(This post is not like my others. I wrote it quickly and did not edit it because I have so much weighing on my mind right now and wanted my thoughts to come out as they are. Pardon me if this is a little less clean cut than other things I've written.)
There is an evil, hateful place in my town. I just found out about it, and apparently, I’m the only person around who had no idea something like this could still exist. A few miles down the street from where I live, there is a “biker” bar. Only, this isn’t like other bars. I’ve never been there, but I found out that I know many people who have. From what I have been told, when you walk in the door, the first thing you will see is a black mannequin hanging from a noose. There are signs littering the walls, proclaiming white supremacy. It is allowed to operate because some of our police force are members of this private club, and the rest of the law enforcement officials are too intimidated to try and close it down, mostly because it would be unsafe for them to go there and try. The members of the bar carry weapons, and it is very apparent that the good, southern hospitality I have always known is a farce. And it is right down the road.
The other night, someone asked me if I had black friends. I am sure I looked shocked as I answered. Because, of course, I do. This is 2011. It was his turn to look shocked. And my skin started to crawl as I realized he was serious. He felt the need to walk away from me in disgust, and I must be honest, the feeling was mutual.
Later that evening, a friend laughed and told me that people like myself don’t exist around our parts. That people who believe equality and love and acceptance are so important, while at the same time remaining true to our southern heritage and loving where we’ve come from, that we are few and far between. He said I will never meet the kind of man I hope to love someday, because he is not out there. And I rolled my eyes, but my heart did skip a beat because I am scared he may be right.
Last night, I went to a bar with some friends. I couldn’t help but notice that, as we walked up, people stared. A few of my friends, those with darker skin pigment than myself, got very nasty looks from some of the patrons already there. I even got a few glances for walking up with them. There was a very visible feeling of discomfort that came across some of their faces as we entered the bar. Bodies tensed up. People stood straighter, stared hard.
Maybe I’m becoming more sensitive after processing some of the recent information I was given. Maybe I’m just noticing more of what has always been there. Maybe it is more shocking to me because these people, the ones who harbor these hateful thoughts, are so wonderful to me, and I don’t understand how they can be so divided in their hearts and minds.
I cannot wrap my head around this. I cannot understand this ignorance and this hatred. I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face. I knew it existed. I just never realized how blatant it could be, right in my own hometown. People that I’ve known and loved and respected.
My head is spinning and my heart is beating too fast. I ache for myself and I ache for those who believe such ignorant things and I ache for those who are affected by those beliefs. This is my home and these are my people and I’m beginning to wonder if I belong. I don’t want to fit in if ‘in’ means hate. But standing up for what you believe when what you believe is not popular? It can make for some lonely days and nights.