I realize I am the whitest woman you know. Not in terms of my cultural expression or my demonstrated beliefs but between the hair and zero sun, come on, yes I know. From in here, the extraordinary privilege I have, awarded at birth, I am an extra double dip pure vanilla cone. But it does not evoke anything but shame when a white supremacist uses me as a reason to shoot, kill or, even, breathe. Scout got that message and so do I. Tom Robinson wanted nothing to do with Miss Mayella and, be it foolish or wise, I sorta walk around with that idea in my head in our non-fiction world. I was 12 when that book came out and I crawled right up into it as if it was scripture.
Last night I challenged myself to find the nearest AME Church and go to their prayer vigil. I say challenge because I needed to make room in my head and heart that I might be unwelcome. Frankly, I felt that I could be unwelcome for many reasons, not just being white when the shooter claimed he was killing on my behalf but also because I will never know the deep pain of being African American in the U.S.
It is staggering how wrong I was. I was invited to pray for the AME Congregation in South Carolina, to pray to be able to forgive, to pray for strength, to pray for peace in the streets of my new city. A woman preached who said that God knew in advance this was going to happen; it was only a surprise to us. My hand was held in a circle of songs. I was hugged at least a dozen times. I was given what I wanted to give but had no way.
It is a personal miracle I am claiming for myself that my home is surrounded by mocking birds. They lift me 24 hours a day. As the story goes, they do not harm another living creature. But, like Atticus, let us shoot the fucking rabid dog - the maniacal bigotry and hatred it represents and bury it with the last confederate flag.
My own father died when I was eight. You can’t imagine how much I pretended it was me in that rocking chair in the arms of Atticus.