I remember the first moment I was confronted with racism in my own life. Not the first time I had witnessed it, but the first time it personally affected me.
I was in the seventh grade and we had just finished eating dinner. My parents asked my brothers to leave so they could talk to me privately. Instantly, I began wondering what I was in trouble for. There were so many things going through the mind of a 12 year old boy that could have been the cause for this sit down.
I vividly remember sitting across the table from my parents and hearing my mom say, “So I hear you have a new girlfriend.”
In my mind I said, “Wait. How does she know that? We just became official today.”
She was an eighth grader. She played basketball for the school, just like me.
And she was black.
My mother continued, “You know we do not care who your girlfriend is. We could care less that she is a different race, but your grandparents come from a different time. They will never be able to understand it and we think you need to know this.”
I wish I could tell you that I spoke up in that moment and gave the best defense of why my grandparents were wrong and how I couldn’t believe we were even having that discussion.
But all my scared, 12 year-old self could do was lie to my parents and tell them that it was all a dare from my friend and how he bet I wouldn’t “date” her for a week.
In my mind, looking back, I had this fear of disappointing my grandparents and thought I would just make up a juvenile explanation for the relationship so to assuage any doubt that I knew my place.
And then I broke up with her.
That moment haunts me to this day because it is a stain on my life that brings me hurt, guilt, and shame. It also would be a defining moment for me a few years later when I watched the movie “Rosewood”. If you have never seen the movie, here is the synopsis:
“Rosewood is a story about a small African American town in Florida that endured a massacre of its people in 1923. When a married white woman is beaten by her lover she protects herself by blaming her injuries on an African American man from Rosewood. Although there is no truth in the woman’s story, the mere fact that it is purported to be truth sparks a violent and merciless assault on the black citizens of Rosewood. As the white males in the nearby town of Sumner band together as vigilantes/posses they blaze a trail of destruction.”
I had never endured a movie before that brought to life the dark, evil past of America in a way that confronted me in my soul. In much the same way that the woman lied about what really happened, it wounded me at the soul level to know that I had been no different sitting across our kitchen table.
I remember internally vowing I would not ever feel that way again. I told God I was sorry and asked Him to forgive me. I then committed myself to never be silent in the face of racism again.
It has been a long journey and there have been many failures along the way, but I have found the voice God gave me and the desire to see the reality of reconciliation be a part of my family’s life and the church.
Over the next few posts, my desire is to share the truth of God when it comes to the dark stain of racism on our soul and how we might find the freedom and healing we desperately need.
It is going to be a conversation that is hard, complex, and quite painful. But my hope is that we will see that there is a promise in that pain.