Yesterday at 3:00 p.m. sharp, I stood at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and U.S. Interstate 10 with two black women in Orange, Texas. We were the first to gather at a protest of the recently erected Confederate monument there. We were the only ones who had arrived at that point.
A pick-up truck with two men in it pulled up to the light and rolled down the passenger’s window. The driver, a large white man with light facial hair and a baseball cap, motioned for me to approach the truck. He then asked me what we were doing there.
“We are protesting the Confederate monument,” I replied. “We feel it is offensive to the community. We would like for the site to be re-purposed.”
“Get the f— out of here,” he yelled at me menacingly. “Get the f— out of here,” he shouted again, raising his voice even louder with an extremely aggressive tone.
He rolled up the window as he stomped on the gas and sped away.
“You could count the number of negative responses to our protest on one hand,” said one of the event’s organizers, Louis Ackerman, president and co-founder of Southeast Texas Progressives.
It’s true: during the two hours we were there yesterday, the overwhelming number of people who drove by gave us the thumbs-up or waved in solidarity.
But that man’s reaction and face continue to sear in my mind.
That’s my wife Tracie in the photo directly above. Reverend Franklin Gans, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, is standing next to her. She went to high school in Orange with his daughter. He and Tracie’s father, Reverend Randy Branch, worked together for years at the Dupont oil refinery there.
Earlier in the day, our family had joined the NAACP for its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march. Randy and Jane, my mother-in-law, joined us, as did aunt Ida and uncle Tim. And of course, our daughters Georgia and Lila Jane marched with us as well (we didn’t take them to the protest that afternoon, for obvious reasons).
The local ABC affiliate did a story on our protest. Please check it out here. Linda, who is featured in the segment, was one of the women standing with me on the corner when the man in the truck rolled down his window.
Our numbers are growing and we are not going to stop until we get that site re-purposed. Stay tuned for details and please message me if you want to help or join us in our campaign. Our next protest will take place in a few weeks.
And please read this excellent column published yesterday by Evangelical Christian and conservative essayist Michael Gerson, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush and a longtime Republican.
“Racism is not a single issue among many to be weighed equally with tax or trade policy,” he wrote on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. “Trump is at war with the central ideal of the Republic — a vision of strength through inclusion and equality that makes our country special and exceptional. The president is wrong — repeatedly and offensively wrong — on the centerpiece question of our history: Are there gradations in the image of God? The only acceptable, only American answer is ‘no.'”
The only American answer is “no, we won’t get the f— out.”
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support and solidarity. Stay tuned.