I Married a Black Man
As a white college student in the 1960s, I married my anthropology professor who was a hereditary Mende chief from Liberia, West Africa. In Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia, which we we wrote together and was published in 2009, he shared his experiences in the black community during the 1950s.
A Car Winds up in Rev. Hick’s Back Yard
When I was a student at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, I visited a Negro Baptist pastor and his family in Topeka, Kansas. We had just finished lunch when we saw a car swerving in the street in front of their house. It crossed the median and went into a yard next door and then came to rest in their back yard. We wondered what was going on.
The Driver is a White Woman
One of the pastor’s sons said the driver was a white woman. She was by herself. I thought she must have had a seizure. Because of my medical experience in Liberia, I started to run out to check on her.
Rev. Hicks stopped me, “Don’t go there, Benjamin! That’s a white woman. You don’t just go there. If you do, then the problem is what she’s doin’ here. We haven’t observed her yet.”
“To find that out, you have to go there. It looks like she’s dying. She’s not moving.”
The Hick’s Call the Police
Mrs. Hicks said, “If you go there, she may say you took her into our back yard to rape her. She would have a good case because what is she doin’ in a Negro neighborhood? We’ll call the police so she won’t be able to blame us.”
Two white policeman went to the car. They talked to her and pulled her car out of the yard. They searched her handbag and found her address. As they left, they told us, “She’s just drunk. We’re takin’ her home.” One policeman drove the squad car and the other drove her car.
After they left, the Hicks were visibly relieved. Rev. Hicks said, “Many good-hearted Negro men have been lynched for tryin’ to help a white woman. Whenever you see a white person in trouble or an older white woman where people can see you, don’t go by yourself. Take someone with you and be very gentle. But if it’s a young white woman, she’ll feel ashamed and lie and say you forced her into that situation. Benjamin, the only way you’ll make it in this country is to pretend you don’t see a white woman. This isn’t Africa.”
The Dilemma of the Good Samaritan
“But, Rev. Hicks, with all due respect, you’re a man of God. What about the story of the Good Samaritan?”
“You can’t be a good Samaritan to whites, especially if it’s a young white woman. Whites know the story of the Good Samaritan too, but they’ll hang you for it. Take my word for it, Benjamin. I was born here.”
I Wrote our Love Story
When my husband died in 2009, I coped with my grief by writing our love story, Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief