Last night that quiet was interrupted, and this morning we woke up with a feeling of, "Wow...that was an amazing experience." As you know, I'm trying to be cognizant of life and my experiences as I move forward, hoping to grow and learn from each one.
There is a family reunion going on at the hotel this weekend. The family and its extensions are African American and more than 100 people have come from all over the United States to reconnect--that in itself is amazing.
The first woman who sat down in the empty chairs across from us in the lobby was from Tennessee. She and 10 others drove straight through in a large van and she told us she had been drinking since they left Tennessee...that much was apparent, and she was still at it. She works in a factory in a small town outside of Nashville where everyone she associates with is black.The statement that caught my attention was when she told us that she was disgruntled because she found out that half of her larger family is white. I can imagine that it put her way outside her comfort zone. It was my first glimmer of..."Wow...we haven't come very far."
She left and just as we were getting up to leave a young man from Alabama, very handsome with gorgeous dreds sat down. He wanted recommendations of clubs in the area where there weren't any black people. Ok. I HAD to ask, "Why?" He didn't want to go to a "black" club because he just wanted to hear some good jazz...he didn't want to feel like he had to go somewhere because of his race, as he felt people expected of him. Wow.
That began an incredible two-hour conversation about race, guns, gangs and life as an African American. I knew we should go to bed, but it was one of those MOMENTS I'm looking for on this journey. I still maintain that we need to listen and talk to each other to save our country and our planet.
He was joined shortly afterwards by a man closer to our age and listening to their differing views was incredible.
We talked openly about the tragedies of young black men shooting each other over trivial disputes. The young man (34) professed to having been in a gang before guns were an issue. Disputes were handled with fists. He joined because he wanted a "family." He claims that it is the recruitment of young kids--14 and even younger--who aren't mature enough to realize their actions. And yet, he said that he loves guns and owns many. "Why?" I asked. His answer was that his number one responsibility was protecting his young children. So even though the guns are locked up tightly, he knows that if he is going somewhere with his kids, and he has the "bulge" under his shirt, no one will mess with him. The older gentleman, probably 50+,also owns guns, but his are for hunting; a way of life he grew up with. He professed frustration at someone being on a terror watch list and not allowed to fly, but being able to buy a firearm. Both were in favor of background checks and making it a little harder to get a gun, but neither of them think that we should or could ever outlaw handguns or assault weapons. The younger man told us that he bought an AK-47 once for cash in a back room. It took 10 minutes. The NRA? Both said that's a group for white people. Remember these are opinions I'm reporting; not fact.
Elections? Not super interested, which disturbed me- these are employed men making a contribution, although the older man said he never thought he would see a black President. That meant a lot to him.
Do they feel prejudice? Yes. On a regular basis. The young guy just kinda shrugged his shoulders, the older man said he thought things would be different all these years later and it makes him sad how we as a nation haven't come very far.
Police? "White people get shot and beat up too." Older gent said, "All lives matter." Wow.
As we ended the conversation, the older man said the saddest thing.
I've thought of it all day.
"Well with Trump trying to be President, at least the world isn't hating on us as much- they're after the Muslims so we're getting a break."
I had no response.