I've never understood racism.
My mother abandoned my two elder brothers and me when I was just 3 years old. Fortunately I was blessed with a wonderful nanny who cared for me like I was her very own--Trisha. She happened to be black. In those days, she was called a negro. The first time I ever really noticed she was black was when I saw her shaving her legs. I must have been about five. She was all lathered up with white soap. As she drew the razor up her leg, the black was stark against the background of white. I recall as if yesterday, asking, "Trisha, how come you are black?"
"Oh, child, the Lord made me this way."
I didn't know much about the Lord at the time, but I knew the Lord was someone who was suppose to be good and if He made her black then it was a good thing. Then I wondered, why am I white? If black was good, then is white bad? Trisha assured me that white wasn't bad either. That the Lord made both black and white and both were exactly what He wanted them to be.
Through the years, I listened as my father called negroes "niggers". Daddy thought the absolute world of Trisha. I never heard him call her by that term. But I heard him refer to other black people that way. I never understood it. Not then. Today I do. Daddy was prejudiced. He was prejudiced by his own culture. His upbringing. By our country's disdain for black people. I didn't know much about the politics of it all as a child. I only observed the treatment of blacks. I heard the names they were called. I saw the way they were considered second-class (or worse) people. It was confusing to me, especially since I loved Trisha as a mother and saw absolutely nothing wrong with being black.
When I was a freshman in highschool in Virginia, the first black girl was admitted to our all-white school. I'd heard she was coming for days. It was like some disease was on its way, that we should all be prepared. I'm a bit surprised that they didn't have us vaccinated prior to her arrival. Joyce Phillips was her name. I'll never forget going to her and introducing myself. She barely spoke to me. I was trying to be nice. But she came close to totally rebuffing my extension of friendship. Then, I didn't know why. Today I do.
Joyce was scared to death. Lord only knows what she'd been through. She'd lived her entire life knowing white people viewed her as trash. She had to use a different drinking fountain. She couldn't go into white restaurants. She had to use a different restroom. There's no doubt in my mind, she knew firsthand the racial bigotry that caused fellow members of her race to be hanged for less reasons than drinking at a white water fountain. And now she was entering the white world with no other black person at her side. I know I was not patronizing her. In my heart, I didn't understand why others considered her any less a person than they did white people. Trisha had taught me that as a little child. But Joyce couldn't know what I'd been taught. She only knew what she had experienced.
Today, over 45 years later, the divide between black and white is still here. Much progress has been made on the part of blacks. Much progress has been made on the part of whites. But we still face the same suspicions, judgemental attitudes and prejudice that we faced back then. Every time we get a bridge built, someone comes along and either blows it up, or rams the support beneath it.
There is an elephant in the room and I believe we all need to begin talking about that elephant or that elephant will trample us all to death--white and black.
I for one, have a great deal of difficulty trying to talk to blacks because of fear. I fear I'm going to offend them. I do not have to measure every word with anyone else--of any other race--as I do my black brothers and sisters. I don't live in fear of reprisal. I live in fear of not being understood: Of being considered a racist for using a word or phrase in a way they understand it to be a slur. Of being judged by an invisible standard set by the history of men and women I never knew or even cared to know.
Black folks don't like being lumped into a stereotypical description of ghetto-mentality and I don't like being lumped into a stereotypical description of slaveownership-mentality. When I say a person--be he white or black--is articulate, I am giving a compliment. I have black friends who are married to white friends. I have sisters who are married to black men, and they have bi-racial children.
I love to hear black preachers preach. I love the color they add to their messages. I love the way they preach in cadence. I love the fervor with which they preach. I love the way they use a repetitive poetic statement and expound upon it and plant the Truth in my memory. I do not like all black preachers--no matter how they preach. I do not like all white preachers either.
I want to be understood as much as my fellow black brothers and sisters want to be understood. I'm just as tired of being considered a racist because I happen to be born white, as a black person is of being considered less than human because he/she is born black. I am sickened to death at the sound of the word racist and repulsed by the actions of one who has the repulsive attitude.
We are living in an age where finally two black coaches can take two integrated teams to the Superbowl and win. Neither of them lost that game this year. We are living in a time when a man born to a black father and white mother can run for President of the United States. Where men and women of every color and every age stand behind that man in primary elections. It is sad to see the first woman running for President feel she must be black in order to beat that candidate for her party. It's awful to hear the media continually beat the race drum regarding voters. Rather than getting the votes...each candidate targets specific votes...according to race, gender, and faith. What happened to equality and not discriminating?
I pray we can all begin to dialog regarding our different views without hiding beneath white sheets or pulling out ropes to make a point. God is no respecter of color, but we are. And until we admit we are, we are no better than the person we are accusing of the same racism. I have one criteria by which I judge a man, a woman or a candidate for anything. What fruit do they produce? I want to be judged likewise.
I have no idea what is going on in the minds of people. Unless a person is clothed in my skin and lived in my life, they don't either. And unless each individual with an opinion can read the minds, hearts and motives behind every word and action of another, we are not in any place to judge.
And as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are accountable to God to correct, exhort and reprove. But we are commanded to do so in love, gentleness and with a spirit of reconciliation. Less than that is just as ungodly as any act an offending brother or sister has committed.
Oh, dear Lord, that we all be blind to the color of our skin. Oh, dear Lord, that we could all view others with Your eyes, through the crimson blood of the Lamb rather than through the history of others' discrimination. Let us "purge out the old leaven" that we "may be fresh dough, still uncontaminated, for Christ, our Passover". "Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of vice and malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened [bread] of purity (nobility, honor) and sincerity and (unadulterated) truth." (I Cor.5:7,8. Amplified) Let this moment be significant, Lord. Let it be significant for Your glory and not ours. Let our need to be right be brought into Your Light and exposed for the wrong that it is. selahV
[copyrighted, selahVtoday, 2007]
Note: This is edited and reprinted from an article I wrote last year.