I received this comment over the weekend on my post about the Confederate flags, from someone named Bob:
…not a clever way to hide your support for racism…
I’m not going to post his whole comment there or here, because this part alone was more than ridiculous enough.
But I have a few things I feel I need to say to him! Since it seems that more than a few people in our country are struggling with similar issues, I decided to make this an open letter.
Like so many people in our country today, you seem to be very confused about that word, “racism.”
For my part, I’m getting really sick and tired of people throwing that word around!
I don’t think most people, including you, really grasp what that word means any more!
Racism is about more than just getting your feelings hurt, or running up against an opinion that doesn’t agree with your view of the way things are.
While I’m quite certain we don’t see the world in the same way, that I hold different views and opinions from yours does NOT make me racist.
Allow me to educate you!
My (ahem) non-racist credentials:
- I have many friends of all shades of skin color, some darker, some lighter, and many different ethnicities. I could care less what color their skin is or what race they are, except as it impresses me with how God made us all gloriously unique! I think they’re beautiful, wonderful people just the way God made them.
- I have African American family members whom I love and cherish. My kids also have Korean aunts and a Korean uncle, and Korean cousins. I think they’re also all wonderful individuals just as they are, too. They would not be more wonderful (or less!) if they were any other skin color or ethnicity.
- I am all in favor of each of my friends, family, and acquaintances exercising and claiming the freedom and opportunity that they have as American citizens and legal visitors in this country regardless of their color or ethnicity.
- I tan pretty darkly. I have been emphatically told that I am not quite white enough (so I sort of know how that feels, but I really couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of my skin color. That is their problem.)
- I’ve experienced discrimination as a minority and a female in another country. I’ve also been the target of stupid racial remarks in the South just because I’m white. (again, that was their problem, not mine!)
- Newsflash: being white doesn’t mean you never get discriminated against!
- Another Newsflash: being a person of color doesn’t mean you get a free pass on your own racism!
God’s peace in our hearts protects us from other people’s anger and friction.
My personal encounters with racism:
I witnessed racism overseas where I grew up, and also in the South where I lived for nine years.
I had friends on both ends of the skin color spectrum who came to me in great humiliation recounting incidents of racial discrimination that made me pretty angry on their behalf. I understand the feeling of helplessness and anger racism can create.
I was aware of other incidents, especially overseas, that would likely make your hair stand on end.
But I don’t really want to get into all of that.
More personally…sometimes people behave very stupidly because of they’re carrying around bitter baggage they need to ditch!
While in the South, I was verbally attacked by an African American woman who completely lost it over wanting to use a copying machine at work. She assigned racist motives to me as a white person that were very offensive and completely uncalled for–because she found me already using the copier when she needed it–instead of just letting me know that her job was urgent, and asking me if I would be so kind as to let her run her job first!
(she apparently had a history of outbursts like this–she’d even been sent to anger management classes)
Ironically, right up until she lost it, I had been under the mistaken impression that she and I were pretty good friends as well as co-workers. I would have been more than happy to give her precedence at the copier if she’d asked nicely.
I still let her go first despite her tantrum, but–
Her racially motivated outburst gave me an unfortunate insight into the friction and misunderstandings that blacks sometimes perpetuate for themselves because they are not learning to be secure in their identity as American citizens with equal opportunities and rights as everyone else.
That whole outburst had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her own issues. Again, not my problem. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (I backed off some on being friendly with her. I didn’t need or want that drama!)
Later, when I managed a mobile home park, I was made the unhappy recipient of an even greater realization:
Thanks to liberal teachers in our local public schools, young African Americans had their noses rubbed daily in the notion that “all white people were against them” except naturally, their foolish teachers, so they tended to assume ever after that “everyone white” was against them, even when we went out of our way to show them that we, personally, wished to be friendly and helpful, and get along well with them.
And they acted out in anger on that victim mentality.
Trying to sort out the friction created by angry black children acting out because of what they were taught in school by irresponsible teachers–in a mobile home park where blacks and whites resided as near neighbors–became at times a total nightmare for their parents and me, as well as everyone else, complete with many tears of frustration.
It was hard work trying to keep some of those kids from totally messing up their lives and going to jail.
I’ve since been witness to similar incidents of misplaced anger and bitterness directed at other people who only meant well toward the angry people in question.
Here is what I have to say about that now:
Anger and bitter outbursts can only create friction, fear, and distrust.
Thinking, calm people create solutions and build bridges of trust.
Give others the gift of peace
So…are you going to be a thinking calm person who is secure enough to be gracious, forgive, communicate well, and build friendships, or are you going to be the kind of bitter, angry, ugly person who carries a chip around on your shoulder and makes everyone sorry to know you?
Are you going to perpetuate the problem or contribute to the solution?
Given that people are flawed and sinful, anger and misunderstandings will likely continue on some level between races the world over until God softens everyone’s hearts and opens their arms to each other in forgiveness and understanding.
Getting rid of a few historical flags is not going to change that.
The only thing that will change fear and distrust to friendship and cooperation is each person recognizing that they need to put aside their anger, seek and extend forgiveness, and seek to build bridges of trust with other people who are willing to do the same.
I believe this is already happening in many places in America.
During my years living in the South, I was privileged to watch many successful efforts to create bridges of communication, friendship, healing, and forgiveness in the community I lived in, and to hear accounts of this also happening in other communities.
Every time, it was a beautiful thing.
While there are still many communities that desperately need more of these efforts at understanding, seeing the work of forgiveness and peace that has already been accomplished is encouraging!
I also tried to do my part to facilitate peace and understanding in the mobile home park without further aggravating the raw edges that years of anger and misunderstanding had already created for some of the people who lived there.
It was my eventual understanding that I had been successful.
When the time came for me to move away from the South, there were African Americans in my community who said they were sad I was moving because I had made a positive difference in their lives. They said I had been fair to them. This was very high praise!
For my part, I was privileged to have had them as neighbors, and sad I had to leave them behind. Together, we had forged a community that was greater than anyone’s race.
So, as I hope you can see, racism is NOT what the post about the flags was about.
I wrote about the Confederate battle flags because I am concerned at the misguided attempts to bury or rewrite our nation’s history.
In my experience, and going by historical records of similar attempts in other countries (see especially the history of the U.S.S.R. and other countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain), burying parts of a nation’s past and trying to rewrite history is a REALLY BAD IDEA leading to terrible consequences for every nation that tries it.
I don’t want those consequences for our nation!
We need to recognize and teach the truth about our nation’s past. We do not need to sugarcoat that history, but neither do we need to use it as a sledge-hammer with which to beat our neighbors over the head.
Our neighbors weren’t alive during the time of slavery, and most of them weren’t alive during the time of segregation either.
Neither were we!
While we certainly shouldn’t want to repeat those mistakes, nor should we–if we are wise–wish to stir up so much anger, fear, and distrust among our neighbors that we commit worse mistakes.
We should learn from our nation’s past and seek always to live in better harmony and peace with our neighbors.
If we pursue peace and harmony, mere historical artifacts, like Civil War flags, will become the non-issue for all of us that they should already be.
So there you have it, Bob.
Just because someone has a different opinion from yours doesn’t make them racist. I hope you can now recognize and accept that.
Being angry at and hating someone from another race just because they’re that other race–now, that’s another story.