The Essays

We Will Be Better

White people, old white people with happy smiles shaking the hand of the man who nominally represents my ward in this city as he hands out sample ballots for the Republicans.  Old white people who used to clap for old Jerry Falwell as he stood at the podium barking about the gays and the feminists and before that *the blacks* and you can pretend not to know why he started Lynchburg Christian Academy but those of us who are really from here know exactly why, the brown children and the white children sitting in the classrooms together, we remember when Jesse Jackson came to march on Thomas Road and we marched with him. The evangelical homeschoolers also marched in a pack with their parents on the way to vote this morning. I saw them too.

An old restaurant nearby was torn down and is going to be replaced by a predatory rent to own place that will add to the dozen or so other predatory rent to own places that now dot our zip code. Curiously there are none of those on the other side of town where my ward rep lives. Liberty University made a killing on that deal because they own the property. Should have been clear they owned it as its been sitting there for years, an untidy blight, like every other building in town given to them by rich old white people who hope it will help grease the gates of heaven. They’ve always been shitty neighbors.

Born here, we'll die here too, like our parents and their parents while carpetbaggers from all over wander through for Jesus, to be clever for a few minutes or junk up the joint for a few minutes and then scatter back to wherever they came from. We’ll still be here. We’ll still be voting at the church we've voted at since we were 18 and we'll chat up the kind older black lady handing out sample ballots for the Dems and we'll thank her for doing her thankless job and those smiling old white people who used to clap for Jerry Falwell will be replaced by newer people at some point I guess, like the daddy of the children whom I recognized from my son's school who walked in as I was going out, my son's school which is right around the corner, which is filled with children of all the colors, children too many of whom don't have quite enough of anything, a school which sits so close to that original racist "private school for white students" as the Lynchburg News called it in 1966 that when I was a kid we'd pass each other on the sidewalk, each moving in our own direction.

We will outlast them, I know we will. My son is wearing his Barack Obama shirt today because he loves his president exactly the way an 8 year old should love their president, with fervor that sometimes overwhelms him. When he is grown and looks back at how his country treated his president, how their base prejudice intervened at every potential victory and crushed it like mean children he will be rightly horrified because by then we will be better. On the LCA website there is a history page with a picture of a young African-American man. This is how they choose to remember their start. People don't question it but some of us remember. And some of us will remember how today the country either gave our president, our brilliant and kind and courageous president, a congress that he deserved or a congress that was as racist as they were.

Jenny PooreComment