If you have been with me from the beginning, you may recognize this blog as a rewrite of a previous one. Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day coincides with my regular blogging day, it seems fitting to revisit my first consciousness of the inequities of the segregated world in which I grew up. I looked like the picture I’ve posted when it occurred.
Mama believed in rules. She had lots, and she found them in many places. There were house rules, school rules, rules in the Bible, traffic rules . . . I thought Mama believed in all rules until one day when I was eight years old.
Mama, my sisters, and I were boarding a Trailways bus to return home after a visit with my grandfather. I noticed some strange panels hanging down on either side, dividing the front section of the bus from the back. I asked her what they were for.
I don’t remember her words, but I distinctly remember my two reactions. The first was that I might prefer to sit in the back rather than the front. At eight years old, I was smart enough to know that a rule that prevented one group of people from sitting in the front also prevented me from sitting in the back.
The second reaction was even more startling. Somehow I knew, even as she explained it, that Mama did not believe in the rule. The great rule-maker, rule-teacher, rule-follower thought this rule was wrong. I never forgot.
When Mama was old, I asked her one day if she remember this incident that made an indelible impression in my mind. She didn’t, but she asked me what she had told me. I told her I didn’t remember her words. I just remembered knowing she did not believe in the rule. She said, “I’m glad.”
In that reaction during my formational years, I believe she encouraged a lifelong antipathy to physical and symbolic barriers between people and an understanding that barriers get in the way of those on both sides of the obstruction. I am grateful.