Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Trouble With Company

Tonight Samuel and I had dinner with some good friends. People we are close to, people we love and who love us. So imagine my shock, when my friend’s 15 year old son began telling a “black joke” at my table. I felt like someone was holding me underwater, and before I could take a breath and say stop, the assault was over. It went like this: “What do apples and black men have in common? They both look good hanging from trees.” Even as I write this, I feel the same ball in my stomach that I had at dinner and I want to vomit, I want to scream, I want to punch something.

My friend’s son loves my son and is caring and brotherly toward him. The fact that my son is black and her son is white has never been an issue for her family; yet, her son still chose to re-tell the joke that he had heard on his way home from school. Why?

Firstly, because I do not think he understands the full meaning of the “joke.” Even calling this grotesque statement a “joke” makes me cringe. Secondly, he has grown in a home where telling distasteful jokes is acceptable and a community where racial intolerance and prejudice is accepted. And thirdly, he has no filter.

However, despite my ability to look at his ignorance as a teachable moment and express its cruelty, I felt offended, and angry, that this level of hatred had found its way to my table. I am thankful that my 19 month old is too little at this point to understand what was said, but the fact that it was said at all, said in my home, and said in front of my son makes me want to scream.

This very personal example has come after a week of me being inundated with hate crimes in the news, seeing the damage that racial intolerance has caused people I love, as well as, the patients I care for at work, and some nasty comments I have been on the receiving end of, over the past several months, because I am a white woman raising a black child. Perhaps my patience for “stupid” is especially low, but I am fed up with people being monsters.

Roughly 110 years ago, my son would have been considered somebody’s property. He would have been beaten, sometimes even maimed, because of the color of his skin. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which declared, “that all persons held as slaves' within the rebellious states 'are, and hence forward shall be free;” and even though the practice of slavery in the United States was outlawed by the 13th amendment to the Constitution in 1865, the last known slaves were not set free until 1902.

Less than 50 years ago he would not have been able to ride next to me on a bus or attend school with my friends’ children. He would have still been considered less than. It was not until the end of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968 that these issues were finally ratified. Noted achievements of the civil rights movement in this area include the judicial victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case that nullified the legal article of "separate but equal" and made segregation legally impermissible, passage of the the Act of 1964[10] that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations, and the Act of 1965 that restored voting rights, and passage of the Act of 1968 that banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

However, even though on paper the battle has been won, darkness still persists in the hearts of many, in 2013. Racial injustices are still being fought and prejudice is rampant, even in the church in America. This breaks my heart, I hope it breaks your heart, and I know it breaks the heart of God.

Martin Luther King stated the following in a portion of his “I Have A Dream Speech,” which was given August 28, 1963. I too have this dream.

“In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

1 comment:

  1. I can't even imagine how that must have felt. My hope is that someday, no one will see any difference between the races.