June 5, 1993
Dear Ms. Faust,
I don’t know if I’m violating some rule, but I felt I had to write to you. I am an employee at the Times-Picayune and I read your letter as it was being edited for publication in the "Letters to the Editor." I was touched by your caring and concern, and I wanted to let you know.
I am black and I just recently moved to New Orleans, and though I have many friends here, I find things quite different from the small town in Illinois where I was raised. We all live together there, we go to school together, we go to church together, we socialize together… there is very little we do that keeps us from mixing. There is a lot of interracial dating and not much of anyone pays any attention to it. It is very different and I suppose I got used to things being open and honest between everyone. I knew when I moved down South that things would not be like that. I have lived in Florida in the past and noted the polarization between the races. I guess I naively thought that because this is a big city and because things are rather easy here that it would not be as bad. It isn’t. It’s worse.
Since I have been working at the Times, I am privy to some of the things going on. I work near the girls who type and transcribe the tapes that come in over the telephone (you know, the 24 hour line where people can call in and voice their thoughts on the "Together Apart" series) and I have heard some serious and some sickening things. I wonder what causes people to hate so much. I wonder if they knew that all the people who work on that series are black. The reporter who culls the calls and chooses the ones to print is white and the photographer is white, but all the rest are black. I feel so sorry for the girl who transcribes the tapes, because she has to listen to the voices of the people, and she hears the hate and rage in their voices. We had an especially ugly one the other day and it threw all of us for a loop, black and white. The white people apologized to us and the black people were more hurt than angry. I think that is something that white people don’t understand. Our first reaction is pain. It hurts us deeply when we get snubbed, insulted, whatever. It takes a lot of those hurts to make the rage you see and read about when black people attack white people and rob and hurt them. Some of us have learned to contain that rage and use it in other ways. Some of us never learn. Some black people live their lives filled with that rage and it is that ugliness that causes the crimes that frighten white people so much.
But anyway, I wanted to let you know that some of us felt better after reading your letter. There is some measure of hope, after all. And I would be happy to get together with you and work out some sort of symbol, signal, something to let the world know that all of us aren’t infected with hate and can find a way to work together. Are you interested? Maybe if others could see this, they could join in or get together and try to make things work. What do you think?
Brenda J. Thompson
The Letter from Brenda to Rhoda