My intention was to write a post about Father’s Day – about a backyard barbecue, my husband’s favorite chocolate cake, an afternoon at the pool and all the shenanigans my girls have planned to celebrate the occasion. I was going to tell you about all of my husband’s endearing attributes and the many ways that he takes care of all of us.
About how he accompanied our 8-year-old daughter to camp for a week as a chaperone for her and about 530 of her bestest – best friends, so that she could feel comfortable and enjoy herself on her first trip away from home (swoon!).
I was going to tell you about how he volunteers at the kid’s school when he can and makes sure that he can help me cart the kids around to their evening activities when he’s available.
Most important, I was going to tell you about how intentional he is in showing our children how a man is supposed to respect a woman, how a husband is supposed to love his wife and how a father is supposed to provide for his children.
I was going to tell you all of this and I guess I just did, but then the act of race based terrorism occurred in Charleston, South Carolina and suddenly I couldn’t think or speak. My thoughts became jumbled – my sentences incomplete. Paralyzed would be a good word for it, but not with fear or surprise or even anger. Paralyzed from immense sadness. Sad for the lives lost and sad for our country that can’t seem to get this right.
Upon hearing the news, I immediately had 2 thoughts run through my mind: 1) The 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama; and 2) my father.
I’m not yet ready to talk about the church bombing as it relates to the events in Charleston, but on this Father’s Day, I do want to talk about my dad.
I have written about my dad’s views on race before and how often over the years we have disagreed on just how far race relations have come in this country. I tend to be a bit more hopeful and optimistic than he was and as a result Daddy thought me to be a very naive girl. He died 6 years ago and in the years since his death, I have to say that my optimism has taken a serious hit. If he were living, I am certain that by the end of this past week, he would have called me and more or less said “I told you so.” This time I wouldn’t have argued with him because now I have to admit that America’s “progress,” as it relates to race relations, seems to be more of a myth than a reality.
This year I am actually glad that he is not here to celebrate Father’s Day because if he were still alive, he would be 86 – years-old. Old enough to remember segregation, night riders, race riots, peaceful protests for voting rights, lynchings, church bombings and so on. He would be angry, disgusted and probably feeling like as a country, when it comes to race, we have been mired in mud for the past 50 years.
And in response, I’ve got nothing.
No, this is not the Father’s Day tribute that I wanted to write, but it is the Father’s Day post that I felt led to write probably because as I read their bios I noticed that some of the Charleston victims were around my dad’s age. It struck me how horrifying it must have been for them to realize that this same evil that they had lived with, marched against and protested had come to take their lives so many years later. How many times had they stood in that very church and sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” or “We Shall Overcome” only to find out (in the most terrifying way) that they hadn’t overcome much at all? At this moment our victories seem very shallow indeed.
So, as I sit here typing in the very early hours of Father’s Day morning, I’m trying to find my optimism again. I’m trying to reconnect with the daughter who would argue with her father about racial progress and hope for change. Although it is clear to me that this particular shooter is not the only white person in American to hold those same beliefs, I want to believe that there are far more who are on the side of seeking racial and social justice. Ultimately, I want to be the one who can stand and say, “Daddy, I told you so.”