A matter of life and death
Downtown Savannah, Georgia, 1955
Note the historical marker on the far right of the photo
I’ve been thinking about the life and death of John Lewis. My generation paralleled his generation. Yet my life in the Deep South during the 1950s and 60s was light years from his life. It didn’t matter that I saw and heard about the Deep South every day. What mattered was the bubble in which I was raised.
In a nutshell: I didn’t have a clue how much I didn’t know, even though it was in plain view.
Back then, our family had room for many colored people. As a child, I assumed they were our friends. Still, our family was almost always in the mode of ‘helping’ them. Or joining them at special events at which my father sometimes preached. We daughters sat with our mother in reserved seats on the front row, always decked out in our Sunday best.
We also led regular, less formal Bible clubs for children in our rural setting and in Yamacraw Village. The Village was built on what had been a Yamacraw Indian settlement. Now it served colored people on the west side of Savannah.
The Bible clubs were also our family’s way of ‘helping.’ Plenty of fun, lots of singing (I often played the piano), a Bible lesson from my father, Bible verses to memorize, and snacks at the end. I always knew we ‘poor’ white people were more fortunate than they, and assumed they needed us.
Looking back, my family offered me only one role during my growing-up years in Savannah: a friendly helper. I didn’t have the means or courage to change what often felt unfair and even embarrassing.
Alongside family activities, I attended school. Beginning in grade school, we studied the glorified white history of Georgia. Especially the “Civil” War/War between the States. This continued through high school. Sometimes, especially in grade school, we celebrated heroes. A few were colored; most were white. Christopher Columbus was the greatest national hero. The slave trade remained shrouded in mystery, though Savannah was one of the largest East Coast importers of slaves, and exporters of cotton.
Praying you’re as well as you can be right now, and surrounded by activities that bring you joy, comfort, hope, and a challenge or two.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 July 2020
Photo of Downtown Savannah, Georgia (1955) found at reddit.com
I think most of us ‘white people’ have lived in a bubble.
Also when we are young we don’t realise that most of the world is different from us. Then when we are older and we start to wake up I think sometimes the problem is so huge we don’t know how to deal with it. I’ve sat on ‘the front seat’ often and felt terribly embarrassed. And inside angry. The precedent was set years ago, admittedly by others and I think I was totally confused as to what to do.
I read your other post about bad theology killing us. That is a lot of the problem and we white people have got it so wrong.
Jesus words to us to be a servant – ”well he didn’t mean it really!’ No? Lay down our lives. His words were to the point and that is the human reason why He was killed. The ‘heavies’ didn’t like Him then and they don’t like Him now – except “God is Love”. But the L in Love is a capital and we want the ordinary nice love. I’d better stop or I will keep going.
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Oh, Robin, don’t stop now! Everything you say is crystal clear and realistic. Not because you read about it, but because you and your family lived in it up close and personal for decades. Yes, the problem is still so huge it’s impossible to address one bit at a time. I’m praying each of our bits will support preachers, teachers, and those in the next generation already having to deal with a different world than they entered. You might enjoy reading Howard Thurman’s book, Jesus and the Disinherited — if you haven’t already read it. I’m reading it now.
It looks like you’ve begun blogging. I’m going to come over and take look! 🙂