Mayor Melton discussed how that story — the civil-rights story of 1965 through the present — should not be divorced from the story of 1865, that there is a continuum of history in which Selma is an exemplar, and that it is neither a completed story nor one that is unique just to Selma. He spoke of Selma reconciling these parts of the story — the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement — into a single story the city could present to the world, a singular history that can drive economic development and be a reconciling force at the same time.
MR: The downtown café where we headed for a quick late breakfast between interviews was like a set from a movie about the South. The hand-painted sign. The large plate-glass windows. The patrons scattered around the dining area, people who seemed like they must have been going there their whole lives. A warning light was blinking on the dashboard of my mind.
The restaurant didn’t just look like The South. It seemed from a different era, too. I felt like I’d stepped back into the 1960s, as if Rev. James Reeb had only just been savagely beaten and killed a few blocks over. Time travel is a fun concept in theory. But it’s no fun for a black person in the South.
A white lady stood at the hostess stand. She gaped at the three of us like we had just walked in and asked where the MRI machines were. I got a vibe that she was about to ask us to leave, that a micro-aggression was about to blossom into a major-aggression, when another white lady popped up from a booth near the wall.
I took a half-step back. The second lady greeted Tad. They hugged. They were high school classmates. She was there with her daughter. I grimaced. I exhaled.
Another restaurant worker, not the gaping lady at the counter, showed us to a table. I kept looking around the dining room. I wondered which of the patrons were like the hostess, nonplussed at the presence of two black guys and a race traitor. I wondered which were like Tad’s friend, happy to see us. Racial tension is like a box of chocolates. You never know.