In the wake of our remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and on the brink of Black History month, I have been musing about the racial divides in our world.
In May of 1970, in the small town of Oxford, North Carolina, a young black man was killed for "insulting" a White woman. The murderers claimed that the young man had made a sexual comment. The death of Henry Morrow was named a lynching by the Black folks of Oxford, and the story is chronicled in Timothy Tyson's book, "Blood Done Sign My Name."
While Oxford is just 100 miles away from where I grew up, in many ways it was like another planet. I grew up in Fayetteville (sometimes known as Fayette-nam) on the outskirts of Ft. Bragg army base. Growing up in an army town had its particular graces. One of them was that my neighborhood was a patchwork quilt of families (Black, White, Black-Vietnamese, German-Black, Mexican-Thai, and Italian-Japanese). The influence of the military provided something of a cocoon that kept me sheltered from the tensions around race and "racial mixing" in other small towns in North Carolina. So much so, that it wasn't until I went to college that I learned of this lynching that had happened not in the distant Jim Crow past, but in the year I was born.
Mark and I joke about the scandal of Blacks and Whites "getting together," but we know that it is only partially funny. We know that our kids are still asked if they are Black or White. We know that whatever the racial tensions, they are only heightened when sex is in the mix. We know that 400 years of thinking that Black women could be possessions and that White women could not be "sullied" are not undone by a Supreme Court ruling (Loving v. VA). Those kinds of demons are hard to fight.
But on any given, walking into St. Margaret's gives me hope. The blessings of the patchwork nature of love are seen in the number of mixed race families here (gay and straight). And the way we all fit together is a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. It is a beautiful thing.