Wow! Ron wasn’t sure how to respond. He was sad. He was angry. He knew he needed to do something.
Ron told me that he decided to change churches. He and his family left the predominantly-white Protestant church they were attending and became members of a historically-black congregation. Ron wanted his young son to have more role models who could show him that he could be proud to be African-American.
It’s hard to talk about racism. Could there be a more shameful insult than to be told one is a racist? It brings to mind images of the KKK and violence of the 1950’s and 60’s. We’d like to think we’re beyond all that.
And in many ways, we have moved beyond all that. It is no longer legal to discriminate on the basis of skin color.
And yet, when the Washington Post reports that 35% of white Americans rate black Americans as more lazy/less hardworking than whites; when 24% of whites report a belief that blacks are less intelligent than whites[i] ; when police officers use their firearms disproportionately against blacks; when black churches are being burned to the ground; when a young man decides to kill 9 people at a Bible study because they are black; when a four year old boy says, “Daddy, I don’t want to be black anymore…”
When these things are happening around us, we know we have more work to do.
I’d like to hear what you are feeling called to do. I am feeling called to listen, to learn, and to develop relationships.
I am trying to listen to more diverse voices: I’ve started to follow groups such as The Root and the Southern Poverty Law Center as well as various local AME churches on Twitter and Facebook.
I am trying to learn more of the history of black Americans in Alexandria and the United States by visiting the African-American history museum in town and attending events of the March on Washington Film Festival (http://marchonwashingtonfilmfestival.org/) later this month.
I am trying to develop relationships with more persons of color. This is a hard one. When I was in college and graduate school I lived and worked with a diverse group of people. Once I began work in the church, I discovered that I have far fewer relationships with people of color. (Yes indeed, today’s church remains largely segregated.) I want to change this. I haven’t quite figured it out how to do it yet, and I’m open to your suggestions – maybe we can work on this together.
I never want to hear of another child saying, “Daddy, I don’t want to be black anymore.”