It has been a rough week.
A few days ago, an altercation occurred between a teenager and a neighborhood watch volunteer. The teen was black; the volunteer Hispanic. One died, the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest. Many call it a hate crime. Others claim the shooter had cause. The story has been front page news across the nation for days.
Last weekend, a blockbuster based on an extremely popular young adult book series smashed box office records all over the world. Yet a disturbing trend of disparaging tweets about the race of a pivotal character made headlines. Some of these tweets expressed disappointment that an African-American actress was cast for the role; others said the character’s death “wasn’t as sad” as they thought it would be “because she was black.”
Apparently we’re not so enlightened as a society to believe the days of racism — either assumed or actual — are behind us.
Just look at the aftermath of the week’s events: Death has been politicized, or minimized according to color. Those with lighter skin are hunted in Chicago by gangs with hoodies seeking some warped form of vigilante justice. A celebrity with an axe to grind carelessly shares the wrong address of the shooter, instead condemning an elderly couple to night after terror-filled night, fearing for their lives. Technology is used to degrade a young girl because of her skin color, despite the author’s obvious intent for the character.
Ignorance is revealed. Latent anger, even hatred, is uncovered.
I intentionally used the passive voice there… because that’s how we tend to process tragedy. We separate ourselves, believing “we” are somehow above the fray. ”We” would, of course, never do such things. ”We” are more empathetic, more enlightened, more tolerant, more politically correct. After all, “we” elected an African American to the presidency (insert sarcasm here).
“We” are different than “they” are. Surely.
But are we?
The truth, deep down, is that we’re not so different as we’d like to believe. Every single one of us tends to believe one side over the other based on our own biases, our own experiences, our own set of beliefs. And some of those biases, my friends, are ugly. They are deliberately ignorant. They generalize, they stereotype, they degrade and humiliate.
They reveal our hearts.
Our youngest daughter will have darker skin than we do. Unlike our esteemed President, I don’t have to speculate as to whether this biologically unrelated child will look like me… I know for a fact she won’t.
I’m not going to stand here on my soapbox telling you how we “don’t see” color… that it won’t matter in her life. Because whether it matters in our own little circle or not (it won’t), the events of this past week make abundantly clear that such things still DO matter in this world. That ignorance and hatred exists, no matter how much we want to wish it away or sweep it under the rug.
Will you recognize the ugliness in your own heart today? What, then, will you decide to do about it?
May I humbly suggest something?
Don’t “stand with Trayv*n”… but don’t assume the worst of him, either. Don’t dismiss racist tweets about a beautiful child as immature banter, or as a sign that the world is about to collapse under an onslaught of hatred (although you all should be dismayed at the apparent and total lack of reading comprehension in our populace… Rue was, after all, clearly described in the book as having dark skin).
Instead, I would encourage you to be sad. Saddened that our children are hateful. That our elders harbor generational prejudice.
I would also encourage you to be reflective. What does this reveal about the world in which we live? And, more importantly — lest we are tempted to pass blame and judgment elsewhere — what does this reveal about me? About you?
Deep down, am I really any different? Are you? Are you just better at holding your tongue than those who are condemned for their words? Does that really make you a better person?
What are my own prejudices? To whose “side” am I likely to jump, if given only an instant to take sides?
Be honest with yourself… and then…
Be personally proactive.
Do everything in your power to ensure racism, whatever remains of it through generational prejudice, experience, or whatever, is eradicated in yourself. In your own children. In your circle of friends. Teach your kids. Take every opportunity to live by example. Pray to God to remove the vestiges of sin in your life, and in the lives of those around you.
Yes, our daughter will have dark skin. She is coming into a world where she will likely be looked down upon by someone simply because her skin is brown. Make the decision today that you and yours will not be that someone. That your heart will be changed.
That’s where we start.