Our grandkids would be embarrassed. G’Dad and I are constantly fumbling in the dark for a solution that is readily available through the Google. Yes, I said “the Google”. Youngest G’son laughed when I first used that term. It’s kinda like Trump when he refers to “the Blacks”. I am frequently referring to “the Google” which I think is appropriate because it is both a noun and a verb.
By way of background, G’dad and I work hard to keep up with technology, but it is impossible. He started out as a database specialist (i.e., data mining) and I was a computer programmer (i.e., systems engineer). Keeping up is not only hard for us but for others. Like the dog chasing the truck down the street, we’ll never catch up, but we have lots of company.
This morning I found myself lamenting that I no longer have a clock radio (an old fashioned combination of clock and radio used to wake people up for work.) so I can listen to NPR when I wake up. Oops, I forgot that I can get Podcasts. Duh! That’s another thing…. They keep renaming things. A podcast is just a series of recordings so why don’t they just call them recordings. Like Aps are just “applications” that used to be called programs. And the one that tops them all is movie versus film versus video. Oy vey!
But I digress. This whole streaming thing is wonderful. Not only can I get NPR podcasts, but I can get just about anything that has been filmed, recorded or spoken for many years back. We used to lament having 800 channels of junk, but now we have streaming with Youtube, Empire, Game of Thrones, Billions, and all my favorite tv shows that I missed. That’s the upside. The downside is that I now spend too much time bingeing on series/movies/films.
Oh well…. Have to get back to season one of Billions.
Being born in the semi-south (northern Virginia) and raised during the 50ties, I had a brush with segregation. I use the term brush because when compared to my more southern counterparts, my life was a piece of cake. I recall that I could not try on hats at the local Woodrow and Lothrop department store. I could not go to the movie theater one block from my house, and could not eat in local restaurants. Nor could I attend local swimming pools, skating rinks, and schools and neighborhoods were segregated. These were just a few of the many things that were part of my life in the semi-south. It was easy to view these things as “the way life is”. Then 40 years later my education about the system of slavery began.
My mis-education about the system of segregation and slavery was based upon the minute information disclosed during elementary school history class which was buttressed by the sanitized movies about the wonderful lives of slaves (aka Gone with the Wind). Even Bill O’Reilly said slaves at the white house were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” Whitehead’s book, Underground Railroad, turned my thinking about the institution of slavery upside down and inside out.
I read Whiteheads’s book during an intersection of events. First, was a couples vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, which I learned was ground zero for the slave industry. The second event was the receipt of a Smithsonian magazine titled Black in America prompted by the opening of the African American Museum. The third occurred because I was desperately looking for a good book to read, which led me to the New York Times book review where The Underground Railroad was listed. Finally, I joined a book club and naturally the book being read this month is The Underground Railroad.
I probably would have overlooked any one of these events and filed it away under miscellaneous knowledge soon to be forgotten. It was the convergence of the four events that has thrown me into a tailspin.
While visiting Charleston, I was able to view the history of the major center of the slave industry from a purely business perspective. How well organized it was with great record keeping systems.. At one point, there were 40 different auction businesses housing brokers with jail cells for the “enslaved Africans.” It was in Charleston that I learned the term “enslaved Africans” as the correct new terminology that acknowledges the humanity of people considered property. The auction houses were the terminus for a network of slave catchers, slave thieves, and brokers ranging across the southern states. When someone needed money they would simply sell some of their “property” through this network. Viewing this from a business perspective allowed me to ignore the emotional impact of selling children away from their parents and wives from their husbands.
When I returned home from Charleston, the Smithsonian magazine was there to continue my education. It was filled with stories from the new African American museum which addressed the contributions of Enslaved Africans to the development of the United States. It described the migration of enslaved Americans after the 13th Amendment was passed (12/6/1865) and the effects of that migration. Then when I picked up the Underground Railroad all the emotions began to flow as I read of the degradation, beatings, hangings, maiming, rape, and psychological damage inflicted upon my ancestors. His book is based upon “slave” oral histories captured by the Library of Congress wrapped in incredible creative writing skills. The “business perspective” barrier that I had erected came crashing down around my ankles.
Now I am faced with book club where I will be the only brown skinned person in the room. This should be interesting.
While taking a tour of Charleston, South Carolina, the tour guide asked everyone where they were from, and I said Alexandria, Virginia. Since he was very familiar with the area churches, he asked “what church do you belong to?” Everything he had said up to that point made it clear that he was a a devout church goer and choir member. I knew I had to come up with a name or he would launch into a stream of questions about my beliefs, and a tour bus was not the place where I wanted to have this discussion.
Fortunately, he knew the area I was from and added more specificity to his question. “Do you belong to Alfred Street Baptist”. To which I quickly answered “yes”.
Now, this was not the first time I had encountered a scenario like this. The first time was at a Baptist women’s retreat. My best friend, Maryland, was always asking me to attend functions at her church. So, I finally said yes. We broke up into groups, and started chatting among ourselves. Then came “the question” “what church do you belong to.” Without thinking, I said “I don’t belong to a church”. You would have thought I had admitted to being an alien. The earth stopped spinning. Conversations stopped in mid-sentence, and all eyes were on me. The answer is complicated. How could I explain to them that I didn’t believe in one of the basic tenets of their religion…. The bible. How could I explain my spirituality versus their religiosity.
I chickened out. I said that my husband and I visit churches, but hadn’t picked one. Fortunately, that was an excuse they could understand, and the world started spinning again.
I’m going to have to work on my answer. I want to be able to answer with conviction. I want to admit that I believe in the connectedness of all mankind, which exceeds the bounds of religions. My wussiness is my major character flaw. Next time, I will stand up and witness!