Slanted background image with a microphone and silhouette of a person.
Logo: More Change
Home | Episode #88
Black Drivers, White Crosses
June 2022 | Student Producer:

Jazz Thompson
Episode logo
Black Drivers, White Crosses
On a cross country mother-daughter road trip, JoHanna ā€œJā€ Thompson, MPA, and Jade Thompson are confronted with white crosses and must navigate histories of racial and gender violence through intergenerational perspectives. (8 min)

Jazz: We all live in the same world yet have a unique perspective towards what we perceive it to be. The story I will share today is proof that we all live life together. But when we get out of it speaks to how we individually choose to perceive it.

JoHanna: Um, I had this major and fantastic, great idea to do a sweet 16 road trip. Blup, blup, blup. I had this great idea to do a sweet 16 road trip across the United States with my just-turned 16 year old.

Jazz: My mother Johanna, or mama Johanna as her foster kids like to call her, experienced intense fear in racial realization when spontaneously deciding to drive across America for her daughter's sweet 16. On the other hand, Jade, my little sister, had a completely different experience.

Jade: It was new, and before beginning on this trip, I didn't really want to get on the trip. I was like kind of gas lit into getting on the trip.

Jazz: What was initially meant to be a quick road trip home across America easily turned into a teaching moment as pretty much anything does with a mother like JoHanna.

JoHanna: And it was like Jade was saying that she was so uncomfortable driving. Um, and I thought if we're gonna drive across, if we have to get this car, this gift back to Florida, rather than just sending it, let us drive. And that will give Jay the opportunity to experience every single kind of road condition.

Jazz: And it did, but what she didn't account for was how this would give them both the opportunity to experience what road tripping across America for Black people really meant, or the fact that

JoHanna: Um, one of the scariest moments on that trip was, had absolutely nothing to do with driving, but had everything to do with the environment that we were in. And that was driving through the top, the tip of Texas to get down into Louisiana.

Jazz: Even though my sister wasn't necessarily on board with this whole road trip, something about driving through Texas, put them both on the same page of major discomfort and the fundamental truths of reality.

Jade: Yeah, it, it definitely was not my idea. It wasn't fun. It was not fun. It was not fun at all. And it was the daytime too, like, but it was still just so uncomfortable.

Jazz: I've heard this story before, but yet never this part. So when they were telling me even as a listener, even knowing that they were okay, I immediately got scared for their safety and what was about to be said next.

JoHanna: As we were driving along on that road route, we started to see white wooden crosses.

Jade: It was terrifying. It was like, it's like when you hear about a roller coaster, there's a difference between wanting to go on a roller coaster and being forced on a roller coaster. So it felt like being forced on a roller coaster that you know was gonna be scary. You know, it's gonna have a really bad drop situation gonna make you feel sick after really like your heart sunk in your stomach and you were not, not trying to stay at all.

JoHanna: And you could feel it. You could feel. And even though we were just driving on the road, we, we could feel like don't stop. And we also were like, hadn't planned having no knowledge to stop and get gas before going into that.

Jazz: My mother was anxious yet passionate and determined to persevere through, while my sister, she was afraid, concealed and straight up not having it.

JoHanna: Um, there was a moment when, after seeing so many white crosses, I was like, well, you know what? We should just stop. We should just stop and pull over and go and, and, and, and go and introduce ourselves.

Jade: I was already scared, but that's when the feeling really set it. It was like, we have to stop. We can't keep going?  . And then even when we stopped, yo, that was, um, no, and I feel like she, she said something to me. She was like, oh, I wanna go ask them a question. I was like, huh.

JoHanna: And when we go and see, go into the place and they're like, we don't serve n*ggas around here. We would be like, I wouldn't serve no n*ggas either. And just throw 'em off.

Jade: You wanna go ask them questions? You wanna, you wanna, Um, um, and so, Okay.

JoHanna: I said that thankfully, and then Jade was like, no, mom, that's not safe. That's not intelligent. We're not doing that.

Jazz: My mother is someone who isn't afraid to speak up and has taught us to claim our existence through the power of our voice. But this was a moment where our existence felt threatened beyond control. And even though she personally might have wanted to speak up, she didn't because she knew Jade wasn't experiencing the same fight response as her and my mom would never try to enhance Jade's prominent discomfort.

JoHanna: I was very curious about if we did stop what that would've been.

Jade: No, I think she realized , I think she realized that that wasn't a good idea. And she just, she just got the gas, we got back in the car and dipped. We were not trying to stay. That was not.

JoHanna: And we were cautious not to be. Yeah, I know we were cautious not to, not to actually do that, but it was, it was CRA it, Jade was cautious not to do it, cuz I probably would've tried something like that just to, to

Jazz: From here on out this moment completely altered how they perceived and continued the rest of the road trip.

JoHanna: It was like there was this internal tension. So by the time I got to Texas having that experience in saying damn all these places that I thought were like so cool to see with my 16 year old. And we're taking pictures in front of like the TP motel and all that, 50 years ago, there is no way that my child could have ever had this experience without risk of death and that was real. And it was like, that was also a introduction into the realities of her coming into her, you know, uh, young adulthood, the realities of the, of what we were still existing and living under having a, a traditionally American cultured experience still meant that there was the discomfort, the tensions, the lack of security, the, um, fear in doing this thing that is traditionally about freedom.

Jazz: My mom transformed the perspective of this experience to go beyond just a teaching moment and a mere drive back home. For her, t really meant facing the racial truths that still exists today and standing in one's actuality of what it means to exist as a Black person in America. My sister Jade, however, had a completely different outlook on this experience

Jade: It made me feel an appreciation for everywhere else. At least we're not back in Texas, you know, but pretty much like the trip itself is amazing. You can see all these things, like if you're going on the trip, you really gotta go with the flow. Like, I mean, if you're trying to get from one place to another, it's probably not gonna be enjoyable, but if you're stopping and seeing all the cool things that you can see, it's really an enjoyable trip, especially like the Grand Canyon. Amazing. That was absolutely breathtaking. So, yeah. And then as, as a Black person specifically, it's, it's cool to see, like. It's cool to have an experience that wouldn't have been possible years ago and to realize that, to recognize and appreciate that the times have changed, kind of, have made it enough for it to be possible to take the trip, but still also have that discomfort and, and feeling of unwelcomeness in certain areas.

Jazz: And she's right for some it will feel as though times have changed while for others, it won't.. That all truly depends on your perspective.