When I found Tanya she was crying. Not more than a minute before I found her, a fight broke out less than 10 feet in front of me. Like many of the others, I ran. Police with guns as big as I am were quick to diffuse the first real fight that broke out at the rally. The KKK had just begun to arrive and already, I knew this would be trouble.
Before you close your browser, this is not about the KKK, not specifically anyway. It’s about all of us.
I ran far enough to be out of direct harm, but a very curious me was not quite ready to leave. I made my way back towards the barricade and that is where I found her. Tanya was wearing a bright green shirt. The young lady behind her was yelling about how the policeman had touched her with his gun. The woman to the left was shouting about how uneducated the KKK is. In fact, most people were shouting. Not Tanya. She was crying. Weeping is probably more accurate. Me being me, I asked Tanya what was wrong. She looked at me and said, “there’s so much hatred.” “Do you need a hug?” I asked. She did, so I hugged her. Then I told her that I understood. That I would be crying with her, except that I have cried all the tears I have to cry this summer. She agreed that it had been a long year. A man approached and he comforted her. Then they left. That was the end of my interaction with Tanya.
A little while later, I met John. John is very tall. We talked at length about family, school, and my future. We agreed that this kind of hatred was not productive. We were both there to watch. John asked me about my major. What are you going to do when you graduate? Have you thought about a school? Do you want to stay in South Carolina? Are you going to do something on this for a class? We talked and talked about his brothers and his sons. We talked about the flag and the KKK. I mentioned my blog and gave him my card. When it ended, he offered me a ride to my car, an offer I politely declined, but would’ve had no qualms taking. John understood, he was simply making sure I felt safe getting back to my car, seeing as I was alone. When it was over, I hightailed it to my car. I called my mother, mostly so that if something happened to me between the rally and my car, she would know. Then I went home.
Now you’re wondering what the point of my story is.
Whatever images you conjure up in your imagination is probably an accurate depiction of what happened (minus the white robes). If your imagination fails you, choose a news outlet (but not WLTX, they refused to broadcast the hatred).
Today I felt like a human being. In the midst of sensory overload and drama and hatred, Tanya and John reminded me that the world is full of people. People who care, people who love, people who look out for strangers. I felt a lot of things today: anger, sadness, confusion, and even fear despite the incredible police presence. I felt all those things, but somehow or another, I also found people who made me feel hopeful, optimistic and cared about. In spite of all the anger and violence that surrounded me, I was reminded of what it’s all about. In the moment, it didn’t matter who I was, what I looked like, how old I am or anything like that. With Tanya, it just mattered that I was there. With John, it just mattered that I was a person. The shouts of white power angered many. Some came looking to have a fight. Others looked to see a fight. Me? I just looked to learn. And what I learned is that even in the darkest of places, on the hardest of days and in the midst of chaos, you are never alone. And when you get right down to it, there is so much more to life than anger and hatred, so much more to life than yelling and screaming and showboating. It is decidedly not productive. So this is for John and Tanya and everyone who makes it a point to be the good in the world even when hatred surrounds you.