Understanding race in America—its history of oppression, inequality, inequity, prejudice and discrimination—has been a journey for many, even for me, a black person who has lived through it. Journeys begin with a want or need to move from one place to another. Sometimes they're geographic, but often they are an existential expedition to comprehend how something came to be and the impact it has on self, family or community. This book is about my growing understanding of what I and my friends experienced. And my reflection on how those events not only molded us as adults, but shaped, and continue to shape, our country. It also explores the little-examined role that everyday people play in in creating extraordinary movements for social justice.
Given the title of this book, you may have a preconceived idea of what it’s about. I grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s in Richmond, Virginia—not just any Southern city, the capital of the Confederacy, a city still with significant vestiges of that heritage—so, you might expect stories of mistreatment based on race. But that is only this book’s backdrop, not its core. The story is about family, friends, cocoons of love, support and pushing beyond the constraints of boundaries.
It was in college my friends and I became black. Black in the sense of a heightened awareness of racial identity. No longer a brown reflection of whites but understanding what it meant to be black. It had started in high school, but these thoughts, these realizations, matured in college as we thought about our past. Immersed all our lives in the history and heritage of European whites, we knew little of our own history, our contributions and nothing of African history. Our issues had become more nuanced as some protested racism and advocated for equality. Just as it should, college expanded our minds and Richmond and our families were no longer at the center of our thinking. Our upbringing would forever be fundamental to who we were, but not the sole determinant of who we became. Exposure to the experiences and thoughts of others from all over the country and around the world now factored into our understanding of many issues and helped to form how we viewed the world and the events of the day.
History shaped us as much as our families did. So too did our friendships. And unlike the overarching effect of history or the subliminal and expected influence of family, our friendship with its extraordinary, ongoing implications has connected us to a past and provided a resonant sounding board for examining our present. Human nature desires friendships formed from shared experience, values, laughter and a few tears. It creates simple bonds, the best kind. We are family. We are the daughters of the dream.
-Tamara Lucas Copeland