Hope

It’s not the glee at finally being rid of Bush or anyone like him that I remember about the day after the election, nor was it celebrating that the same America who elected George W. Bush twice was now welcoming its first black president.

No, what I sadly recall is overhearing an upperclassman talk about wanting to take his father’s shotgun to the White House as we sat in our computer class. The murmurs in the hallway featuring words I would never repeat here, in a town I never realized was like this.

I remember sitting beside you as you spoke of lynching before Pre-Calculus began. I had known you for several years at that point, and I was unaware something so vile sat inside your heart. That not only did you carry so much hatred toward those of differing beliefs, but that it was expressed through a desire for racial violence – all of this coming from one of the most bullied girls in our school.

To think I used to pity you.

I had been ignorant enough to believe this type of vitriol was limited to the south – that everyone was equally shocked back when our eighth grade history teacher spoke of the time her grandmother casually mentioned baking for her father’s Klan meetings over dinner. Soon after the election, another history teacher who had a particular focus on the Civil Rights movement informed us that even our own town of Mt. Zion had a history with lynching.

His name was Samuel Bush, and he was accused of assaulting a white Mt. Zion woman and taken to the jail over in Decatur. The Deputy Sheriff and Chief of Police tried to talk down the mob of nearly one thousand people that had gathered, an act for which the latter was assaulted. Sam Bush was dragged naked through the streets, offered a last word as a noose was already so tight around his neck that it had to be loosened for him to speak. “I hope to see you again in heaven,” he told the crowd of people gathered to murder him.

Our town is the type of place where you imagine the same families hanging around for well over a century; was your great-great-grandfather one of the men who gathered to hang Samuel Bush at the corner of Wood and Water? Which, now that I’m looking at a map of Decatur, I realize is a corner right outside the building where my step-father and aunt work.

I never realized this was so close to home.

Mt. Zion was so white-washed that I never really had to think about race until Obama became president. I assumed everyone had accepted the whole ‘racism is bad’ thing – the worst I thought was maybe some misguided beliefs through our lack of really experiencing diversity. But to you and your kind, Obama was a very real threat.

A bit later, that same teacher brought in a cousin of Emmett Till as a speaker. He told our school of that horrid night, of being there at one of the most nauseating atrocities in American history. I’d like to think this got through to people like you, that hearing a first-hand account of such horror would wake you up.

But more than likely, his story fell on deaf ears.

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