Dee's Blog
Tue 10/28/2014
Conversation with a Wise Old Man
Topic: Shame

Two day ago I met Joelouis Mattox,an elderly gentleman, a historian of color, who has a passion for teaching young people the lessons of slavery and freedom.  See as an example.

 Joelouis was telling me that when he goes into schools to talk to classrooms about slavery, the resistance he encounters is not from the white children. "They want to hear, and they're eager to talk about it," he told me.  "It's the black children who don't want to hear it!"

 I thought about that, but not for long without venturing a hunch as to why.  "Could it have to do with shame? I asked.  "Because victims who have not found a way to move on, finding ways to thrive in spite of their past, often see themselves as losers.  And, of course, nobody wants to be a loser.  Losers are often ashamed, even though their losing isn't their own fault."

 "I think it's because they are ashamed that their ancestors so often weren't able to do anything except submit," he suggested.

 "Yet these children need to know that there is no shame in being helpless and powerless.  All of us at some point in our lives have been helpless and powerless.  It's a part of being human," I said.

We went on to talk about the exceptions, the men and sometimes women, too, who were able to escape and even to join the Union in fighting for their own freedom.

 Joelouis says he likes to surprise black children, to see the look on their faces when he tells them that there were over 200,000 white men who died that we black folks might be free.  "They never realized that so many really did care about them," he said, though we both acknowledged that not everyone who died on the Union side were radical abolitionists.  Still many stayed to fight even after Lincoln declared the War to be about slavery. According to Joelouis, that's very important as we put things into perspective.

The white kids often don't know that, had it not been for the black soldiers. who proved themselves so courageous to the Union Army, this United States of America probably would not have endured. 

How's that for evening the score?  There's no shame in being helpless and powerless as individuals.  Only when we find people who have managed to thrive (on all sides of the equation)--victims, survivors, and advocates together--are we able to experience true victory and embrace unity.

The only real losers are the perpetrators of injustice.

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Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 3:22 PM CDT
Updated: Tue 11/04/2014 8:04 AM CST

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