As two of the five Blacks who were on the Square Sunday, July 19, it is incredibly important that we express our experiences.
While driving through Covington, my husband Kevin and I noticed a gathering on the Square and people, mostly “white people,” sitting in the park and taking photos. Understanding the current climate of our Newton County community, we went home and began to have the discussion of going back to gain a better understanding of what was happening. I have a degree in communications and cultural studies, so my need to understand overwhelmed me and I agreed to go back. Kevin, a Marine and lover of history, needed to understand for himself also.
We returned to the Square and were able to secure a spot front and center of the Square where there were no parking spaces just 30 minutes earlier. With our windows down, we heard a man talking to a small group of people mostly “white people.” As we looked on, we noticed he was speaking to a middle-aged Black man and a younger Black boy.
I looked on from the car as Kevin stepped out to move in closer to the conversation. The presence of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and the Covington Police working in tandem to keep us all safe was clear.
From the car I could overhear the gentleman say, “Some people think we are rooted in hate.” It was then clear to me that I had a front row seat to a cultural study lesson. I could not sit still and exited our vehicle to move in as well. The gentleman, who I later found out is Tim E Culbreth, second lieutenant, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp 108, went on to say that he “wishes that people did not look at everyone the same, there are both good and bad people.” Before I could hear more, I noticed Mr. Culbreth extend his hand in a two-handed handshake to the “black man” who was standing in front of him and then to Kevin. I could not help but blurt out how nice it was to see two people who did not agree shake hands in such a way. Mr. Culbreth’s wife then commented, “See, this is what the media does not talk about.” I then promised her I would write these very words to talk about it.
As we walked away another “white woman” came over to us and said that we needed to pray for our nation. As the conversation went on it became clear to me that there is a communication breakdown between the races accompanied by a lack of understanding when it comes to perspective and definition.
As I reflect today, I am wondering what made this “white man” walk over and speak to those, then us “Black people”? Was it to make peace? Or was he looking to say his piece? Did he know that not “all Black people” think that “all white people” are bad? Are we all divided over political issues that have been lingering in this country for years and now history is repeating itself? Either way, it felt as if this group of people just wanted to be together to share stories and spend time together.
After our 30-minute visit of understanding we got back in our cars and drove home thinking, where do we go from here? How do we bridge the racial and political communication in a way that satisfies “people” that we hear them, that we understand them? At this peaceful gathering, this white man shook every Black hand he saw and with all that is happening, we are grateful to have gained some glimpse of understanding the other side.
Kevin and I thought long and hard all night and wondered, what if we all just tried to understand? What if we just tried to reach across the aisle to see if anyone will shake our hand? There must be some point of agreement in any situation, if only we can find a way to understand and communicate across the aisle.