Love Makes a Bridge: Into our Memory

Monday’s post of reasons why Black Lives Matter received very high readership.  I want to continue for the next few days reflecting on some of those points and how love can make bridges for us.  Let’s consider the fourth and fifth items on that list again, both of which deal with our collective memory:

Why at this time must it be “Black lives matter” and not the refrain “All lives matter:”

  • As an example, almost 600 lynchings of African Americans occurred in Georgia, but only one lynching site is commemorated by a historical marker, and no one has been convicted or accepted responsibility for these lynchings to these days, despite many lynchings having been committed before large crowds.
  • As another example, it took South Carolina and Alabama until 1998 and 2000, respectively, to amend their constitutions to remove provisions making interracial marriages illegal. In both cases, about 40% of voters in these referendums voted to retain the prohibition on interracial marriage.

When a lynching, one single lynching is portrayed on television, I have a visceral reaction. I who find it possible to watch almost anything find it difficult to keep my eyes open, my ears open to the sights and horrible sounds of a mob driven by racial fear and hatred destroying the life of a single human being and the lives of those who loved that human being.

So, I cannot fathom 600 lynchings in the single State of Georgia alone.  I cannot fathom the wreckage of fear, hatred and division among peoples that they created and now silently and secretly continue to create.  As I, being a white person, walk past any particular black person–do I know if their ancestor was lynched by the white community?  Is there some change that a relative of mine was involved? I have no way of knowing because we have collectively kept this a secret. There are virtually no memorials to the pain and suffering in large part because they were perpetuated or allowed by the white majority in our communities.  Deeper into the collective secrecy were those laws that made love between black and white people illegal and therefore publicly a shame and a crime.  It forced children of such unions to hide who they were, who their parents were and deeply distorted what ought to have been celebrated:  Love.

But, Love Builds a Bridge.  If we embrace the Black Lives Matter movement and mantra, we begin through the power of love to open up the sealed doors of memory.  That bridge extends into the hearts of human beings and allows us a way to own the ancient wounds, begin to heal them, and to forge a new kind of community.

Families are notorious for keeping secrets about those things that they have been taught to fear and to shame.  Unconditional love keeps the way open for letting go of those shames, those secrets and to build new futures together.

I think a word of warning is appropriate in this reflection on building bridges into memory.  If we are willing to re-member the past, we may find at first angry reactions from almost everyone involved.  White people don’t want to be “blamed for something I didn’t do” and black people don’t want to be reminded of the humiliation and horror of that period of time.  These kinds of reactions, however, only serve to keep memory locked away under the chains of fear, hatred and shame.  We must continue to build the bridges into memory.

Love makes a bridge.

Bob Patrick

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