I heard it said all my life. You might have heard it too. “Don’t go messing in your own bed.” It’s a colloquialism. The South is full of them.
I grew up in two Souths: The segregated one and the integrated one.
Both of them had a violence all their own. A violence that both races were responsible for and participated in.
What I learned from all that violence was to be afraid of blacks. That message was drilled into me as a young girl, with the admonishments to keep my car doors locked, to stay out of Nigger-town (aka The Projects), to never loan a black girl my comb, to never make friends with blacks, to never date a black guy, and ohmygosh, don’t even consider marrying one, that is unbiblical (don’t be unequally yoked).
On and on the “don’t” list went.
Then came the federally-mandated busing. And all of a sudden, I was “forced” to go to high school with blacks.
School got underway that year in a chaotic fashion. Fights in the parking lot. Protest marches. Knivings. Beatings. A lot of people – adults and kids alike – hollering at one another. Angry at each other and the system that forced them to get along.
I no longer live in the South. Racism exists in the Pacific Northwest, too. It is just directed at different racial groups – Hispanics and Native Americans, as opposed to blacks. Up the road from where I now live, white police officers shot and killed an unarmed Hispanic. No violent protests followed that killing.
I have never been arrested. I don’t fear for my life when I am with law enforcement. I don’t know what it feels like to be afraid of cops. As a reporter, I worked closely with law enforcement. I know there are good cops and bad cops. I worry about the good cops and all this violence they have to deal with day in and day out.
I have learned to overcome my racist upbringing and the lies embedded in it. When I learned to do better, I did better. My girls grew up knowing I’d be happy for them to marry a black man. Or any man of any color as long as he was a good man.
Good doesn’t have a color.
And neither does bad.
You cannot tell the heart of a man by the color of his skin.
You tell it by his actions.
A man who will mess in his own bed is likely to wreck havoc in yours, too. He cannot be trusted. He will ruin everything because he has no respect for anything or anyone.
I believe in civil protest. A democracy is built upon the right of its people to evoke change, to hold authorities accountable, to keep the balance of power in the hands of voters. (The Supreme Court may have undermined that with its Corporations are People, too, ruling but that a topic for another blog post).
But civil protest is not the same thing as violence. Violence doesn’t beget anything but more violence.
Giving space to those who wish to destroy is not exercising Free Speech. That’s not democracy in action. That’s anarchy at work.
It is nothing more than giving permission for a man to mess in his own bed.