I want to share a personal story that I have been reflecting upon in light of the events in Charlottesville and subsequent media debate and chatter that have come behind it. Hopefully, this doesn’t upset the masses.
Some time ago, a long time friend of mine’s child was at our house playing with my kids. (This friend of mine and her family are black). My mom happened to be over that weekend day, visiting with us as the kids played. She had asked the kids not to skateboard on their ramp without asking her first because her car was parked too closely to the ramp. She didn’t want her car to be damaged or the kids to be hurt because of the car’s close proximity to the ramp. At some point, My daughter, Abby, came in and told her Nana that my son, Madden, and their friend were skating on the ramp and kept hitting her car. She went outside (probably grumpy mostly at Madden), got onto the kids and moved her car out of their way. When she went back into the house, my friend’s child told my kids that their grandmother is a racist. Abby was really upset about that statement, so she came inside and didn’t play with her friend anymore that day. Once my mom went home and my friend’s child had left, Abby told me about what had happened and what was said. Abby said, “Mom, I am so mad at my friend for saying that. Nana is NOT a racist!!! Why would my friend say that?! It makes me mad and hurts my feelings. I don’t want to play with that person ever again.”
Now, lots of thoughts raced through my mind, but I never once felt anger or anything negative towards my friend or her child. I simply saw this as an opportunity to teach my daughter a good life lesson.
I told Abby that she should not be mad or hurt even though I understood why she felt that way. Words can hurt. I explained to her that her friend was not old enough to come up with that comment on their own. The child had to hear it from a family member, another friend or somewhere at school. Wherever or from whomever that child heard those words used, it was the reason that they had been repeated. Kids model behavior from those closest to them. Obviously, my friend’s child and Madden didn’t like the fact that my mom ‘got onto them’, but her words were aimed at both kids (although mostly at my son) and had not one thing to do with race. I explained to Abby how she could handle a situation like this one in the future.
I said, “Abby, the next time this happens, tell your friend that their comment bothered you and why. Explain to them that their words hurt and statements like that are serious and should not be made so quickly or without thought. Ask your friend why they felt that way and if they understand what a racist is. Make sure your friend knows how much you care about them and how you would never want them to feel hurt or unfairly judged. Tell them that you will defend them just as you feel the need to defend your grandmother and not because of race or racism but rather because you feel that your grandmother has been unfairly judged.”
It took some time, but Abby got it. I reminded her of hateful things that she and her brother have said to me in the past when they were mad at me. Abby told me that she never meant the things she said to me in anger and was just upset with me at the time. I reminded her that my friend’s child was probably upset with Nana when she got onto them. The child simply said something out of frustration. If the situation happens again, we can discuss it with my friend and her child, but we don’t need to make a big to do about this. Forgive and move forward.
The point here is that every single person alive has been discriminated against at some point or time. Even white people can be discriminated against. Having grown up in the Memphis area, where the majority of citizens are African American (61% black and 35% white), I have experienced racism towards me many times. I would never project a small group’s or a few individuals’ actions or words onto an entire race or ethnicity. Slavery and racism in the world have been in existence since before Christ was born. They have never been isolated to one race, nationality, gender or religion, and unfortunately, slavery still exists today. The only difference is that it is called human sex trafficking. Sadly, a large majority of those enslaved are unable to fight for for their freedom or rebel against their oppressors because they are children. And while this is happening, we are all arguing about a certain hate group and giving them more media and sound bites than they deserve. People that support these groups are not the majority. White supremacists do not represent all white people just as black separatists or blank panthers do not represent all black people. I would never want to minimize any person’s struggles or life obstacles, but I would like to remind everyone that none of us are in the majority of those oppressed or wronged. I promise you that.
As for symbols, flags, books or material things, any of them can represent different things or feelings to different people. One of the most tragic events in history to Christians is Christ’s death on the cross. Although the cross symbolizes pain and suffering, it is also a reminder of the sacrifice made by Jesus so that we all may be saved. Displaying the cross should not be viewed as a hurtful attack on Christians but rather seen as the truest form of love, sacrifice and faith. The KKK has used burning crosses in their attacks against people of color. I would hope and pray that no person would allow the acts of a small minority hate group to demean the significance of the cross to Christians by banning it because the hate group used it in a horrific way. The cross nor any other symbol causes racism, hate, bigotry or a lacking of acceptance and understanding. People do that by their words and actions and by instilling hatred into their children and neighbors. People do it by making statements that are hurtful, unfounded and untrue in the heat of the moment or in the midst of an argument because they are frustrated or mad. Banning or erasing things from history can’t change a person’s heart or bring global unity to this world. Our actions and words can. Whether you support a certain flag, symbol, person or representation thereof or not, I would hope that none of us would assume what that thing or person represents to others or believe by ridding these things from our daily lives that racism will cease to exist. The more that we keep beating these issues into the ground, the more divided we seem to become. Whatever changes are made or not made in the future, it truly starts with us in our hearts, in our words and in our actions. Just my thoughts and not intended to be a post in support of or against any statues, flags or symbols alike. This is simply food for thought.