Sometimes there are books that speak for themselves. The Color of Love , an autobiography of Gene Creek, "a blue-collar son of the South" is one of these. Gene's life-journey is noteworthy for one significant reason: in the Jim Crow South his mother, rejected by her alcoholic husband, fell in love with a black man. This book is the story that documents the life-changing events which then Gene experienced.
Gene recreated his family history as best as possible. Here are some excerpts:
Advice which he received from his maternal grandmother when Gene admitted to hating his father:
"Mean he is," Grandma said. "But you shouldn't hate him for it. People who hate other people are miserable people. There's enough hate in this world already, honey, especially here in the South. White people hate the colored and the colored hate the black." p. 127
When his mother revealed her love:
"You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was 1961; we lived in...the heart of Dixie. I knew to the southern man there was no greater sin than race mixing. The prevailing views of most white southerners concerning blacks where not news to me. I knew that the majority of the white world--including my father--considered blacks less than human." p. 145
"To me it boiled down to one simple issue: mama loved me, I loved her, and she loved this man [Tuck]. I'd heard it said in church. 'You have to walk it like you talk it.'... 'If you love this man and he loves you, then the color of his skin doesn't matter,' I said to Mama." p. 148
Reflecting on his anxieties the first visit to Tuck's house:
"On the night of my first visit with Tuck, I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs...A black man with a white woman and a white boy? Where could we go together that wouldn't trigger threats and admonishments and probable violence? We couldn't eat at a downtown restaurant or shop at the department store or stroll in the park together." p. 157
When white teenagers were harassing Tuck and his mother:
"'Don't worry, Tuck said. 'They can't do anything to us as long as we're in the car.' Somehow he remained calm. It occurred to me that this was nothing new to him. Getting cussed and chased by white men was just a way of life for most black men in the South." p. 164
A talk with Tuck:
"Tuck and I talked while Mama made supper. 'You know, I love America. I fought for this country during World War II. When we were fighting against the Nazis, I figured that we were fighting for freedom. We believed that we when we came back home we'd be treated as equals. But that didn't happen. In fact, in some ways it got worse. We couldn't even wear our uniforms in public when we got back. When I was discharged in 1946 the people at Fort Bragg told us not to leave the base in our uniforms because blacks were being beaten and stripped of their medals and even the buttons on their coats." p. 168
At the hearing when Gene was taken away from his mother after his step-brother, Randy, was born:
"What choice did she have? Had she admitted the truth--that Tuck was the Negro father of her son--she would be confessing to a felony according to North Carolina's anti-miscegenation laws. And if she was convicted of a felony, she and Tuck faced prison, and what would happen to Randy and me?" p. 209
|Gene, Tuck, and Randy, 1962|
This true story may seem unbelievable to those who are younger than I am. To be honest, as a person who grew up during this time period in the North, I also shook my head many times in disbelief. Gene's mother and Tuck were married in 1979--six years after North Carolina repealed the anti-miscegenation law. By then, I had graduated from college with no clue how one day I would be touched by this story.
Gene concludes the book with his honest confession:
"While writing this book, I did gain understanding, and with it came forgiveness, but I have not forgotten. The facts are this will remain a part of my life, as long as there is life. I'm not sure complete healing is attainable. I don't think I will ever forget, and I'm not sure I should." p. 258
I, for one, am glad you didn't, Gene.