She invited me over. The counter read “how long can you last?” and I sat. Put the headphones on. Placed my hands on the sit-in counter. Closed my eyes.
I was transported to the lunch counters. It started with the sounds of a busy lunchtime cafe. People talking, eating, laughing BANG the counter and my chair shook and I jumped. I heard his hate dipped voice on the back of my neck, his teeth sucked in his disgust, as he continued… I didn’t belong here, he’d make sure I paid for thinking I could sit here, his rage growing as he got louder and louder and my chair shook from his anger. I could hear his buddies doing the same to the one who sat beside me. Their voices an evil I have never been the target of.
A tear starts inside my lids and betrays me as it spills over. My hands are still on the counter. I cannot keep my body still when they scream and slam hatred.
It builds and I swear it’s less than a minute long and then it ends. My mind rushes through the history. This lasted hours in real life. Hours that went on for weeks. I’ve never seen these tears I’m wiping off on the faces of those who braved this evil. My body never touched. I’m not worried about dying as I climb down. There was no one there for them like she was for me, offering me a tissue and place to talk about what just happened.
Something about that one minute has left me restless, angry, judging. The next room has benches that say “no one really knows why they are alive until they know what they would die for” and then room after room, memorial after memorial, remembering those who gave their lives for this fight while me and my people keep making excuses for why a day, a week, a month, a year has gone by while we keep wringing our hands.
Posted from Atlanta, GA about an exhibit at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights