I had a dream a few nights ago in which I was confronted by a White man during a public reading of “Myers,” a novel set in Lewes, Delaware, in 1955, a story written in the context of the personal and systemic racism existing at that time in and around Lewes. The man stood up uninvited, and in a voice intended to be heard by everyone in the bookstore—a voice with a tone designed to flummox me—he asked, “Your book’s nothing but goddamned BLM propaganda, isn’t it?”
My dreamed response was angry, bluntly confrontational, and self-righteous, and the adrenaline rush it generated roused me to the point where my cortex alerted me that I had not yet answered the man’s question. I don’t know how long I laid there, eyes closed and thinking, but ultimately, I fantasized a response to my imagined tormentor that reflected my personal truth and allowed me to return to sleep. To the best of my age-challenged recollection, what follows is my imagined response …
I remember often singing two songs in a Protestant Sunday school during the 1950s, which I still remember. Of all that I was taught on those Sunday mornings, they remain the only matters of faith that remain in my heart. One of them convinced me that Jesus loved me …
Jesus loves me – this I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.
I would recite the verse as a very little boy under the covers in the darkness of my bedroom as an antidote for my father’s anger and abuse. The second song served not only that same purpose, but unknown by me at the time, it laid the foundation for how I continue to look at others …
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black & white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
You see, even though I, in too many ways, have strayed far from what I was taught in Sunday School, there is one belief that still guides me: in the heart of God, whatever that may mean to you, all children are welcomed regardless of the color of their skin. Said another way, I believe that in God’s heart, every life matters.
What I do not understand is why you are so enflamed by a simple assertion that “Black lives matter.” The reason why it upsets you can only be because you either believe that a Black life doesn’t matter, or that a Black life doesn’t matter as much as a White life.
Either conclusion on your part suggests one or both of two things: you are deeply frightened by the idea that the color of someone’s skin has nothing to do with the supremacy of one race over another, or you are unaware of—or are not concerned about—the tens of thousands of acts of terrorism visited upon people of color by White Americans over four centuries that is testimony to those Americans’ conviction that a Black life does not matter at all to God.
I’m sorry for not answering your question with the direct “yes” or “no” you expect, but before I answered your question, I wanted you to understand why my answer is “no.”
“Myers” is the story of a lonely guy living in a time and place when and where White supremacy was a systemic and personal reality. The novel is not propaganda. If I’m writing historical fiction, I have a responsibility to create a setting that is true to the time in which the story is set. It is up to the reader to accept or reject as true what an author presents, and as the author, I can assure you my only goal is to craft something that is diverting and entertaining and thought-provoking; not propaganda.
Perhaps you, as a reader of this post, can enlighten me as to some other way (than what I’ve written above) to help me understand why “Black lives matter” is such an incendiary phrase to some Americans. Please use the comment function in the post to share your insights.
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