What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Anonymous.
I was very angry. I was upset to the point of blanking out on memory, to the point I had to ask my husband what I said. And what I said was this, "You are probably racist."
Now, this was during prayer group, a time of reflection, a time to discuss and reflect, a time to hopefully share the truth in love, something I failed to do. I do not believe my anger was unfounded, but what I did in my anger, assume what was in your heart, was not right. I was frustrated by your statements, "Racism doesn't exist" and "Racism doesn't exist in this part of the country." I was frustrated because I care about you. I know you to be a loving and compassionate person. I knew and I know that if you knew the pain those words cause, you would not say them. And more desperately then that, I want you to change, in your heart, to see, really see what is happening what has happened, and how current oppression and injustice does not align with what you believe. It does not align with your values of love. To close your eyes to what people experience is to deny them the fundamental rights as people.
So, back to prayer group. I am sorry. I am sorry I failed to communicate lovingly and clearly in a way that you could see. I tried to share a personal story. One I didn't share well. One I will try to share with you now. I used to be like you in part. I didn't ever believe racism was nonexistent, except for maybe the first few years of my life, before my mama read me, Pink and Say, and we talked to men and women and we spent time with, and developed relationships with people who were vastly different ethnically (thank you Mama and Papa). I grew up in a home where you didn't say "black" and "white." You always asked whomever you were referring to how they preferred to be referred to. So I thought I wasn't racist. This is where we are similar. I thought I had escaped this great evil. But then it happened, I was shown my racism. I was working at the bookstore while I studied human relationships and ironically how to communicate (given my performance at prayer group) when I was shown my racism. A man walked in, a tall man, a man with scars and a thick accent. I was living at the time in the inner city. There was barb wire around this little bookstore. And I assumed. I assumed a hell of a lot of nonsense. I misjudged him. I assumed he was up to no good. Now maybe right now you're thinking that I was just being smart or wary, but let me tell you I was judging based on his appearance and ethnicity and this is wrong. He began a conversation with me; we started talking theology. I learned he was studying to be in ministry at the very school I was studying to communicate well (oh the irony). He leaves and I am left with these thoughts about my mistake. Now maybe at this point, you are thinking, "it was just a mistake, a minor misjudgment," like you said at the prayer group, but I wonder if you would consider it "minor" if everywhere you went people made this "minor misjudgment." I wonder what it would be like to worry that when you reach for your cell phone in a bookstore, you might be shot because you look a certain way. "But that doesn't sound like racism! Just a minor misjudgment" if judging someone on their ethnic appearance is not racist, what is?
Sure, I'm not as clearly racist as Hitler, but I wonder what would have happened if more Germans had not become afraid of their Jewish neighbors, the way I was afraid of that dear man in the store? And he is dear, dear to me the way your friends are dear to you, the way you are dear to me. You see, when I was studying where I met this man, I was part of a growth group, very much like our prayer group. And guess who became part of it, the man from the bookstore and his lovely wife and four beautiful children. But the racism in my heart was still there. Sure I had begged God to rip it out of me, and so He began to do so and continues to (be careful what you pray for). You see now my line of thinking about this man was like this, "how beautiful, this man must have come from the ghettos, (he had scars so clearly he was in gang fights right?) turned his life around, and now he's become a leader..." What a load of self-righteous baloney. Through living life together, organically the lies I had told myself about this man became clearly untrue. Through babies being born, through loved ones passing, through tears, through eating together and yes praying together, through our kids playing together, through sharing the burdens of studies together, through simply being in relationship I realized that all my assumptions were false. I learned I was quick to judge and fear when there was no basis. My friend is a dear friend now and he is praying for me. He is praying for you too. He is praying that I will apologize for not sharing the truth in love with you well, and he is praying that we will all continually search our hearts for racism even in the slightest most innocent looking forms such as being afraid in a bookstore.
It was wrong of me to say you were racist in prayer group because the problem is me and my racism in my heart. May God rip it out.