For more than one demographic of America's diverse populations, Black, White, Brown, Red, Yellow, and combinations thereof--male or female and different-flavored sexual identities--back doors were once synonymous with emblems of racial, economic, and political oppression in their most cutting conspicuous forms. They stood alongside crosses burning with flames of hatred as opposed to crosses gleaming with messages of love or redemption, with “Whites Only” and “Coloreds” signs attached to public restrooms and water fountains, seats at the backs of buses and trains or up in balconies of theaters, segregated beaches, pamphlets on eugenics, and “strange fruit” (as Billie Holiday sang) hanging from southern trees.
Evoking this historical twentieth century function in the first half of the twenty-first century would seem ridiculously archaic if not for striking counterparts in the form of hate crimes, mass incarceration, black bodies repeatedly falling to gun violence, and economic gentrification so often directed against people of color. Moreover, all of this has been repeatedly, casually, streamed on large and small screens around the world. Many current-day legal and illegal immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe know something about the back-door experience because they, too, have lived it. Time has not removed the necessity of documenting how too many of us still dehumanize and eradicate our fellow human beings seeking shelter from the world's increasingly destructive "natural" and "man-made" storms.
Rear entrances have, however, served more inspired purposes as well. Some have provided meeting places for secret lovers. Others have been transformed into Eden-like refuges carpeted and ceilinged with vines blossoming fragrant roses, morning glories, wisteria, or honey suckle. Nothing wrong with thinking of love as emblems of hope or love. On certain days of the month, you can find in our present time (at least in Georgia) many people who are battling poverty lined up at the far ends of churches to receive brown bags filled with food which otherwise would end up in dumpsters.
Sensibilities of an Uncanny Nature
There is also in this era of technological wonders the notion of digital back doors which allow hackers to sneak in and out of computer systems belonging to people other than themselves. Whether that is a good or bad thing tends to depend on the hacker, his or her affiliates, and the intentions in question. Coming to personal and professional terms with the impacts of O'Connor's, McPherson's, and Berendt's blazing passages has felt at times like someone slipped invisibly into my life and effectively hacked it. The beliefs, assumptions, and confirmed certainties of a comfort zone forming fragments of an established identity––that of mine and many others'––were compromised and eventually reconfigured.
More than anything else, the back door as it is approached in the pages [of Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door Of Mind] represent points in time, places in space, and regions of the spirit where sensibilities of an uncanny nature either collide or converge. Stepping through it led to the kind of adventures and misadventures for which we are rarely prepared, yet somehow often end up welcoming. The results are the kind which continue to increase literature's prized value as it pertains to specific communities and the world at large, providing solace and shelter during the best of times and the worst.
(From the book Greeting Flannery O’Connor at the Back Door of My Mind ISBN 1-716-68481-1)
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.