I write this very cautiously. Please read it with grace.
I don’t even know really how to begin this article…but it is within me…things to say…thoughts to share…but starting it is so difficult. I’m a southern white man from the mountains of North Carolina. What voice do I have within the conflict of racial tension? I just want to talk about the racial tension that is going on and I don’t want it to be political or anything of the sort. I just want to be honest from the point of view of a Scotch-Irish-maybe-also-Dutch Caucasian man in the mountains of western North Carolina. As I write this, I may not be totally aware of all of the nuances regarding what is offensive and what isn’t (for example, I think it’s okay to say “black,” but to my understanding words like “colored” are derogatory). I will do my absolute best to ensure that I’m sensitive to this issue so please be patient with my ignorance on some things.
Growing up in a small mountain town in the 80’s, there was definitely a lot of racism. It wasn’t because blacks were criminals or anything like that. It’s because they were blacks. Bottom line. Let’s be honest. We had our excuses for why we didn’t like “them” but the fact is that we didn’t like blacks because they were blacks. We felt this way because the prior generation felt this way and handed down this particular way of thinking. When we were speaking face-to-face, we would generally be nice and act like we had no problem with anyone. But, behind closed doors, we were very much racist.
This was my thinking throughout my childhood and youth all the way through high school. I went into the Navy, and my world was turned upside down. I made a friend who was black named Kevin. I looked up to him more than anyone else I was stationed with. I loved to play basketball and so did he and we played ball together a lot. One day I said something to him…totally innocently in relation to the black/white thing. (You see, where I grew up, when talking to my friends we would often call each other “boy.” We would say, “Boy, I’ll kick your tail!” and things like that. It was just like saying “Dude.”) Well, I had been trash talking with my friend, and I called him “boy.” That did not go over well. I saw my friend become angry in a flash…ready to punch me. I explained to him that I didn’t understand and then he told me that it had been a derogatory term used for slaves. Let me say this, as a younger man, I was a total idiot. I may not be the smartest man now, but back then, I was very challenged. I don’t know why, but that was the case. I had NO idea that this term was ever used in that way. He accepted my apology, had mercy on my innocence, and we were fine.
I think that a lot of our racial tensions are just like that. I think that perhaps our insensitivity is interpreted as racist, and then I also think that there are some people in the world that are overly sensitive and looking for any reason to be offended.
After I became a believer in Jesus, one of the first impressions I received from the Holy Spirit was one about my racial prejudice. This was a very difficult obstacle for me because of the context/community in which I grew up. I accepted the fact that God created all of mankind in His image, not just specific ethnicities, and I began to let Him change my way of thinking about different ethnic groups.
Now, with the atmosphere of the current culture, for a white guy, it’s like walking on eggshells, because not all of us have bigoted hearts, but that doesn’t mean that we understand the subculture of an ethnicity, and therefore we will make many stupid mistakes and those stupid mistakes are often viewed as prejudice.
I’m not expert on law. I think what happened in Ferguson was awful. All around awful. I think the officer would say the same thing. But things happen, and our systems are only as good as the fallen people within them. What happened to Mr. Garner in New York seems like a grave injustice to me, but once again, I’m no expert on these matters at all.
In the wake of these kinds of events, the answer is never violence. It’s never destruction. Dr. King led a great movement that was extremely successful because it was non-violent.
There are many people in our nation that still hate others. They hate people for stupid reasons. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s a guilt-by-association thing that happens because of my heritage.
Blacks, Whites, Browns, and any other that I may have missed, let me say this: the end to racial tension is for all of us to be patient with one another. Yes, there are idiots in all of our respective groups. Some of them are criminal and some are just stupid. Please be patient with guys like me that are insensitive and will say stupid things. I have a friend, Cliff, from Newark. He’s a black man and I love him dearly. He became my friend during the time of my prejudice, and he just allowed for my ignorance and continued to be my friend. He helped me. I trust you, Cliff, with my life. I don’t see him much, but he’s a good man that is my brother…with dark skin. For my Caucasian com-padres out there, let’s not assume anything about anyone. If I would have done that, then Cliff and I would have never met.
I wish that those in our media culture that are keeping this issue alive for the sake of profit would sit down and shut up. I have some friends to make and it’s hard enough to do without others trying to create more problems where enough challenge exists.
I want my girls to see a person and say “there’s a man/woman” and the thought about the color of their skin never really crosses their minds. I have that dream. I don’t care what color your skin is, for in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ.” (Galatians 3:29)
I hope and pray this made some kind of sense.
*Image taken from http://ramma157.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/what-causes-racial-tension/