Day 251 - Parks & Crump
I got an emotional lift this week. I found out that my old law school classmate Ben Crump will be helping the Floyd family in their pursuit of justice for George Floyd. This made me a little elated because I know the family is in good hands. And I also know that Ben will bring to the conversation principle, intellect and grace. Three things that are missing quite often these days from any discussion, especially ones that involve race.
I spent three years with Daryl Parks and Ben Crump 25 years ago. They were bright, motivated, hard working law students that did not have an easy time going to law school in the Deep South. I would guess that their experience in law school was no different than their experiences in other places in their lives. But I know it had to be hard. They having to work twice as hard to be considered as half as good by many of the white law students. People were unkind. People put a swasticka on the black law student association bulletin board. I do not remember a big deal being made about this at the time. I also do not recall the school ever getting to the bottom of this most hateful act. Can you imagine having to go to school everyday wondering which one of your classmates hated you because of the color of your skin and was so moved by that hate to communicate it in a public forum? I can't and that is the issue. I can't understand...ever. I can only try to understand and listen and speak out when I see the hate. I wasn't able to do that back then...I apologize.
Admittedly I was checked out as we all graduated. I was newly sober and kind of a mess. Having to deal with the life that I was barely living now taking the main stage and me having to get my shit together. So I am a little fuzzy on the details due to my own self involvement. Not flattering, but true.
I remember Ben being this quiet, kind, intelligent soul. Who spoke softly and never with anger. He was peaceful and thoughtful with his words and his manner. He was not loud or boisterous. He was just there all the time, quietly doing the work and living his life.
Daryl was outgoing, funny and very personable. He was always kind to me and had a smile that would light up a room.
Underneath all the politeness that was expressed moving from class to class, there were murmurings about both of these men’s competence. I heard the talk and largely I ignored it. I guess self concern helped me out there because I was too stuck on me to really think about much else. However, I did hear it and I did nothing about it so I am complicit. I apologize now. I am sorry that I didn’t do more or say more or see more.
What I remember is the racial tension at the school all the time. Perhaps leading up to the hate speech being scrawled across the student lounge bulletin board, the only real outward, concrete example of the racism that ran deep. There it was for all to see. And there we were not really dealing with it. And that would be white privilege in action. I wish I would have been paying more attention. I wish I would have not been so self involved. I am sorry that I once again allowed my privilege to grant me access to a place that only white privilege can: to not concern oneself with such things.
It makes me so happy that despite this hard and not so pleasant start, both of these men have gone on to help others. They leaders in the community and legal landscape in my old home town. I am honored to have been a classmate and am humbled by own inadequacies when I hold myself anywhere near either of these men. They are the real deal. They took all the hate, prejudice and racism and channeled it into a law career founded on service, love and grace.
Sometimes in life you get to look back and see your part. Sometimes you get to see the past and have it be rewritten for you. I am there now. I was part of the problem. I didn’t use the voice I have to do anything to help anyone. I sat by and watched and said nothing out of fear that what I would say would be wrong or misinterpreted. I was wrong. I could have asked how I could have been of service. I could have asked how I could help. I could do what these two men have been doing for the past 25 years, asking the very simple but profound question “how can I help?”
I am grateful for being able to observe the two great examples of hard work, dedication and intelligence that were Daryl Parks and Ben Crump. I know that they will bring the same high level of love and service to bringing justice to George Floyd. And, this time, I won’t be silent. I am here and ready to do whatever I can to further the awakening about racism in our world. Thank you for being the constant example of good work, good deeds, good practice and honor Mr. Parks and Mr. Crump. Carry on. Carry on.