I’m about to share with you the most humiliating moment of my life.
This morning something deeply disturbing happened to my 13 year-old nephew, Christopher. He got a text message, which had been forwarded around from person to person, from one of his best friends, a girl we’ll call Ashley. It went something like this:
America has elected a nigger. Today in school show your support for the KKK by refusinshookg to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Christopher lives in Alabama, where this kind of ignorance isn’t terribly hard to find, and he’s a bit more advanced than some of his classmates where racial issues are concerned. He grew up in Charlotte (and NC urban areas are a lot more progressive than the outback), has always had black and biracial friends, and like so many kids of his generation he simply doesn’t see race as a big deal. Read more
It’s around 9 a.m. May 1, 1994. My stepmother, Kathie, has spent the night at Forsyth Memorial Hospital with my father, Larry, who will die late this afternoon. Their next-door neighbor, Wayne, is driving her home so she can shower and maybe get an hour or two of sleep. She hasn’t slept much in the six weeks since Daddy was admitted to the hospital with massive liver failure. Wayne has been a constant and salving presence during his friend’s illness.
Ten miles, maybe, down Silas Creek Parkway, through the south side of Winston-Salem, then on out Highway 109’s low, pine-strewn roll of hills to where Gumtree Road cuts across, demarcating the northern boundary of Wallburg, NC. This is where Daddy and Kathie live, and it’s where I grew up. These are the cultural outlands of the sprawling new metropolitan South. Our neighborhood straddles the Davidson and Forsyth County lines, and stands too far out into the country to be properly called suburban. But it’s also way too close to Winston to be considered rural. In some senses it’s a border town, possessing neither the urban sophistication of the city nor the kind of “agrarian virtue” my college Politics professor liked to attribute to country living. Antebellum mystique is dead elsewhere, and it never happened here. Read more