9/29/17

The Specter Who Haunts Me

Trayvon Martin haunts me. I read his name in the newspaper, in a magazine, in an essay, and his face lights up in my mind. That still soft, round baby face of a child with the wide eyes saying, “Here I come world!” Those eyes could have belonged to one of the hundreds of Black males I taught over the years. Open. Honest. Questioning and waiting. The eyes of someone like Vivian, Tracey, Webster, Juan, Jolyon, Marcus. Young men/boys who weren’t children but not yet men either. Looking at life; looking at society. Asking what did it offer them.
I look at Trayvon, a face frozen in time, and wonder how we failed him. Failed all of them. As their teacher I tried to prepare them for a world outside our school doors. I taught them about work skills and resumes and being respectful. I didn’t know that, as a White woman, I could never prepare them for a world that devalued them and often hated them because their skin was a rich chocolate color. I could never know the depth and extent of the hate and fear they would encounter. If I had known, I would have wept for them and the futility of my paltry offering of ‘preparing’ them for the world.
Trayvon was for me the awakening to the fact that Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., had failed. No one can make White America accept African Americans as our brothers and sisters. The fact that a grown armed man was excused from murdering an unarmed child out of his fear of that child’s skins color is unthinkable. That the myths and lies about people of color have been perpetuated for hundreds of years, and are so held as truth that it becomes an accepted reason to kill someone, goes against all our government has been built on. And yet, in recent years we have seen it time and time again.
Trayvon Martin haunts me. His youth, his promise, his future haunt me. We will never know who he would have become. All that is lost. For all we know George Zimmerman may have killed the person who could have saved the world.

BAMorris

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

9/14/17

Thank You Shelia Michaels

In the late 1960’s when I began my journey to become a professional woman, I did not want to me Miss Morris, with its spinsterish overtones. And I wasn’t married so Mrs. wasn’t a choice. I chose Ms, the newly created title for women who didn’t belong to any man, either father or husband.
When I did marry in 1974, I maintained my status as Ms. Thanks to the liberated man I married, I kept my surname as well. Throughout my career as a teacher, and now as a writer; through two marriages, I have remained Ms Morris.
So to Shelia Michaels, who first coined the title “Ms”, I say thank you. Ms Michaels died recently but her legacy lives on in all the women now who are known by her created title.

BAMorris

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Catholicism

30 Sep 2017

2/24/17

Catholicism

I entered college grossly ill prepared and so naïve. Today it is hard to imagine the segregation of the 1960’s. Whites knew little about Blacks. Baptists knew nothing about Catholics. Southerners distrusted anyone from the North.
My roommate my first year at college was a Catholic. My Southern Baptist upbringing taught me that anyone not a Baptist was a suspect Christian, and there was no place for them in Heaven. Methodists were begrudgingly accepted as sort of Baptists, but one certainly didn’t go to their churches. Catholics, on the other hand, were the same as pagans. After all, they worshiped the Pope and their leaders dressed funny and their services were in a foreign language. One did not befriend a Catholic!
So here I was roommates with a Catholic. I was sure she would try to convert me. I expected some Voodoo-like services to be performed in our room. I didn’t even know if she honored the same God as me!
None of that happened. Somehow my devotion to the Baptist faith must have been flawed, because when she invited me to go to church with her, I went. Mere curiosity perhaps. And her church was so alien to me. From the small stand with water at the entrance to the pews, to the genuflection as you entered. The dipping of fingers into the holy water and crossing oneself. The darkened church and the incense and the Latin words and the robed priests. It was like some romantic mystery come to life. I was enchanted and frightened.
It sounds so silly to adult me to remember how nervous I was and how fearful I felt about entering a house of God from another faith. Since then I have prayed in dozens of churches all over the world: Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist, Jainism, and some where I never knew the name of the official religion. I know God is in any place from which man calls to him. But at eighteen I wasn’t as sure.

BAMorris

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Straddling a Fence

30 Sep 2017

2/24/17
Straddling a Fence
I’ve long straddled the gulf between the family I grew up with and the world I entered as a white collar college graduate. It has kept me uncomfortable in either place. When confronted by comments about ignorant, backwoods people, I want to defend ‘my people’, but I usually bite my tongue and keep quiet. Likewise when family or childhood friends grouse about city folk with their book leaning and lack of common sense, I keep quiet. I’m tugged at by both worlds, but belong totally to neither.
Recently I joined a group of college educated professional women to be part of a book club reading non-fiction to better understand the political and economic situation in our country. I was hoping to find a comfortable place to be myself. Our first session reviewed a book written by someone like me: rural raised but college educated. Someone who as an adult now straddles both worlds. I felt at home with the book. Not so other people. There were judgments of his upbringing, of his discomfort in the college environment, of his family dynamics. It quickly drifted into a US and THEM discussion. Look at how THEY live. THEY don’t want help. THEY were dismissed as beyond saving.
It didn’t come to my conscious mind until later, how uncomfortable I felt with that discussion. I tried to explain, with the help of one other woman (God bless her!), that this is all THEY have known. If you tell someone they can do better, it is an accusation that they are less than you. It’s a judging and finding THEM lacking. It’s challenging them, their parents, their grandparents, and so on back. And if hill and country people are anything, it’s loyal to family.
So I am back where I started: wanting the stimulation of college educated minds but defensive of who I am and where I came from.

BAMorris

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·