A Not So Well Kept Secret

I grew up in Marion, Indiana.
During the industrial era, Marion was a busy factory town. Many large companies had facilities in the city that employed thousands. For its size and location, Marion was and still is racially diverse.
I was a child in the late 60's through the 70's. I became a teenager in 1980 and graduated from Marion High School in 1986. I love this town. I always will. I made amazing friends in Marion. I was formed there. I have incredible memories there. My mom still lives in the house I grew up in.
However, Marion held a not so well kept secret that lived in its collective psyche. In August of 1930, Marion was the site of a public beating and lynching of two young Black men - Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith - and the ruthless beating of a third - James Cameron. This lynching at the hands of a mob of thousands took place on the county courthouse square in downtown Marion. This lynching became the subject of a poem and song by Abel Meeropol, Strange Fruit, which was then recorded by the immortal Billie Holiday.
This not so well kept secret was something that everyone knew but no one discussed. It was something polite people "just don't talk about." This lynching was never discussed in any of my classes. To my knowledge, there was never any public acknowledgement of this horrifying event that took two lives and destroyed another. I never heard lament, confession, or repentance. It was never named. I only knew about it because my parents were willing to talk about difficult things in our house.
In the deafening public silence, more Black lives were put at risk. In the pervasive silence, division was deepened. In the deep silence, the sin of racism was allowed to continue to go unnamed.
Silence feeds racism. Silence allows racism and the systems that are built on it to continue unchecked. Silence and politeness are the breading ground of racism and all of its intersections.
Silence is complicity.
Silence is betrayal.
I will not be silent anymore.
I confess my own ignorance and unwillingness to enter into these conversations in the past. I confess my own complacency in doing the necessary work to dismantle racism and the systems that perpetuate it. I confess that I have benefited from white privilege in more ways than I can fathom. I confess that I have not done enough.
Silence will no longer be something I tolerate in myself. My Black friends, neighbors, sisters, and brothers deserve better from me.
They deserve a better me.
Let us put an end to the silence.


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