Love and apartheid

Book pages 106-107

I always felt that blacks exaggerated a bit when they told me such things. I have always had a rather naive faith in the goodness of people, probably because I have not grown up in poverty and insecurity.

Without this faith I could not have traveled the way I did, as my faith usually directly helped to encourage the good sides of people.

Consequently I got along well with southern whites who I am more fond of because of their warmth and honesty than the perhaps more liberal, but less warm and direct whites in the North.

The bitter truth, however, was finally brought home to me on a special occasion.

I lived with a single mother, Mary, far out in the back roads of Alabama in a shack with no plumbing, but at least with a TV and an old refrigerator which looked good against the cardboard walls.

Mary and I romanticized our relationship in these harsh surroundings, but her trust in people around her was not like mine and she had three pistols and a shot-gun under the bed to defend herself.

Those were happy and relaxed days that I spent with her and her son despite the fact that I lost some of my local white friends because of the relationship.

I found it strange that Mary, like many other blacks in Alabama, voted for the racist George Wallace, but I had already seen many other examples of how propaganda can often make people vote against their own deeper interests.

When I decided to go away for some time to observe a Ku Klux Klan meeting in Kentucky, Mary gave me a silver cross to protect me.

But it soon appeared that Mary could have had more use for the silver cross than I.

Apparently for no other reason than that a white man had lived in her house, three white men threw a firebomb into her kitchen in the dead of night and the entire house went up in flames in seconds.

She managed to get her son out, but though she ran back three times to try to reach him, her brother, who had been asleep, perished in the flames.

"I couldn't get him out... They had to pull me away before I got burned... I was sick and in shock."

My own immediate reaction was both shock and strong outrage against this barbarian system as well as a sense of pity for those whites directly responsible.


Only later, under influence of society's de facto apartheid-morality, was I made aware that I could in fact myself have been responsible for the tragedy and thrown into a recurrent moral dilemma:


To what degree could I as an outsider have fully developed human relationships with those who have been condemned as pariahs?


A society wishing to maintain such castes will always condemn such relationships. I had believed that bombings belonged to the 60's, but even if Mary or I had realized the danger, should it have altered our belief in our right to change a crippling taboo system on the personal level? With the dangers it involves for oneself and others?


For Mary it was a hard year. Her mother died from disease as her father had the previous year. And just before her brother fell victim to apartheid, her sister was murdered in Georgia.




sengebillede mangler











Copyright 2005 AMERICAN PICTURES; All rights reserved.


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