4 little girls, 1 man on a country road, 9 men and women, all of us

I may earn money from the participating companies linked in this post: Bookshop.org (supporting my nearby independent bookstore Bluebird & Co, in Crozet, VA) and/or Audible. My podcast is sponsored by Audible and Care/Of.

I know I owe you some episode entries. They’re coming, I promise, and they will make you laugh.

But not right now.

You see, sometimes, Dave and Gareth have to talk about subjects that are not funny, because they are critical to our understanding of who we are to our relationship to ourselves and to each other. That’s history. That’s why there is a Ferguson episode. They almost, almost always find what my friend Christopher Titus calls the horror-laugh within the lesson, and I love them for it.

Thanks to them, and thanks to the research I do for their website, I have learned about how racism is perpetrated at the financial and municipal level, how it can keep coming in waves and waves in the smallest unexpected ways every single day until you almost can’t even try any more, until you almost can’t get up and go to a church meeting and Bible study because what does it matter. But they did. They needed it to matter, those nine people who now will never be able to teach that perseverance to the rest of their community, to be able to face that feeling of defeat and say “not today, today I have a life to live of purpose and love, and, if things seem futile because of the hate, well, I will be that one less hateful person out there today.”

I know, what do I know? I’m Scottish, I am so white I’m transparent. I do know a little, I know harassment. As a woman, as the sister of a mentally retarded* brother, as someone who is now disabled herself…and as someone who grew up at the North Carolina/South Carolina state line in the early 1970’s. It’s not the same, never the same. For me to claim so would be the worst, ugliest folly…and I think we have had quite enough of white people pretending to be black this month, don’t you?

So, I will leave me at that. If you want to know more, just ask. But this isn’t about me, so I shall stop.

What I can do is link you to what has already been spoken and written by Dave and Gareth and myself. I can also share with you the meaning behind this entry’s title, because it’s more history, all connected, rushing us forward to here and now because we won’t or can’t stop:

Four little girls:

September 15, 1963: A bomb detonates in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young black girls: Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Denise McNair. This church was a central meeting point for civil rights leaders, including Dr. King. Two more congregants died that night, one killed by police, one by the rioting crowd.

The final bomber was not convicted until 2002.

Four Little Girls, by Spike Lee

1 man on a country road:

In Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998. Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John King, white supremacists, took James Byrd, Jr. to a deserted country road. They took turns beating him, urinated on him, and chained him by the ankles to a pickup truck. They dragged him for three miles, for which it was determined he remained conscious, until he hit a culvert, which severed his head and his right arm. They continued to drag him one more mile so they could dump his torso in front of an African-American cemetery. Parts of James Byrd were found in 81 different locations by police.

Jasper, Texas

ABC News Nightline The Two Towns of Jasper (2 DVD set)

The world press came and went, often stereotyping Jasper, Texas as a small town full of redneck haters. Two filmmakers, who had known each other since childhood, wanted to take a closer look. One filmmaker was white, one black. They had talked with each other for years about their belief that the races have trouble talking to one another, and they had an idea. Whitney Dow would film the whites of Jasper. Marco Williams would film the blacks.

9 men and women:

  1. The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, state senator
  2.  Cynthia Hurd
  3. The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
  4. Tywanza Sanders
  5. Ethel Lance
  6. Susie Jackson
  7. Depayne Middleton Doctor
  8. The Rev. Daniel Simmons
  9. Myra Thompson

All of us:

So why is it offensive when some pundit so white she looks like she excretes angel food cake claims this shooting as part of the “war on Christianity”?

Cynthia, Carole, Denise, Addie, James, Rev. Pinckney, Cynthia, Rev. Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza, Ethel, Susie, Depayne, Rev. Simmons, and Myra.

And every first responder and medical examiner personnel who had to respond to the scenes, who had to try to do their job in Birmingham despite their fear of the rioters and fear of more bombs, who had to pick up pieces of James Byrd, and suffer PTSD for years afterwards, and who had to see nine nicely dressed neighbors of theirs, seated around a table in a grotesque mockery of fellowship because one more kid read The Turner Diaries, wrote a manifesto, and decided to start a race war.

That’s why.


  1. *I know this phrase rubs people the wrong way. Let me explain. Eric lived from 1974-1981. Mentally retarded was the clinical term used for his collective abilities, to place him in Head Start, to explain his needs, to encompass all the damage that Addison’s disease and seizures in utero and in daily life had done and were doing to his brain. It was shorthand, and was used in a respectful, neutral tone or not at all. When I was in grad school, that term was still being used…and then political correctness hit like a tsunami, and the helping professions didn’t know what to do. Like a lampooning of themselves, they began using “MR” on paperwork and in conversation. It is as ridiculous as you can imagine for two educated adults to use code initials for a phrase they are afraid to say. Then we transitioned to “Intellectually Disabled”, which is inaccurate, because it grabs people with reading problems and lumps them all in together in one meaningless melting pot. Then that term somehow became offensive to the PC police, and “ID” was used…and I decided to go back to “mentally retarded”. I am not ashamed of my brother. To quote Christopher Titus, he could access a level of love that we cannot even hope to achieve, so fuck political correctness. Life’s too short for tiptoeing around the truth. Eric Pettigrew was mentally retarded, and he was an amazing person. And, if you truly get this, you are amazing, too.

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