SAE's, OU and Lessons to Glean

5:00 PMHeather

We sat down to breakfast at a hotel a few days ago, and although the television was muted in the lobby, I gleaned the gist of the situation through the captions.

And I was horrified.

There were the faces of young men chanting words that could not even be written within the captions. Smug looks on their faces. Laughing. Thinking it was hysterical to spout such hatred and bigotry. 

But it made me crinch. It made me wonder. Have we not learned anything? Have we not made progress here? I felt foolish for all the times that my husband and I have sat our kids down on MLK Day to watch the "I Have a Dream" speech and the "I've Been to the Mountain Top" speech. As we've explained what it's all about, it's been so easy for me to feel so smug myself. To think, "We've come so far that my kids cannot fathom a world with separate water fountains." Or to think I can pat myself on the back for my efforts.

Because it's not enough. We've not come far enough. We are still divided and twisted by stereotypes and isolation. At the IF Gathering in February, they had a round table discussion about racial diversity, and I realized how narrow my world is. I realized how my circle of friends don't reflect as much diversity as the world contains. I realized how white my world is. I realized how easy it is for me to feel far removed from this issue.

Because I am the majority. Because I don't walk in the shoes of those who are the minority. So, it's pretty easy to gloss over it all or, as much as I hate to admit it, to think maybe some things get exaggerated. Surely, it's a much better world and we are all much better off? 

In my naivete, it's rather easy to feel prideful when watching movies like 12 Years a Slave or The Help and think we've come so far.  Of course, we have in some aspects. But racism is still there. Racism in all its insidious forms still reaches into the hearts of people and causes barriers and throws up divisions and draws a line in the sand.

Racism still grieves the heart of God. 

Racism still makes young, immature college kids think nothing of mocking others for the color of their skin and thinking it's all a laughing matter.

I don't think those boys are laughing anymore.

And I applaud the wisdom and the insight from the college professor who blogged about the missed teaching moment in this situation. Her perspective is that the university missed a chance to actually teach and change and transform these boys, offering the wisdom they can glean by actually learning from the very people they mocked. Her point is such a good one. That the lesson here be about opening the ignorant and uneducated eyes of the boys who are obviously lacking so very much. To choose grace and a belief that people can change. That young boys can be taught to do better and to think for themselves and to form their own EDUCATED opinion rather than embrace the bigotry of their parents.

That we might all lean in and fall hard on that wisdom. That we might all take this situation as a teaching moment. To check our own hearts. To truly sift through the bigotry from generations past and uncover the worth of people based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. That we would seek to hear the stories of people who may not look like us. To learn from them. To know them. To understand THEIR experience. To acknowledge that we are blinded by our majority privilege. Because we have no idea what it is to be a minority in our culture.

Again, I go back to my own overestimation on this issue. I was raised on integrated military bases by parents who sincerely taught us to care more about the person than the color of their skin. My dad had fought for two years in Vietnam, relying on his fellow soldiers of all ethnic backgrounds. He was part of training the Vietnamese military to fight the communists. He lived what he taught. That there is a beautiful unity when we can live together, no matter our differences, see each other's intrinsic worth, and literally risk our lives for each other if need be. My parents always encouraged us to look for a partner with our values and morals and Biblical perspective, regardless of race. In fact, years after my dad died, my mom lived what she taught when she married a black man. Because of their similar beliefs and values and interests. And skin color had nothing to do with it.

I watched that video and I remembered. I was twelve years old, having just moved to a small Texas town, before I ever heard the N word uttered. And I remember being horrified.

Because back then, just as now, I had overestimated how far we have come. I have underestimated the racial divide. Which is something quite easy to do with majority privilege.

 

So may we all take this as a teaching moment. May we all see past our own experience, our own upbringing, our own frame of reference. May we all carefully consider how to take a step back and listen. Really listen. To the stories of people. The stories of people who were not surprised that things like that fraternity bus incident still happen. People who, in fact, have first hand experience with such bigotry. May we all lean in and listen carefully. May we all stop and pause on this situation and truly take a heart check. Opening our minds to the pitfalls of racism and what it means for all of us. For all of our culture. For all of our country.

Because obviously, we have work to do here.  Let us not waste this opportunity to gain from a situation where so many lose. Where people lose because they are mocked and ridiculed and belittled. Where people lose because they cannot see their own issues that limit them, and in this case, became their undoing. Where people lose because we are not willing or able to put ourselves in someone else's frame of reference.

I was thinking how years back, an incident on a bus raised a controversy. Sparked debate. Ignited hatred. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person. It was an incident, in time, which led to change and to progress and to conversations that opened eyes.

May this incident on a bus similarly lead us to change and progress and steps forward. 

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