My first brush with racism happened in 1984. I was 21 years old. Yes, that’s right, I had lived twenty-one years and had never experienced racism up close and personal before. Oh sure, I’d read about it, watched movies that portrayed it, but never actually saw it in action. You see, I am Canadian. I was raised in a different world than you. I’m not saying there is no racism in Canada, but I am saying it is rare. It is the exception, not the rule.
We are a melting pot of various races and cultures. In our country, you are generally respected if you pull your weight, work hard, are a law-abiding citizen, and contribute to your community- no matter what your race or color. Does our country of Canada have other faults? I think so. But racism generally isn’t one of them.
So imagine my shock at twenty-one years of age when my first taste of racism was brought to me by an American. And an American “preacher of the gospel” at that!
He was a missionary to Canada. My sister and I were in the process of checking into his church. He was from North Carolina and had a cool accent. He invited us over for what he called his “famous barbecue.” I have no idea how the conversation started. Maybe we were asking him about his culture. He proceeded to tell us that he had to always carry a gun in his house in America because of the blacks. We protested this was a silly frame of mind. He assured us we didn’t understand. Blacks, he educated, were robbers and thieves- couldn’t be trusted. But he didn’t stop there. He informed us they were also sub-human. Less than human. Their brains were not as fully developed as white people’s brains. They were, in fact, Neanderthal. This, from a man who preached against evolution.
Needless to say, we were appalled and shocked. (That should have been our first clue into just how corrupt the North American church (so called) had become, but unfortunately it would be years before I saw a correlation between the two…..segregated churches are still alive and well in the United States).
Our mouths were agape! NOBODY in Canada had ever spoken like that. In fact, quite the opposite. African Americans, for the most part, were highly respected thanks to Hollywood and the sports channels (our two main portals into American culture). Basket ball stars like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were cool–revered. And many of the young people were fashioning their dress and talk around the black rappers on MTV. We championed, even romanticized, the cause Sidney Portier tackled in his brilliantly-crafted movies. In fact, years later in 2011 when the movie, The Help came to my home town, every single person rose from their seat at the end and gave a standing ovation. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was so proud…Yah! Kelowna, British Columbia!
My second brush with racism was experienced in the United States itself. But it was not at all the kind of racism I expected to encounter here. This time the racism was aimed directly at me- because I was- white!
I’d spent two years going to college in Dallas, TX from 1995-1997. We had a small apartment in a part of town where whites were the minority. Funny how it wasn’t until many years later that I finally pieced together that we were in fact the minority in our apartment complex. I was so innocent back then. Literally didn’t see colors, just saw people. (Probably I should thank my parents for that, who taught us that all people were created equal before God).
So imagine my surprise when I was laughing, joking, and playing with three young African American siblings on the steps outside our apartment, and their Daddy promptly opened his apartment door, gave a rough scolding to his children, and called them into the home. I couldn’t figure it out. What had they done wrong? What had I done wrong? Why would he and his wife never talk to me? In retrospect I wonder if he’d have been surprised to find out I was from a different country entirely? They may have enjoyed hearing stories from a distant land. May have been wise to expose their children to a broader education. But they missed all that. I lived next door to them for a year, and they never engaged me, or responded to my attempts to engage them, not even one time. I never got to laugh and play with the beautiful children and they never smiled at me again. Sorry, young ones. We all got an education that day, didn’t we? You didn’t see color. I didn’t see color. But somebody did.
It wasn’t the first time and, sadly, it wouldn’t be the last time I’d experience racism from black America.
Many years later, I met and married the most gentlest, kindest, well-balanced, level-headed, honest, and spiritually reverent man that any girl could ever hope to have. He just happens to be a black African American. And I settled with him here in the United States.
In God’s beautiful blessedness, His grace, and His kind, undeserved favor, He gave me somebody who also doesn’t see color. (And from all accounts, I’d say we can thank his Mother for that. Let me say it personally this day: Thank you dearest, wise, and beautiful Claire).
But alas, not everyone in your culture shares your views. Many of our black friends and family- not all- but many, refuse to look me in the eye. My husband and I are clearly a happily married couple, and yet when we are together visiting our black “friends and family,” many of them won’t look at me or speak to me. They direct all of their questions and conversation at my husband alone. If I ask direct questions, they will act like they didn’t hear, or they will give their answer to my husband, not me.
Very few have asked me anything personal about myself. Questions about my grown children or their families. My past- my interests or passions. I’m not asked about my beliefs. I’m not even asked about my home town or the country I came from. Nothing. Just silence. A changing of the subject if I bring it up. A looking over my head. A passing from the room I’m in to another. Now either this is ill-mannered, it is narcissism, or it is racism. You can draw your own conclusion.
At this point, I have two choices, I can perpetuate the racism and grow the hatred… OR….
But I was not raised that way. Not by Mama and not by Jesus. I will not respond in kind. My door is always open- and always will be open. If anyone wants to get to know me- the person- I am here. My arms are wide, my love runs deep. I will not judge you. I want to move on. I want to love. I want to know who you are. I want to cradle you in my arms. I want to share your pain. Walk with you through the storm. I want to be your friend.
I pray for you a pure love America.
One that does not confuse equality with superiority or power.
One that does not confuse equality with revenge.
One that will not accept that two wrongs make a right.
I know that because I am married to an African American there are many white men and women -who walk in darkness in this country- who want me dead or gone.
I know that because I am married to an African American there are many black men and women -who walk in darkness in this country- who want me dead or gone.
But God has raised up my husband and I for this very purpose. And if I have to die in order to proclaim the unpolluted and pure love of Christ to a world-gone-wrong, I am willing to do that. (with no violence on my part of course). I am willing to sacrifice myself if that’s what it takes. My comforts, a safer country of my own, Yea, even my very life. I hope you heard me on that.
I say this even knowing few will listen. Jesus sacrificed Himself- gave it ALL for love- and few listened to him.
But I know that in the end love wins.
Darkness may seem to win, but…
It will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end yet.
Lord Jesus, come quickly. You alone, are the judge. Peace will not come until You return. Praise you Jesus. All praise to the King.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.” Romans 1: 16