Monday, February 18, 2019

Larry James' Urban Daily: Life under a bedspread

Larry James' Urban Daily: Life under a bedspread: He barely looked up from under the king sized bedspread that covered and contained his life.  I approached him in our service center to ex...

Life under a bedspread

He barely looked up from under the king sized bedspread that covered and contained his life. 

I approached him in our service center to extend my hand in welcome and concern. 

He didn't move. 

He didn't want my hand. 

He was not angry. 

He was rightfully bewildered by my foolish question, "How are you doing?"


"How are you doing?"  Any fool could see how he  was "doing." 

It took every bit of what little he had left to reply to my nonsensical inquiry, "Man, I'm doing the best I can." 

His answer yanked me back to my childhood.  His retort reminded me of my dad's words whenever I faced a challenge, "Son, just do your best."

At times, my father's open ended advice didn't help.  I mean, what was "my best?"  Kind of a moving target often and actually! 

But my best or my effort at my best proved satisfactory at the end of the day, often because of my dad's support and cheering from the sidelines.  My best was enough, many times more than enough with him. 

My exhausted friend hiding under the bedspread should have known my father.  His best would have been enough for my dad on that day, at that time. 

That evaluation should guide us in our response to him and thousands like  him.  Far too often it does not. 

Face-to-face with this man, I saw mostly sadness, deep sadness in the life of a man who had given up on life, even as he did his best. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hate in My Family

My great-grand father, Jackson “Jack” James, murdered an African American freedman in broad daylight in the center of Florence, Texas sometime between the end of the Civil War and 1893. 

My grandfather, John James, told me the story on Thanksgiving 1972 as I tape recorded a part of my family’s oral history. 

Jack James, a Confederate infantryman, believed that the ex-slave insulted his mother, my great-great-grandmother.  Apprehending the man, he marched him into the town and shot him, execution style.  My grandfather, John reported that his father characterized the target of his hatred as “a mean n_____.”

Jack James went to trial and was promptly acquitted by an all-white jury.  In those days Texas juries never convicted white men of crimes against black folks.  Sadly, such verdicts still remain very rare today.

Jack James died in 1893, just eight years after my grandfather was born. 

The Confederate memorial, now located in Dallas’ Pioneer Park, came to our city just three years after the elder James died. 

I’m in favor of the removal of the CSA memorial statues not only because of what they represent and present today, but also and mainly because of the atmosphere, the ambiance they honored, celebrated and perpetuated during the era of their creation--the horrid era of Jim Crow.

The intentions of preservationists might be noble in some cases today.  Those who erected the monuments just 30 years after the Civil War, and about the time of Jack James' crime, had no such noble motivation.  

No, this tribute to the South's Lost Cause sought to embed in our value system the hatred, bias and oppression that sustained slavery and the so-called “Southern Way of Life." 

My grandfather was a hero of mine.  

But he experienced the curse of racism, planted by his father in his soul, ensuring that it captured his entire worldview. 

Indeed, the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children. Still, the cycle of hate and ignorance can be broken.  In any case,  these monuments to hatred and white supremacy in the era of Jim Crow serve no good purpose except to offer us all the opportunity to do what is right, faithful and true by everyone in our city.