Thoughts from a “Southern Girl”

June 15th, 2018

I sit here in front of my computer after the second day is complete, and the words that are swirling around in my head to write have a hard time finding their spot on the page. How could I have not known? How can my whole family be “blissfully unaware”? Why did my history class in high school talk about it like any other topic that is “information for the test”?

Well, I don’t have any really good answers… except that it was up to me. I didn’t learn, I didn’t take the time to read, interact, explore because it was outside of my normal day-to-day busy-ness with life, kids, work. I felt like I understood… enough. That’s the problem though. My understanding of racism, (while I knew it still existed and had experienced it on some level through hearing stores of personal friends and exposure at Messiah) had not permeated my existence enough to come to terms with actually looking at my country in a different way. I was very happy with my worldview. After all, it had only been informed by my middle-class upbringing in a middle-size Tennessee town, with a family that also had the same worldview. We love our country and the freedoms is has to offer – “you can grow up to be anything you want to be.” And, in fact, that was true! I could…

Here is where the realities of my worldview crashes into the realities of those that I am learning about on this tour. How could our founding fathers declare “equality and justice for all” when what they really meant equality and justice for white, religious men?

I guess I will just need to stay comfortable with the uncomfortableness as I learn more in the next week. But then what? Then what…


It is now Thursday morning and I have learned and experienced so much. There is profound emotional response to “standing where they stood”, “walking where they walked”, reenacting a march across the bridge in Selma for voting rights. But here’s the thing…I never had to drink out of a fountain with a “colored only” sign on it, enter a public building through a side entrance or be beaten because I decided to walk across that bridge.

It has been incredible to hear from people who have shared their experiences about being involved with the Civil Rights Movement. Last night we were in Birmingham, AL and heard from two women – both associated with the bombing at the 16thStreet Church. Rev. Dr. Carolyn McKinstry was a young teenager that was excited about participating in youth Sunday. As she was coming up the back and entering the sanctuary, her four friends (around the same age) were in the bathroom preparing to come into church too. Dr. McKinstry heard a loud blast and soon found out that all four of her friends had been killed by a bomb set by the Ku Klux Klan. The second woman we heard from, Lisa McNair, was the sister of Denise McNair – one of the girls that died. Some of the stories they told were unbelievable. One of the quotes that was shared that was really impactful was, “Civil Rights is black people’s pain and white people’s shame.” They both need healing. But they encouraged us to love. You can’t make change without love. The whole Civil Rights Movement was built on nonviolence and prayer.

How, then, can we move on from this experience? How can we share about their stories as well as our own? For me, it is a process of stepping out of my comfort zone and being willing to love… really love. Having a heart that is open and then putting it on the line. Pushing to do things that are uncomfortable.  That’s quite a challenge for me, but NOTHING compared to the challenges I have been hearing about this week. Now I am thinking and praying about how this experience will make a difference in my life. I cannot go back to “business as usual”. Help me Lord to see in a new way so that it will begin the process of a “new normal”.

One Response to “Thoughts from a “Southern Girl””

  1. Nycole on June 15, 2018 15:39

    I feel the pain in your words..

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