Judy Daniell moved 17 times in her first 13 years, from trailer park to crummy apartment to trailer park in the South.
Her mama always told her they were poor, but at least they weren't black.
Being black was the worst thing you could be, Daniell said. That’s how her mom viewed the world.
How she still views the world.
In black. And white.
“I didn’t know there were more than two races until I was 13 years old,” Daniell said Sunday night.
Daniell didn’t come of age during Jim Crow. She’s a child of the '80s, a mother of three living in a small Nebraska town, working in Lincoln, blogging and watching her boys get big.
The 38-year-old sat down at her computer last weekend after seeing the tiki torch-bearing racists in Virginia, the largest number of neo-Nazis and white supremacists to gather in this country in a decade.
Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was there, praising President Trump. Richard Spencer — the new face of the “alt-right” — was there. Swastika flags waved. Shields were wielded. Boots stomped.
And Daniell wrote.
“I come from a long line of deep-seated Southern pride. I assure you, I was raised on the gospel of white superiority. It was ingrained early, from the way I learned nursery rhymes to who I could associate with in school.”
There were literal tracks in her town of which there could be no “friendly crossing” without the risk of being labeled a “n***** lover.”
And they didn’t use asterisks to describe their black neighbors.
Do not believe the talk of preserving history as a pretext for the rally, Daniell warned her Facebook friends.
“Do not believe for another hot minute that this isn’t about bigotry that is alive and well in our midst. Because it absolutely is.”
She wrote because she thought her perspective was pertinent in the Midwest, where our racism tends to be more mannerly, Daniell told me.
“I wanted people to know that I have firsthand experience on the side of white supremacy and that where I came from, they didn’t beat around the bush.”
They proclaimed it pretty loud and pretty proud back in Louisiana and Mississippi when she was a girl: “We’re better than you because we’re white.”
Daniell came to Nebraska when she was 13 to live with her Hispanic father. (She’s pointed out the irony to her mother. "'Yeah, but he ain’t black,' was her response.”)
But even before she left her sweet-tea Southern world, she knew that the view of life she’d been taught didn’t sit right.
“I was a poor kid from the South, but I could go anywhere in a book. I read for escape and later I learned about race and privilege and things I didn’t even know growing up. “
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She studied sociology at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She learned the history of race and racism in America.
“I got rid of my ignorance.”
She wrote a 15-page paper on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream" speech. As an adult, she found herself turning to another one of King’s writings, a letter to religious leaders when he was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice...
She invoked King’s words when she wrote about Colin Kaepernick on her blog last year.
She thanked the NFL player who’d taken a knee during the national anthem for being her conduit into discussions about race.
“Maybe social media isn’t the place,” she wrote, “especially when so much of my feed lands on one side or the other. Real change, the kind that makes people pause, will not ever come from a meme, or an article, but from a true, passionate discussion about race relations in the U.S.”
I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
“I think this is that moment where people are saying ‘Now what?’” Daniell said Sunday. “I think most people are at that stage now.”
And she’s talking about white people.
“We can’t wait for our friends of color to be the mouthpieces. They’re tired. They’re exhausted.”
She knows people are reluctant to engage — that many of us remain the white moderates of King’s day, still afraid or unwilling to call out racism and publicly wrestle with issues of our own white privilege.
Or who, like her mother, don’t see the problem or their part in it.
Daniell gives credits to Deidra Riggs for helping her find her voice. (Look for Riggs in an upcoming column and you’ll see why.)
Riggs is a black woman of faith living in Lincoln and author of "ONE: Unity in a Divided World."
“Deidra is creating safe spaces to have uncomfortable conversations about race and faith and how those two work together,” Daniell says. “She's making it her mission to give white evangelicals a place to ask questions, seek understanding and learn. She's the voice the world needs to hear now.”
Daniell didn’t grow up in the church, but her faith is paramount to her now.
She ended her Facebook post Sunday talking about it.
“Come Lord Jesus. Praying for those on the front lines. Standing in solidarity with those opposing white supremacy.”