My Turn, Evelyn Uddin-khan: Pride, prejudice exist even among good people

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

By Evelyn Uddin-khan

Standing on the corner of West Liberty and North Church streets reading the inscription on the marker brought a profound, goosebumps moment for me.

I felt important. I was witnessing a historical event. My thoughts were: this marker is a symbol of hope and healing. One group of people reached out to the other group — working to acknowledge a wrong done. By the end of the day, I learned a different lesson. People are not who they seem to be.

As a fairly new resident of Salisbury, I am not always up-to-date on the local civic activities. My friends, Pat and Carol, have stepped in and taken charge of my education.

On the morning of Aug. 6, Pat called and informed me about the installation and unveiling of a marker that describes the lynching of Black people in Salisbury and beyond.

The horrors and brutality of lynching Black people in America is not a secret. Everyone knows what it is, who did it, and to whom it was done.

I spent Aug. 6 and 7 trailing Pat around town, broadening my education. I went to three Christian churches, listened to many speeches and presentations. I felt it was a positive moment in American history.

The people in those churches were of many different colors and ethnicities. It was heart-warming just to be there and look around. Some people smiled. Some were somber. On the whole, it was a hopeful and uplifting experience.

At the end of Saturday, when I returned home, someone asked me where I was all day. I was so proud of myself; I just poured out the details of the last 36 hours in full color. I was proud to say, “I saw history in the making.”

The “someone” listened and then said to me, “These Black people should let it go already. Lynching ended 200 years ago. Why are they still harping on this silly stuff?”

I was dumbfounded, speechless. The joy went out of my heart. I had no answer.

I am not very smart with quick rebuttals. I claimed hunger, ended the conversation and went into my house.

And so, we Americans move on. Hope? Healing? Uplifting? Am I a fool or an optimist?

For every person inside those churches, there is probably four outside who is like my “someone.”

There are several issues here. Most people in this country do not know American history. How can any intelligent person make such a racist comment unless they hate that group of people? Perhaps there are more prejudiced, bigoted people in our presence than we realize.

This same “someone” in a comment during the 2020 election said that, “So-and-so must win this election because just as God sent Jesus to save the world, God sent so-and-so to save the United States of America.” Amen.

At the time, I told myself, “Take heart! This too shall pass.” Now, I am not so sure. Not knowing history is one of the greatest deficiencies in our education system. However, to make such openly racist remarks, not caring how your words might affect or offend your listener speaks volumes about the mentality of the people with whom we share our space, our lives.

On those two days in August, I was so happy to be among those people in those three churches experiencing a moment of hope and healing. There were no color lines; people were there to admit a wrong, and to support each other.

People were putting a marker to the memory and the injustice done against innocent people.

On my doorstep, “someone” burst my bubble.

What a pity that racism is so prevalent and such a destructive element in our lives. I pray that marker stands on that corner and everyone and “someone” sees it and reads its historical reminder. And I hope no one else is ever lynched again.

My “someone” is a kind and helpful person. My “someone” perhaps hate certain people. I cannot understand or explain the two people within the same skin. Can anyone?

Evelyn Uddin-khan moved to Salisbury in 2018 after living in the New York City area for most of her life. She taught in public schools and for a community college in the New York City area.