I recently saw a play about a famous singer’s transformation into an activist – Nina Simone – and three black women who depict their plight in the world. It takes place in the burned out shell of the 16th Street Church in Alabama, after it was bombed by white supremacists in 1963, killing four black girls and wounding countless others. A pivotal turning point for the Civil Rights Movement.
It is a painful and harsh indictment of how we treat people of color for not being white. And how all communities treat others depending on their background, gender, and degree of color. Acknowledging that protest and surrender comes in many shapes and forms. The anger, fear and horror stories the women in the play relate, based on what they look like and where they came from, is palpable. They are stories we’ve heard far too many times, but need to hear over and over again or they recede into anonymity and become invisible, diminishing their losses and tragedies.
Although we’ve taken baby steps forward, it’s heartbreaking how little progress we’ve truly seen in 60 years. Although it was well known which Ku Klux Klan members had set the explosives at the 16th Street Church, none were held accountable until 1977, 2000 and 2001, when three were finally tried and convicted.
No matter the color of our skin, background or beliefs, we all want the same thing.
A way to earn an honest wage, live free from tyranny, hate, and fear.
It’s harder to hate when faced with a living, breathing human being who just wants the same things we want.
A job, happiness, safety, success, freedom, love.
It’s harder to hate someone you like and can relate to.
That’s why it’s so important to move beyond what we may have been taught years ago.
Those who taught us meant well.
They did their best.
But their perspective was limited to small towns and surroundings.
Ours has been expanded via television, news and the internet to include the world.
Now we can see people are the same everywhere. We can seek out new encounters, points of views and facts that push us to new limits so we can soar beyond our previous small town references.
Diversity makes us stronger.
A tapestry of colors, differing tensile strengths and textures, forged with unique perspectives and varied tools creates a stronger, more enduring structure that can stand the test of time.
Even the monarchy had to face this harsh reality. Inbreeding among only “proper family lines” to retain power results in illness, genetic abnormalities, infertility and ultimate extinction.
The gene pool requires a constant replenishing of new resources to ensure survival. A fact that can’t be ignored forever.
Children of those raped and stolen from their homes are now the progeny of those who destroyed their ancestors lives. They now carry their forefathers bloodline. They are kin and have a right to their proper place in history.
The illegitimate offspring of royalty used to have a claim to the throne until laws were specifically written to prevent that type of succession. As if claiming the very blood that runs through their veins is different because it was forced upon their mothers. William the Conqueror is a perfect example. He was the first Norman monarch of England and the illegitimate child of the Duke of Normandy and his mistress.
We spend so much time trying to delineate why we aren’t the same, why we deserve more than others based on our looks, background, education, or finance that we forget none of that matters when we are being threatened. History is filled with examples of a cohesive unit succeeding over seemingly insurmountable odds.
Struggling to row a lifeboat as individuals moves us in circles and gets us nowhere. Only as a team can we progress. Embracing our differences and similarities empowers everyone.
We’ve heard the saying that we are connected by six degrees of separation- the concept that everyone is six or fewer social connections away from each other. That’s how small the world has become. Our bloodlines are separated by far more connections but ultimately we are tied to each other in ways we can’t always see or imagine. And what happens to one can happen to us all.
As world wars, illnesses, economic collapses, genocidal tyrants have proven- no one is immune.