I had so much to think about this week. The family of James Anderson, the black autoworker who was beaten and then run over and killed by a group of whites looking to perpetrate a hate crime, asked that the man who ran James over not receive the death penalty. Anderson’s eighty-five-year-old mother was behind the unanimous family decision.
Due to a similar crime, white supremacist Lawrence Brewer, was put to death this past week for the fatal dragging of James Byrd in Jasper, TX, in 1998. Byrd’s sister was quoted as saying about Brewer, “If I saw him face to face, I’d tell him I forgive him for what he did. Otherwise I’d be like him. I have already forgiven him.”
I finished reading The Help this week. More detailed than the movie, as most books are, I completed it with the same sadness I felt when saw the movie. What was different, though, is that I understood that despite the social lines drawn and solidified by law, some bonds between maid and family were equally strong, and loving, and respectful. I would wonder if it were just the fact that I was reading fiction, but I have a white friend I’ve become close with since moving South. She speaks of the black woman who raised her, Timmy, with love and appreciation. Timmy ate at the dinner table with the family and was considered part of the family. She used the single bathroom in the house along with everyone else living there. My husband Ronald told my friend, as she talked about Timmy, that Timmy “was one of the lucky ones, treated well and loved.”
Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help says, “Regarding the lines between black and white women. I am afraid I have told too much… I am afraid I have told too little. Not just that life was so much worse for many black women working in the homes in Mississippi, but also that there was so much more love between white families and black domestics than I had the ink or time to portray.”
People are not black and white; they are many shades. More importantly, the diversity of emotions between hate and love is nearly as infinite as the power of forgiveness.
Finally, this week was special because Cara and Mackenzie are performing (the second concert takes place in less than two hours) in Cara’s first faculty concert. I’m trying to write an essay about motherhood, and I am struggling to find the words to describe the love I feel for these two beautiful women. It is infinite.
(Excerpt from Chapter 8, Watch Our Show, Shades of Tolerance: A Biracial Love Story)
Cara and Mackenzie, four years of age, each took one of our hands and led Ronald and me to the sofa.
“Sit down and watch our show,” Cara said. They had been in their room all morning, heads together, giggling.
They sat on the floor before us with their twin African-American Raggedy Ann dolls, made by Maxine, and choreographed them in a synchronized dance routine. The dolls flopped, flipped and turned in unison. They played air guitars and beat invisible drums. Ronald and I watched, sitting close on the couch, my leg resting across Ronald’s lap. We held hands and laughed, looking at each other in delight over our beautiful, witty girls. Cara and Mackenzie navigated through life's many permutations in polyrhythmic harmony.
One day I would write a poem about them as I remembered them on that day, sitting on their bedroom floor, heads touching, giggling and planning. They used it in their first dance film Folding Over Twice. They were young adults, fresh out of the dance conservatory, starting their own duet dance company: Cara directing, choreographing, Mackenzie cleaning the movement and making it aesthetically pleasing.
We would sit through many performances over the years: piano recitals, dance recitals, dance performances at the conservatory, and then their own productions and dance films. We went to New York City to watch Mackenzie fly on fabric that was suspended from the ceiling, secured with giant carabiners. She spun in graceful circles. Then she scaled the fabric twenty feet up, twisting and turning it around her body, the long fabric tails flipping through the air. Near the top she released her hold and spiraled downward, the fabric unwinding as if she were a spool and it the thread. Just as it looked as if she might not stop, she did, the fabric flexing bungee-like, her back arched, her legs and arms hanging backward toward the floor, looking like a spider in a web.
Ronald was featured on percussion in their second dance film Two Downtown. Cara and Mackenzie remembered listening to Ronald play drums in the basement, right under their bedroom, sometimes for hours. Cara would later tell me she found it comforting, knowing Ronald was there, feeling the vibration of the bass drum, feeling safe. Mackenzie would tell me all the music in our house made her want to live a musical life.
Ronald and I had more ideas about what not to do in childrearing than what to do, but we managed to enjoy parenthood. I brought two strengths to my parenting technique: total, unconditional adoration and my imagination. Ronald brought stability, music, and creativity. We both retained our strong childhood curiosity.