Love and apartheid
Book pages 106-107
I always felt that blacks exaggerated a bit when they told me such things. I
have always had a rather naive faith in the goodness of people, probably
because I have not grown up in poverty and insecurity.
Without this faith I
could not have traveled the way I did, as my faith usually directly helped to
encourage the good sides of people.
Consequently I got along well with southern
whites who I am more fond of because of their warmth and honesty than the
perhaps more liberal, but less warm and direct whites in the North.
The bitter truth, however, was finally brought home to me on a special
I lived with a single mother, Mary, far out in the back roads of
Alabama in a shack with no plumbing, but at least with a TV and an old
refrigerator which looked good against the cardboard walls.
Mary and I
romanticized our relationship in these harsh surroundings, but her trust in
people around her was not like mine and she had three pistols and a shot-gun
under the bed to defend herself.
Those were happy and relaxed days that I spent
with her and her son despite the fact that I lost some of my local white
friends because of the relationship.
I found it strange that Mary, like many
other blacks in Alabama, voted for the racist George Wallace, but I had already
seen many other examples of how propaganda can often make people vote against
their own deeper interests.
When I decided to go away for some time to observe a Ku Klux Klan meeting in
Kentucky, Mary gave me a silver cross to protect me.
But it soon appeared that Mary could have had more use for the silver cross
Apparently for no other reason than that a white man had lived in her
house, three white men threw a firebomb into her kitchen in the dead of night
and the entire house went up in flames in seconds.
She managed to get her son
out, but though she ran back three times to try to reach him, her brother, who
had been asleep, perished in the flames.
"I couldn't get him out... They had to
pull me away before I got burned... I was sick and in shock."
My own immediate
reaction was both shock and strong outrage against this barbarian system as
well as a sense of pity for those whites directly responsible.
under influence of society's de facto apartheid-morality, was I made aware that
I could in fact myself have been responsible for the tragedy and thrown into a
recurrent moral dilemma:
To what degree could I as an outsider have fully
developed human relationships with those who have been condemned as pariahs?
society wishing to maintain such castes will always condemn such relationships.
I had believed that bombings belonged to the 60's, but even if Mary or I had
realized the danger, should it have altered our belief in our right to change a
crippling taboo system on the personal level? With the dangers it involves for
oneself and others?
For Mary it was a hard year. Her mother died from disease
as her father had the previous year. And just before her brother fell victim to
apartheid, her sister was murdered in Georgia.
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