I was born in South Carolina.
I lived in different towns there until I was about 9 years old.
I remember many things about my time there. Like sitting in pews under the watchful eyes of kind friends while my Momma and Daddy sang at different churches. The kindness of a certain man and his wife who helped my parents out when our car needed fixing and we didn’t have enough money to take it to the garage. I still remember the way that couple who, to most folks would appear rough around the edges, were so sweet to my brother and I. I can still smell the scent of a favorite five and dime store where they sold the best Icees. Y’all, they were just the thing to cut through the heavy weight of a Southern summer afternoon.
I remember learning to dance the Reebok and the Coca-Cola dances with the daughters of the lady who watched me and my brother. Her name was Sandra, pronounced Sah-ndra. I can still see her combing out her daughter’s beautiful soft, soft hair with that pink wide-toothed comb while she simultaneously kept control of the rest of the children in her house. She and her family were the first people of color I’d ever been up close and personal with. I still think of Ms. Sandra and her strong, smart daughters.
I remember kindness, yes.
But I also remember tension and hate.
The town we lived in before we moved back to North Carolina to be closer to my parents’ families were still having KKK marches. In the mid 1980’s. I’m not sure why that still blows my mind. I guess I thought those were a thing of the past…I hoped they were a thing of the past.
But they weren’t. As a little girl who spent quite a bit of time in church and with parents who frequently talked about loving one another as Christ loves us…well, I was flummoxed. And horrified.
I still am.
But I got older and I became lax in guarding my mind and heart against thoughts and perspectives that went against what I had been taught about loving my neighbors.
Over the last couple of years I’ve become acutely and uncomfortably aware of that failing. In that process of realizing my need for change, I’ve been very fortunate to come in contact with some awesome folks who are diligently sharing a wealth of information and opening their hearts, sometimes even painfully, to share their perspective on racism.
I recently read a post by Deidra Riggs entitled, For Those Who Are New to the Conversation.
As I was reading Deidra’s powerful words a paragraph leaped out at me:
So, let me say this. Churches can get all up in arms about who gets to speak and to teach and proclaim truth from the pulpit. They want a certain gender or ethnicity or language or educational level or theological degree or sexual orientation to speak to them in hushed tones that sound good and that don’t rock their personal boat. But, when the Church abdicates its responsibility to speak truth to power and to utter words that turn over tables in our hearts and that call for justice and radical love and an end to excuses about racism in this country, well, I believe that’s why God gave us the Internet. That’s why God gave you a dining room table and a blog and a Facebook page and a Twitter account. You are the called. You are the chosen. You are God’s messenger in a world of Christians who can’t seem to get their act together.
Oh, wow, did those truth-saturated words grab me. I kept reading them over and over with a pounding heart. I knew that this was the permission I needed…permission I didn’t even know I was waiting for.
Permission to speak out against racism.
The permission to admit that I’ve had racist thoughts before.
Yep, you read that right. Oh, I never used the N-word (I get nauseous when I hear it no matter who says it) or used any hateful behavior, but there was a definite “us and them” division in my thinking.
As I began to actively seek out more about the history of persons of color in our country, I realized what I’d thought of as a personal naïveté was more along the lines of gross ignorance. My mindset, my world, was narrow and skewed. I had a problem.
I realized that if I didn’t allow Christ to work in my heart to correct those thoughts, I could BE the problem.
Isn’t there a saying about the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem?
So I sat, read, and listened to the voices of color in my life. I learned. I’m *still* doing those things and I will continue to so I can share those lessons with my children as they grow.
I know in my personal journey towards racial healing, to promote it, I won’t always get it right. I’m petrified of making a mistake, of offending, of doing damage to the work so many others have fought to do.
But you know what?
I’m more petrified of remaining silent.
A few of the Voices who speak about racism and racial reconciliation better than I do:
Outside the City Gate
I understand everyone may not share my views. That’s okay. This is simply me sharing my journey. If you feel the need to comment, please keep it respectful. I feel silly even having to type that, but I know topics concerning race are capable of conjuring strong feelings. It’s a strong topic after all.
Love, though, is stronger. Remember that, dear ones. The greatest of these is love.