The Reverend Norvel Goff speaks inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. (Photograph: David Goldman/Pool/EPA via The Guardian Sunday, June 21, 2015)
What's missing for me today is a place to go. To be with others who share my sorrow. Who wonder how it has happened that so little progress has been made in my 80-plus years.
And it is not any church I want to be seated but a black church--preferably in my last neighborhood: Harlem. If I were back in New York City, citadel of diversity, it would be enough to sit inside my apartment, look out the window, watch black neighbors on their way to the many places of worship surrounding us.
If there, I could take the elevator to the street, encounter neighbors on their way to church perhaps. Or others like me who would share profound discomfort that our whiteness has brought us so much privilege and so little ability to change the racism that remains too present in America.
But I am here: Portland, Oregon, dazzling whiteland, a mostly-denied symbol of what an American state can achieve when it practices institutional racism to the nth degree. People like myself come from other places, keep asking the same question, which has led to a popular presentation by Walidah Imarisha, poet/educator/public intellectual--
Last night we spoke with our daughter and her spouse about the murder of nine black people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church earlier this week. It was the first time I'd had a conversation about it. We've discussed before how this limits our grandchildren's experience of the world around them. While baby-sitting, I read some from an article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly about black women who experienced discrimination during World War II while working had worked in shipyards. To my surprise and pleasure both girls, under ten years, had learned of the importance of Martin Luther King--and his work to improve the lives of all of us.
So I have passed my Sunday morning writing this post, re-discovered a 2006 photo-- a rainbow over Harlem-- hopefulness for African Americans and the rest of us trying to realize the true American dream.