!

    Sister, Dr. Lynda Woodruff’s and The Rev. Owen Cardwell, Jr.’s stories as black teens integrating your high school I can for sure relate to as well, dear Patricia. My family and I moved to a then majority white suburb in Cleveland, Ohio called Cleveland Heights in November 1967 of my kindergarten year at the age of five from one of the inner city areas of Cleveland. Cleveland Heights was becoming integrated in that era I think starting even earlier than that in the early 1960s. I had grown up black middle class and black middle income. Cleveland Heights was a middle class suburb and there were also some upper middle class people, and a few wealthy folks. My love for my hometown and where I’m originally from in Cleveland Heights is just my very heart and will For Always be my very heart with me having such loving and cherished memories of Cleveland Heights and a lot of the people I know there and knew there back then. Often in my schools growing up in Cleveland Heights I was the only black child in my homeroom. I’m still in touch with some of my old friends and classmates and some of my awesome teachers. I have such a deep and cherished love for my old friends and classmates and some of the very super teachers, too. I have such a blessed and healing perspective as I understand so well why some(but not all) of the white kids were mean to me like with name-calling, some racial stuff and epithets, some name-calling and meanness in general. Some of the kids were having family problems which they were facing, enduring, and experiencing with all kinds of abuse in every way in their families like from parents and other powerful family members, and with some of the so very dear kids there were problems of alcoholism and other addictions in the family leading for some of the awesome white kids being unkind and cruel but only at times and only from some(not all) of the so, so very precious white children and teenagers. There were by far a lot of great experiences for me, Patricia. They were just so, so very innocent white children and teenagers trapped by their environment and circumstances when some would be unkind. Sometimes some of the parents but not all, though, and some of the teachers but only some of the teachers would set a bad example and some of the white kids would learn that racism. Also, racism would be absorbed and learned from community and from our society as a whole teaching some of the white children and teenagers to at times be mean like how I faced this at times. Also, I did wrong on my part at times and make my amends. WOW, sister, WOW, Patricia, overall I had absolutely fabulous experiences in my Cleveland Heights, Ohio with my so, so very dearest and darling old friends and classmates, teachers, and with such sweetly loving and cherished memories of this very wonderful and honorable community and suburb, sisterfriend!!!!!!

    My friend, I thank-YOU so, so much for how you have as usual as always featured and included some superb links with this very empowering blog post article. The picture which you have very graciously and generously featured and included with this very fine and excellent blog post article is just picture perfect here adding to and complementing the great theme and topic of your blog post article with its quite applicable title. Sister, WOW, I so, so very much love, enjoy, and appreciate how you have featured and included again the very deeply spiritual and blessed article by the remarkable Lewis Benson. What a great joy and blessing revisiting this very full of such spirit and Spirit article here, Patricia. Sister, what a sheer joy and blessing it is here to joyfully read this emboldening blog post article and to joyously respond with my very heartfelt, detailed, and thorough thoughts, ideas, and comments. Now I am even more emboldened and encouraged to never ever lose heart, never ever lose spirit, and to never ever give up being even more re-energized, renewed, rejuvenated, and reinvigorated, Patricia! Patricia, you are just so, so very good for me and for my walk with Spirit! I thank Spirit continually for YOU and for YOUR very presence in my life, Patricia!!!!! Now I feel even better and brighter with even more great cheer. YAY for YOU, Patricia!!!!! YAY for this engaging blog post article here, your other great blog post articles, and all of your progressive writings and books!!!!! YAY for all you do in such a fine and excellent fashion!!!!! YAY for our very friendship and sisterhood, Patricia!!!!! By the time you read this it will be Thursday so please have such a totally terrific and a thrilling Thursday, a wondrously wonderful weekend ahead, and may all of your very days be so, so very especially blessed, my friend!!!! Spirit so so very much loves and cherishes YOU, Patricia, and so do I!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my so, so very For Always awesomely special and dearly precious soul sisterfriend Christian Quaker white woman who you’re For Always so, so very much, Patricia, with My and Spirit’s Peace and Love For You For Always, friend of mine, and with Such Blessings and Such Very Even More Blessings For Always, sister of mine,

    Yours For Always soul sisterfriend Christian black woman and For Always in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa

  2. Thanks for this short post on the importance of active listening (sometimes called compassionate or empathetic listening).

    I’ve just finished trying to reason with others who reject human rights, reject even that rape and slaughter are actually wrong! I get so upset about the dark turning of so many bright, educated humans. Last night I tromped around the house still upset at those who deny human rights, ranting and raving, until my wife said I needed to cool down and let it go.

    True, but when horrific ethical wrong is being done–and it is getting so much worse again–and the ‘enemies’ won’t listen, but only mock and attack, it is so very hard to have any empathy because of their stance.

    But your short, deep reflection reminds me that even abhorrent enemies need to receive our care and concern and listening. Because, despite their horrific views, they, too, are of inherent worth and value.

    And, maybe like Martin Luther King said years ago, when he said we ought to show concern for racists, that they may change and become friends.

    Thank you very much Patricia. Your reflection is just what I needed:-)

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