I started this blog as a place to process life through the lens of faith and to, hopefully, engage a community into doing so with me. But it’s been hard lately to be open about what I am trying to process without fearing I might offend someone. Because a lot of what I’m trying to process is what I see going on in our country and my feelings range from anger and frustration to fear, despair, and shame, with, thankfully, the stubborn seed of hope refusing to give up mixed in. And, I have seen when things are posted regarding what’s going on in our country there can be some pretty volatile reactions and in some cases I’ve even witnessed breaks in communication and friendship.
I don’t want to offend anyone. Sometimes I worry too much about that. I’m not the conservative I used to think I was, and I may not be quite as liberal as I think I am. I don’t know. I’m stuck somewhere out in the margins, not even certain where that is. I suspect there are many of us wandering nomads out here in the field of uncertainty, feeling more like we’re in the Twilight Zone than reality after our nation’s last election.
The one thing I know in my heart and bones is there is no justification, or even acceptable explanation, for hatred and white supremacy, bigotry, or violence that we witnessed as a country last weekend. None. Nada. My dad fought bravely in a war that engulfed the world, risking life and limb to ensure that the kind of hatred brought about by the Nazis would never be able to rise up and thrive again. And yet, here it is in all it’s ugliness before us now.
For years I kept telling myself that kind of hatred happened a long time ago. Somewhere else far away. I remember being awakened to an even deeper awareness of the evil of the Holocaust when I went to Budapest ten years ago and learned more people of Jewish faith were killed there in a shorter amount of time than anywhere else. And, much of it was done with the official Christian church turning a blind eye. It was a humbling and painful realization.
I’ve been stunningly reminded recently that hate is hate and the hate of the Nazis is the same hate of organizations like the KKK, which I also thought was part of a long ago history but not in the now. Tragically, it is a hate that is alive and kicking, a hate based on white supremacy. And that hate is what was in action in the violence last weekend. Having a permit to gather does not justify this hate.
What is really hard for me to admit, much less accept, is that white supremacy, which is the breeding ground of this terrible kind of hate, is in my DNA, my history, my story. Simply because, I am white. I don’t feel, experience, or participate in this hate, but I cannot escape that I share its basis of privilege because of the color of my skin.
My ancestors were confederate soldiers and proud of it. They believed they were on the right side of history. My ancestors were church going, God fearing, family and friend loving people. Yet they ignorantly, and no doubt stubbornly, believed they were somehow superior as human beings because of the color of their skin. And, I’m fairly certain they clung to their interpretation of certain Bible verses to justify this attitude.
I’ve written in a past post about going to see my grandparents in South Carolina and seeing the three bathroom doors at their gas station/convenience store…Men, Women, Colored. As a little girl I didn’t know or understand what that was all about. I only know the feeling it gave me was fear.
My grandfather had the only gas station and store in town and he was friendly to the African Americans who frequented his store. There was a cordial rapport between them all. Yet, even as a child I sensed the steel whisper of disparity of power within this rapport. My grandfather was the boss man. Even with these people who were actually his customers. There is no justification for that kind of power deferential.
Thankfully I woke up years ago to the ignorance behind this sort of passive aggressive prejudice world view. It’s not because I’m any better than my ancestors. Rather it is the gift of those who have gone before me to uncover truth about this history we share as a country. And an expanding awareness that Scripture was never meant to be used as a weapon to give one power over another but rather as a promise and confirmation that we are all equally loved and created in God’s image.
I shamefully admit, when I first heard the name of my high school was being changed from Robert E. Lee I scoffed. It wasn’t that I cared about the name of the school. I just never really attached the name of the school to anything other than the three years I was there and all the fond memories of being there with equally awkward adolescents. I’m so thankful someone else was more enlightened than me and saw the wisdom and necessity of this change. No, we as youngsters didn’t really want the south to rise again when we sang our school fight song Dixie. We were just kids cheering our team.
And, yet, as I sit here and write I wonder how many people felt oppressed by all of this. You see, this was fairly early in the days of integration and I have to wonder how awful it must have felt for the young African American student being subjected to this song. Even the ones being celebrated on the football team. What an odd and uncomfortable thing to experience.
I heard someone say the other day that we can’t erase history by taking down these statues like the one around which there was so much violence this weekend. And, that may be. And, I don’t for one second think that everyone who is sad to see these statues go have prejudice in their hearts.
No, we can’t erase history. Yet, we can be honest about the truth and nature of the complexities of our history and we can be honest in our need to repent of, in any way, glorifying a time when one group of people in this land of freedom and democracy actually made a practice of owning another. It may have been out of a misguided ignorance but there is no justification for the displacement and pain it manifested for so many, the echo of which is still evident in prejudice today. The glorification of this history dehumanizes all of us. The thoughtful and thorough dismantling of these concrete reminders of this past glorification is one tangible thing we can do to show our repentance and intention toward a better future for all of us together. Especially in light of the fact that many of these statues were erected many years after the Civil War and during a time of overt prejudice and discrimination toward so many of our brothers and sisters. I’m not sure how much that gets lifted up and it’s an important part of the puzzle.
Just as I was closing this post I saw our President’s latest press conference. I’m heartsick. I need to go to God in prayer now. I need to still my mind and open my heart so that I can continue to seek God’s wisdom in the areas in which I need to repent and forgive. And in thankfulness, encourage others and show more love. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like Heather Heyer, who was run down by the embodiment of white supremacist hatred on Saturday, showed love in all she did. How tragic her life was cut so short because of such hate. Such a waste. I know she is held in Love now. I still believe, I have to, that Love wins over any hate.
I can’t fix this. I know that. And, I can’t wait for someone else to. All I can do is learn to love more. Learn to love all more.
Something to chew on…