"It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, 'Wait on time.'"
As a child growing up in the divided, deep south of Memphis, Tennessee, I remember with such clarity the woman who helped my mother raise me and my two sisters, after my parents divorced. I remember that whenever we walked across the street from our house to pick up a sack of tangy BBQ pulled-pork sandwiches with sweet coleslaw, Lila wasn't able to go inside the restaurant with us -- not even to simply pick up our to-go order. She had to wait outside. I knew that was wrong at six years old. And when I recited a damaging, racial chant to her that my favorite aunt had taught me the summer before, I knew it, too, was wrong. And when, years later, I was told to not befriend a "colored" boy in my class, I knew that was wrong, as well. And even though I was a small child, I've always known that not one single one of those events should have been ignored. I knew it then, and I know it still. And these childhood experiences left such an indelible mark on my heart that they made their way into my first published book, Honeysuckle Holiday.
And as I grew older and my family moved to West Virginia and I continued to witness moments of racism that I knew were wrong, it wasn't until I had been married a few years that I watched unfold a dear friend be ostracized in her community, because she had fallen in love with a black man -- a union that never enjoyed a single moment of happiness. And when a friend refused to drop me off at my apartment in downtown Charleston one sunny, summer afternoon because there was a gathering of black men across the street, I said something for the first time in my life. And as I exited her car, knowing that the friendship had splintered, I felt the warm rays of the sun on my face and I felt that for just a moment I had risen to the occasion -- I had said something. I had not remained silent. I had chosen a path that would never again allow me to remain voiceless on an issue that needs to shout from the rooftops: "The time is now."