Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Southerner on the Jena Six

Growing up as an Airforce brat, I didn't think about race. The military has its own caste system that, in my lifetime, had nothing to do with race. Or so I thought.

I was shocked when the first news trickled out about the lynching "prank" in Jena Louisianna, where racial tensions exploded when a handful of white boys hung nooses from the branches of a "white only" tree on school property after black kids sat under it.

I shouldn't have been shocked. Louisianna is our neigbor to the east, and we in Texas have had more than our shameful share of "lynchings," and in typical Texas fashion, we did it bigger, badder, and more real. Jasper, Texas ring a bell?

After writing Dead Copy, my second book, my editor called to ask questions about Cauley (the main character who happens to look like Kate Hudson) and Mia (her best friend, who looks like a young Jennifer Lopez) and their racial tension. I said, "What racial tension?"

But what an eye-opening question. After speaking with a couple of my hispanic friends, I discovered a horrible secret. The tension's there, even when I--or we--don't see it. It silently seethes in the subtext of everyday life, in every job opportunity, every college application, every time a cop pulls over a driver.

Working with Search and Rescue has opened my eyes to all kinds of inequity--racial, economic and social, and it makes me physically ill. "Amber Alerts" are plastered on highway signs, flashed over the television and make the nightly news. But what about the "Aretha Alerts?"

I hate growing up. It means having to look at things like they are, not like you think they are. Or the way they should be. I don't know what the answer is. I wish I did. I think the best thing we can do is listen. Talk and listen. And take Anne Lamott's advice--that none of the other commandments matter as long as you follow the subtext...Thou Shalt Not Be An Asshole.


Lexi said...

Here, here on that commandment subtext!

Kit Frazier said...

Yeah, I love Lamott, have you read Traveling Mercies? I LOVE that book :) How's your writing going?

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing
My friend Pantera with Tahoe & Me

Tahoe and a new friend at the signing