Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Light and Dark (05/21/09)
TITLE: Invisible Boundaries
By Joy Bach
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Across town was “Little Mexico”. They had their own shopping area and knew they were not to mingle with the “whites”.
Somehow the white people were special.
Attending elementary school, I discovered the white people to be snooty and stand-offish. I never connected with them. But with the passing of time and repeated eye contact with one black girl, we cautiously began speaking to each other.
Her name was Linda Hutcherson. She was nice.
She never came to my home and I never entered hers. But we connected at school because we were both the underdog in our worlds. She, because of her color…and I, because of my religion.
Entering Junior High, I lost track of Linda. It became common knowledge that the color to fear was not black, but dark brown. The Mexicans would slice you open if you looked at them wrong. You never, ever wanted to cross the boundary into their “town”.
Jesse Solis was his name. When I had to pass him in the hall, my heart pounded in my chest. Would he hurt me? Avoiding eye contact, I passed him safely almost every day. But I never knew when it would be my turn to be the brunt of his viciousness.
In my high school years, my future had been designed for me by my church. I was told whom I would marry…therefore; there was no point in making friends of my own. I would belong to Ray.
Ray became friends with a black guy named Randy. He invited us to visit his church for a special service. That is how I ended up in “colored” town, sitting in a church full of black people.
The music was unbelievable! I had no idea God would allow you to enjoy the songs you sang in church. And they moved their bodies as they sang, yet no lightening bolts struck them. They acted like they knew what they were singing about. Their white teeth shone clearly in their black faces. They had something I did not.
It was difficult to return to my church and sit through the solemn singing of the hymns. I longed to jump up and begin swaying and lifting my hands. Each time that feeling flitted through me, I would pray and ask for forgiveness. I was attending the one true church and we knew how to do it correctly.
Marriage took me to a town in Texas where any person of color would be escorted to the city limits and asked to leave. I always felt conflicted when I heard someone had been driven out of town. How was I better? But I kept my concerns to myself. My opinions were not needed nor wanted.
Years later my husband left me and I slowly became a different person. I came to the understanding that color didn’t matter and that my religion was not the only one going to heaven. I began to see each person as an individual.
In my own personal growth efforts, I joined an organization called “Toastmasters”. Then came the day I stood before my club to give an Interpretive Reading. I had chosen “God’s Trombones”. In my childhood I had heard a record of it, being read by James Weldon Johnson, a black man with a very deep and expressive voice. It had resonated within me.
As I began my reading, I could not help but notice my friend, Edgar, sitting right in front of me. His grin stretched from ear to ear. Edgar was a black man with a wonderful deep voice. I am a 5’ 4” white woman. I could say the words, but they would never measure up to James Weldon Johnson or Edgar.
After the meeting, Edgar laughed with me as we talked about my puny efforts.
As I think back to Jesse Solis, I wonder what kind of young man he was. Did he know that the “whites” were afraid of him? Since then, I’ve worked with Mexicans and found them to be loving and caring people too.
The church I attend today has more whites than any other color. But all are welcome. Recently, as we were listening to the sermon, I heard the wonderful sounds of a deep, black voice saying, “Amen”…”That’s right”…”Praise God”…as the pastor spoke.
I’m sure my grin was from ear to ear.
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