Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We're going to Jackson

   When planning our vacation, we decided driving all day wasn't so much fun last year, so we broke our trip up just a bit. Our first stop put us in Jackson, Mississippi where we stayed one night. Thanks to the song by Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash, I sang, "We're going to Jackson...." many times during our brief stay. It's one of those get in your head kind of songs! 
   Jackson is a city of about 145,000 people and is the state capital.Although we did not spent a lot of time in Jackson, something happened that will stick with me the rest of my life. 
   We arrived around 9 p.m. and were happy to see Chili's adjacent to the hotel. We had been on the road quite a while and were tired and hungry. After checking into our room, we walked across the parking lot to the restaurant. The parking lot was full, so we were sure we would have a bit of a wait.
   When we walked into the restaurant, we noticed something different. Aside from the waitress and a manager, we were the only white people in the whole place. Growing up with friends who were African-Americans and to this day having friends of color, it didn't phase me, my husband or daughter in the least. The host told us it would be a 30 minute wait, so we sat down and that's when I felt as if I were in someone else's shoes.
   As we were waiting, I began thinking about being in a city in the south, who saw plenty of conflicts when African Americans were fighting for their civil rights. There were times in this city (and across the United States) when blacks and whites could not be in the same restaurant. There were times when a black family were surrounded by whites and felt like outcasts. There were times when hate filled the hearts of so many people that it almost tore our country apart. 
   For a moment I completely understood how it felt to be different in the sense of race. I wondered if some of the people in the restaurant had grown up in Jackson and had grandparents or parents who never had the opportunity to sit in a restaurant with people of a different race. I wondered if there were some in there who looked at us with dislike because of the past. It was my hopes nobody did, because as I looked at the many tables of men, women and children dining....I saw Americans. 
   I believe our country has made great strides since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and Rosa Parks stood up and spoke for her generation. I believe our country is the greatest on earth, but I do believe there is still healing to do.
   How do we heal? For me, I think we heal the present by treating others with respect. We heal the present by not clinging to things in the past that are symbols of times when all Americans were not treated fairly. We can heal the present by viewing one another as equals. 
   Recently, a controversial flag has taken center stage and has stirred up emotions, hard feelings and conflict across the south. For me, I question the genuineness of those who want to fly the rebel flag now.Why now? I'd challenge anyone who wants to fly it to give me reasons why this flag has such meaning to you.  I've grown up in the same town my entire life and have never seen anyone fly the rebel flag. Because it has recently made the news and has been taken down in states across the south, people automatically feel some connection to it. It makes no sense to me. 
   The flag is not a representation of now....it's a representation of the past. For me, it should stay in the past so we can move forward as a country. 
   Our past is our past and scholars will write about it so future generations can know the history of their country. Not all the history of the United States gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Some of it is heartbreaking, but it is history. When future generations are reading about our country decades from now, wouldn't it be great if they read about how our country was strengthened by love and not divided by hate?


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