The following letter was written by one of our recent LGBT Wedding Expo exhibitors, Douglass Carr Cunningham, who joined us at our Charleston event in August 2016. He shared this piece with us and expressed this thoughts that it rang true for the LGBT community as well as the African American community. We agree! And thought it well worth sharing. Enjoy, as you savor the insights and uplifting message:
THIS LETTER IS IN RESPONSE TO RON BRINSON’S EXCELLENT
JULY 16 ARTICLE FOR RACIAL HEALING
One Foot In Power, One In Slavery…We Can Heal
By Douglas Carr Cunningham
We Americans continue to live under the dark cloud of racial conflict, when the truth and solution is right in front of us.
Our national concept of multiculturalism and diversity must be discarded as the dialogue in regards to our racial relationships; our commonality and unity as Americans must be stressed, instead. I have long believed we are of the same race, and should not separated into ‘divisions.’ I am frustrated and a bit angry that we are in categories that separate us – white, African-American, Latino, Asian, etc. Our outward appearances are somewhat different, but it is fact that we share the same blood and DNA. Our strength as Americans is our unity as one people, one soul.
I am told that I am naïve in my belief, but to bring us all together our national dialogue must change. We are constantly being manipulated.
‘Diversity’ is a culprit. I abhor the word and how it is used for political purposes. By its very definition, ‘Diversity’ means difference, which sets up separation, which has come to emphasize the separation between all people of color in this country (whites have color, too). We have come too far with this Diversity craze. We should be emphasizing our Unity as a people, our cohesion as a nation of different colored humans. We will survive chaos if we refuse to be divided by Diversity and difference.
The word, multiculturalism, is also stressed more than it needs to be. While we are a nation of many cultures, we must adjust ourselves into an American culture. Together, we must define the American culture, and unify under its banner.
Martin Luther King had a dream, one that this nation once celebrated. His dream is still attainable, but I fear we have forgotten what he stood for.
My label as a boy was “Colored.” I was a colored boy, who was a credit to his race, as I remember. The word, “nigger” was tossed around a lot, when I was a kid, by white and black, and it was never nice. When I was transformed from Colored to “Black”, I admit James Brown made me a little more proud of whom I was. Then came the label “African-American.” Not okay for me, because it is too much of a politically correct moniker, made to give brown Americans a connection to the ‘home’ country, like the Irish, like the Italians, the Chinese, the Mexicans, etc. My ancestors came from Africa. I did not. I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. We slave descendants have always been manipulated, and we are still being manipulated by forces pro and con. I am brown-skinned, but I reject being labeled. I reject labeling others, and I have good reason to feel as I do.
As a black citizen, I discovered at a late age that one side of my family was born from the “white” power structure of this nation, the other side from ancestral slavery. The story goes like this. My mother’s biological father was a powerful North Carolina politician. Her mother was his black maid. Mom, a blue-eyed, blond baby, was adopted twice; first to a white family, which gave her up, then to a black couple on the black side of Greensboro, North Carolina. My adoptive Nana was of a mixed color, so it worked. Mom was raised with a black identity, but she was a very “white-looking” girl. My father was black, born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, from a mother who worked the cotton warehouses as a 14-year-old in Blair, South Carolina. My paternal grandmother’s family history is recorded from 1867, and Reconstruction. Most likely, my family was enslaved before then.
Two of my daughters could be members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, if they cared to be. My second wife, their mother, is connected directly to Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, and Col. William Bradford of Plymouth Rock. The lineage has been traced already. My oldest daughter’s mother is from the Philippines. My third wife’s daughters connect directly to Portugal.
One foot in power, and one foot in slavery - that is how I see the origins of my family. Surely, there are others like me in this country.
Some of this I learned very late. Such secrets are similar in America, all over the place (Edward Ball’s book, Slaves In The Family comes to mind). As a nation we suffer from so much secrecy, hate and false truths. I believe with a forward-looking heart it is possible the real truth can set us all free. But it is a hard road. We have shared a terrible history of racial conflict in this country. It is important for “white” Americans to acknowledge and honor people of color. It is important for people of color to try hard to forgive the past, as it is gone. We must overcome difference. The future awaits us.
I grew up somewhat color-blind. This is not to say I have not been angered by unjust incidents in my life. Oh, yes, I have, but the memory of my mother’s angst, and my father’s suppressed opportunities, however, has served to push me forward. I am not a group. I am who I am.
Let us not be manipulated. Our commonality as a people can bring us together as Americans. Disperse the racial and multicultural cloud. Change the dialogue to one of Unity.
Douglas Carr Cunningham, SC
Lead Photographer, Charleston CameraWork