Marceline, don’t just read this and cast it aside, I am writing it and sending it to you for Bettina Network’s Blog. Someone should write your biography. As I saw Kamala Harris I thought about you and had to sit down with my pen before I got involved in something else and this moment would not come again.
We need a Truth and Reconciliation moment as all of this will only accelerate. It is a time during which much history will be forgotten or re-written to satisfy those who want to keep society as it is, but will effect change – for the moment.
When I saw Kamala Harris on that stage, I thought of Marceline Donaldson. I know, I know, you like to write, talk and think about others, but it is time you reflected on your life.
My first thought was that the two of you look enough alike that you could be mother and daughter. And then I realized that was a racist thought because what you have in common physically is your hair and color. Otherwise, you are very different and to realize your hair commonalities one had to know you way back when – before you turned gray.
We have been friends long enough for me to know your first analysis of Kamala Harris would be her clothes style – not southern, not new england, not mid-western, but very decidedly California.
Your second thought was probably to think – she didn’t take ballet lessons and all the rest as a child to force herself into that ‘constrained southern lady’ thing. I say thank goodness. Don’t remember what you would say because you were usually all over the map about that.
I thought immediately of the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force because when I first saw Kamala Harris come onto that stage I started crying and couldn’t stop. I knew I was not alone because I was sure you were doing the same thing. I remembered all the many times this white woman cried with you, for you, and for myself. We will probably be crying for months at the least little things because much of what we experienced has been pent up for decades. It will take more than this for the dam to break, but hopefully, shortly, enough will happen for all of those pushed down feelings that we all have, to erupt.
My pain does not begin to be the huge pains you carry, because I didn’t put myself out the way you did – and probably still do. I want to put out in public just a few because what individual women have gone through just to exist and move ahead in this world needs to be aired. I hope others follow this example and will send you their stories. That kind of pain needs to be shared because those who caused it go around without a thought as to what they did and what they are doing to other human beings just because those others are women. And I mean women and men have caused enormous pain and agony to each other.
The memory I won’t ever forget = can’t forget was being in your brokerage office – Dain, Kalman & Quail, inc. – trying to become one of your clients. You had just become the first African American stock broker in Minnesota. I believe you were the first in the country, even though several African American men have been knocking themselves out to prove otherwise. Don’t know if you knew that, but they approached me trying to get my cooperation. A book or something like it is being written to wipe you out of history.
In that stock brokerage/financial investment office, that day I began to realize the enormity of the problems you were facing and would face and the almost insurmountable obstacles that are thrown in all of our paths on a daily basis. Just to keep us in our place – “less than”. And you as a black woman have had to face unbelievable times. Well “almost black woman” – (howls of laughter from me – a sort of private joke).
Into the office, while I was waiting to see you, came a group of black men. They demanded to see the president and were apparently known by a couple people in the office. They were ushered right into the presidents office. I didn’t know them, but as talk went around me I understood they were the heads of the local offices of a few national civil rights organizations and one was there – brought by the others – to be your replacement. They were in the office that day to demand that you be fired and this black man be hired in your place because of the incredible, horribleness of your having been hired over a black man in the first place.
They expressed their indignation at your being a stock broker and what an insult that was to Black men all over. They wanted you fired and they brought along with them one of the Babington-Johnson brothers as someone who should have been hired instead of you. The fact that you walked into the office and applied for the job, backed by Lillian Anthony as your reference and a few other black and white brothers and sisters meant nothing to them. The fact that the Babington-Johnson brother hadn’t thought about applying for such a job and wasn’t doing that now, but was going along with this kind of awfulness meant nothing to them.
One was head of the Minneapolis Urban Coalition – on which you were a member of the board. We went to a few board meetings together. Another was head of the Mpls Urban League. One was a “gad fly” who worked for one of the large companies – a utility company, I think – whose demeanor I never liked. Never did learn who the others were.
While I sat and waited for you – thank goodness you were no place near to hear all of this – I got to hear the meeting and it was a list of grievances and outrageous insults and put downs of black men with this one topping the list.
I hadn’t thought of that before. I had always thought of black men as allies in this fight for women’s rights. That day changed all of that.
When they left the office, I did too. I couldn’t face anyone after that so I went home. I was so upset it took days for me to settle down. I left that office a strong feminist, although that was not who I was when I went there looking for you. I had been to a luncheon panel discussion on investment at a local hotel – don’t remember which one – an investment luncheon which you organized and led and I was high on women now being equal after that brief time. I should have known better, but I was quite young and ‘unexposed’ never having been in a civil rights fight or organization before that.
Those black men demanding you be fired and a black man hired in your stead did something to me from which I have never recovered. Before witnessing that meeting I was quite shy about calling myself a feminist. After, I have been a proud feminist to this day. And as such a supporter of Kamala Harris for as long as I can participate in this society’s politics.
I hope others follow this example and let the Dam break with the flood of stories of what women – white, black, brown, yellow, red, etc. – have experienced in this life so men could assume the mantle of “superiority over” women and not have to work hard for their “better than” identity. And I hope all women realize it is not only white men who have this “better than” need and whose egos can be bruised quickly by a woman exerting the fact that she is their “equal.” To break the stereotype of women as always held up and respected “on a pedestal”, “motherhood uber alles”, our job being to take care of the home and family while men go out to work, etc. And lets not even begin to go into the stereotype of black women.
Haven’t used your “better than” quotes, but I will do so now extensively. Maybe a little late to the party, but my memories are going to flood out to whoever, wherever I can share them. Unfortunately, they are the memories of an observer rather than of someone who participated in change, but maybe today I can correct that before I leave this earth.