“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Ellie Wiesel
I was raised to be a racist, not the type that wore a hood and burned crosses in front yards, but a quiet one. Racism slithered across the floors of our Christian home hissing “sshhh.” It taught me to be afraid of black people, when Momma gripped my hand on the sidewalk as we passed by people of color. It taught me black people committed most of the crime in our town, when I heard comments like “Do they know who did it? Probably a colored fella.” It taught me that looking like a black person is bad, when Daddy teased Momma that her eyes were as dark as an African, and she spat back his were the color of cow manure.
I was raised in a town recognized as the Peanut Capital of the world, Suffolk, Virginia. Although the city’s other claim to fame is providing the backdrop for a New York Times bestseller titled, The Color of Water by James McBride. (Great read by the way.) I mention my hometown to make the point my parents were a product of not only their ancestry, but their environment as well. Suffolk was the type of town that split white from the black with train tracks. Plopping the black population on the wrong side.
While we’re on my hometown…I think one of the first times I recognized racism in Suffolk, I stood in line for the diving board at our private swimming pool, while black boys stood outside shooting me with a water pistol through the fence. I glanced out over the sea of white bodies and realized for the first time, not one black person swam at our pool. I approached my Momma and sat on the edge of her chair. She lowered her super-sized sunglasses.
“Why aren’t the black boys allowed to swim?” I said.
“Well, because…” she batted her lashes. “To be honest, you have to be invited, but it’s for the best because their parents probably couldn’t afford it anyway.”
I’ve thought about those words a lot through the years. Funny, how one little snippet in your memory bank becomes so important later.
When I met my husband Jay (Jahmal) it was just as Momma had prophesied when she stated I’d have to be struck by lightning to recognize the man God intended me to marry. She never imagined I’d bring the storm home when I left a letter announcing I was to marry a black man. (You can read that story co-penned by my father here...Shades of Skin)
Today, as the white wife of a black husband and the mother of four bi-racial children it’s difficult to watch the news. To be honest, I haven’t slept well lately. I don’t want my children growing up in a world where they could be gunned down by two vigilantes in a pick-up truck, because their skin is brown, like what was done to Ahmaud Arbery. When the crazed white woman lied to the police by telling them she was being attacked by an African American, I saw my own son pleading with her to be reasonable. The video of George Floyd being killed made me so sick, I couldn’t watch it in its entirety without tears. For me, I saw my husband lying there begging to breathe.
I cannot express in words my hatred for racism. It has kept people down due to the color of their skin, making people haughty because they feel they were born with the “right” color. I write from having experience within it and from outside it. A racist is a person who’s enslaved, weak, filled with a toxic blend of arrogance, ignorance, and hatred. Racists are instruments of Satan–whether they realize it or not. There are racists in the black community as well as the white.
Two years ago, Jay and I walked into a West Indian restaurant in Orlando to purchase Curry Goat and Roti. Jay forgot his wallet in the car and went to get it, while all eyes in the restaurant turned to me. If looks could kill I would’ve died that day. It was as if I wore a t-shirt stamped with “White Lives Matter!” I smiled around the room but their expressions didn’t change, so I stared at my feet.
While we’re at it, I’ve been given hate looks from white men too. You see, those of us who marry outside our race are subjected to this type of treatment at times, but it’s not something we talk about much. We just take it.
It’s time for transparency.
But these experiences are minuscule compared to unjustified murder. A man’s skin color does not justify false accusations…beatings….killing.
Enough is enough!
Unfortunately, these images aren’t the only ones in the news that have made me angry lately. What could have been a peaceful march of raised voices has turned into setting fires, lotting, throwing glass bottles filled with pee at officers, destroying people’s livelihoods, turning cities into parking lots. You want to destroy your cities? Raise your unemployment rates? I’ve seen a black man crying while the mob destroyed his business. Why? You want to burn down the apartments in your own communities? What is this accomplishing except making you or your citizens homeless?
Violence never cures hatred; it only grows it.
If you’ve been raised a racist as I have, you only have to look to my parent’s example to find the cure. It took one person of color and a prayer to rid my parents of the racism that slithered down my family tree for hundreds of years. You kill racism with prayer and love. Marches may bring awareness to a problem. They may reveal anger. But, the only thing that will make any lasting change is prayer and love.
Ask God to rid your heart and mind of such evil and find one person that is a different color than you are and go love them. Get to know them. Find out what their struggles in life are. and help them. You may find you have different views because you came from different places and that’s okay. Life is more interesting when you’re around people who aren’t like you. Personally, I get sick of myself.
Several years ago in Suffolk, there was a Black Lives Matter march scheduled to occur. Seeing what was happening in other areas (looting and setting fires), the police went door to door to warn the local business owners, my father being one of them. That night, Daddy stayed at the store late, just in case he needed to protect his livelihood. The march met at the City Hall. A black minister approached a white preacher and I heard it was said, “There’s no problem here.” They prayed right there for the healing of our country and dispersed. I wish I could’ve been there, but this is what I was told.
Funny thing about Suffolk, the trains don’t run down those tracks like they used to. The tracks are dilapidated now, and green grass is growing over them. The neighborhoods have more color; and that swimming pool I swam in has been filled and turned into an apartment community. I’m not saying there is no racism, but it’s not as accepted anymore.
Whole towns can change too. It starts with one person willing to shake the hand of another. It starts with a group of protestors courageous enough to take a stand against violence. It starts with parents accepting a black son-in-law and bragging about him. It takes a prayer whispered by a bedside. It takes loving one person a different color than you.
I never know who my articles reach as they shoot off into the world, but I’ve prayed and I believe it will land in the hands of those that need to read it. Change starts with you. Change starts with me. Stop the “sshhh” and start praying for healed hearts and dilapidated tracks. Start praying God sends you that one person to get to know.
It’s time to heal.
“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b English Standard Version
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 ESV