“Girl, you should be ashamed of yourself showing up here in that!”
I had finally made it to my first exercise class. Evidently, I was in the wrong outfit.
I am white. The rest of the girls in the class were not white. Let me help you visualize what I’m talking about. I am the only white girl at a dance class. I showed up in the exercise skirt that I feel most comfortable in and was greeted with “You should be ashamed of yourself!”
In the past, I would never have had the nerve to show up to that class in the first place. Furthermore, if I had been greeted with such humiliating words, I would have been beside myself with self-consciousness. Things have changed.
God has chosen for me to be one of the first white members to join an otherwise black church congregation. While I certainly wanted to go to an integrated church, when I felt my husband and myself being pulled by the force of God to a mostly black church I was thinking, ‘The only white girl in most services, this is not what I had in mind!’
If there were shades of white, I would be as close to the whitest of white. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood, I went to private school where there was a black person or two. I wasn’t in the least prejudiced, but I simply was not exposed to any form of black culture.
My parents, on the other hand, grew up in the Washington DC area in the 1940’s and 50’s. They experienced segregation. They too were a product of their upbringing, yet neither of them led me to feel prejudice. They never led me to believe I am superior to black people, despite the barbaric culture they were raised in. I understood from a very early age that while I was not surrounded by black people that did not mean I was any better or worse than anyone else.
When I was 8 years old I watched the original TV series of Roots. The despicable realities that I digested as a young girl will always be a part of my paradigm. Though what I saw made an impact on my heart and soul, I have realized I have no understanding of what it feels like to have black skin, today, yesterday or tomorrow.
I live in a town where there is what I believe to be incredible racial harmony. Many of my close friends, around the country, have multiracial families through marriage or adoption. I don’t know anyone black or white who is racist. It certainly seemed to me that having a black president of the United States was a serious sign that racism has ended. In my narrow spectrum racism feels over.
I am wrong. Racism does not affect me personally, but it is not over! I need to get out of my comfort zone and take a stand against injustices that my peers are still facing. Just as I grew in my understanding of slavery in the 1970’s by watching Roots, it is time I expand my current understanding of racism. While I know, the white supremacists represent a narrow swath of the world, that is not enough. If people I love and value are even slightly treated as any less than I am, because of their skin color I need to wake up and stand up for righteousness. There are realities that need to be addressed, even if they don’t affect you and me on a day to day basis. I am ready to learn what I can do to make sure that I have done my part to fight against such barbaric and inhumane dogmas.
I protect my soul by not watching the news. I do not wrap myself up emotionally in modern day events. Therefore, I am not aware of the acute details between Black Lives Matter and Police Lives Matter, the riots in Baltimore, and traffic stops that have too often ended in death. What I do know is that a boy who went to the Annapolis Area Christian School with my children was recently stabbed to death because of his skin color. He was days away from his college graduation at Bowie State University. Richard Collins III was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army before his assassination.
This story penetrated deeply into my heart. A fine young man, who graduated with my son, was setting out to be a leader in the world. He was murdered because of his skin color. This was the first time I have ever felt this type of pain so close to home. I realize that what was a first for me, was not so unusual for the black community whom I love so dearly. I am being called to move out of my comfort zone and acknowledge that being black in America is still not a place of equality.
What I’m learning is while we are all American, and many of us from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, our worlds can still be like two different countries, yet we often don’t realize it.
For example, I believe what the girl at the dance class was really saying about my exercise skirt was, “Girl, don’t hide your body under that skirt, be proud of who you are!”
Fortunately, I have increased my social repertoire from the one or two wealthy black kids that I knew at private school, to most of my church congregation and others in my community. What I actually heard was love, when I was greeted with “You should be ashamed of yourself!”. Otherwise, I would have heard, “Oh my word, look at you. You look so foolish, what makes you think you can even be here? We all dress differently than you. It would be best if you don’t come back.”
Now on the same token, she has no idea what a struggle I went through in my mind to get to the class at all. My struggles are different than hers and while I don’t know her reality, she doesn’t know mine either. I see many cultural differences when I fellowship with mainly black crowds, sometimes it feels like we speak a different language.
I hear God say it’s time to take a stand. I am a peace keeper. I like harmony, but I hear Him loud and clear. It is time to raise the frequency vibration so that future generations remember these horrible news stories and view them as asinine as I view having colored entrances and water fountains.
I’m willing to go out on a limb if it means making a difference.
The first step I’m taking is admitting racism still exists even though I don’t feel it in my day to day world. I need to stand up for righteousness. I do not tolerate racism but I do ignore it, although it affects many people I love.
Consider this the first step of obedience in speaking out.
Let us all forgive each other for people’s ignorance about not knowing what life feels like in our shoes. Let us all stand up for righteousness and not stereotype anyone. Let us listen to each other.
I would not have understood the current state of racism in the United States if I had not sat in church and listened to my pastor, a man whom I greatly respect as my spiritual church leader, talk about real threats for the black community today in the United States.
What are you going to do?
I believe most of us are not racist but are we willing to speak louder than those cowards who are?
If you are looking to grow in any area of your life, please reach out to me for coaching or to speak at your next event. Coaching happens on the phone so there is no need to be local. It is a confidential space where you can unload the thoughts out of your head and spend some time organizing them. I am so excited to hear how it is changing people’s perspectives.