When I was in the eleventh grade, the KKK held a parade, and I watched as it went by. This was 1987, and the town was Texarkana.
There were no floats, no bands, no citizens throwing candy—just dozens of ghostly men in pointed hoods, yelling words I couldn’t believe I was hearing.
“What do we want?”
“What do we need?”
I was there as a reporter for the high school newspaper. When I said I’d cover the news, I wanted my byline next to the story. But seeing those masks and hearing those voices made me wish I wasn’t there. I didn’t want to write about it. I didn’t want to think about it. I wanted it all to just go away.
I don’t want to write about it now.
But it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I have some things to say about the way that I’ve behaved. I always knew that God made all humankind, that each person is His, no matter what clan or land we come from, no matter the color of our skin. But my heart is dark, and I’ve stood idly by so many times when I should have been less shy.
“I’m not racist,” said the husband of a cousin at the family reunion last year. “I can’t stand racism. I hate it. But the only one’s that’s causin’ the problems is the blacks.” And I stood there, dumbfounded, not knowing how to counter such insanity.
A few months ago, I heard a woman say that she wanted to move to Oklahoma just to get away from the Asians. I scrunched my face, I shook my head. But I avoided the conversation.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Oh Lord, let me be a friend who speaks up for your creatures. Let not my silence be the thing that’s remembered.
April Pickle lives under a green roof with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and teaches journalism and literature at a university-model high school. One cold day, when April was in the fourth grade, she closed the car door on her winter coat and, unbeknownst to her or her father, prevented the door from latching all the way. Half a mile down the road, her daddy turned a corner, the door flew open, and she fell out. Thanks to the thickness of the coat, she was unharmed.