Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shades of Grey

One of the last times I attended the small Baptist church in which I was baptized was a sunny Spring day. It must have been close to Easter because all the azalea bushes were blooming. I was hanging out at the front doors after the service, waiting for my mother to quit chatting with her friends. I was in my early teens, old enough to understand fully the conversation I heard.

The pastor and two deacons were at the door, speaking to people as they left the church. A black family, mom, dad and two young boys, perhaps eight and ten years old had visited our lily white church that day. The pastor and the deacons thanked them warmly for visiting with us. The pastor asked if they had filled out a visitor's card and the father assured him that they had indeed and complimented the pastor on his fine sermon.

As the family walked away, there was a silence. As they turned the corner, one of the deacons said, "Glad they filled out the card, maybe we can send them directions to the nigra church for next week."

The second deacon laughed and said, "It's only a mile up the road, figure they got lost?"

The pastor said nothing.

Does that make me a racist? I knew those men. I went to school with their children. They taught me in Sunday school. Did it make me a racist?

But that was long ago, you say. The world is different today. Things are better.

No they are not. We are as racist as we have ever been. We love to hate others. Black, Hispanic, gay, Muslim. We are equal opportunity haters.

I didn't hear anyone saying much of nothing after 9/11 when Jerry Falwell said the terrorist strike was God's revenge on America because of homosexuals, feminists and liberals.

That's because the far religious right loves nothing more than to hate gays and feminists with hand selected scripture to back them up, so it was okay to say that, or it could be brushed aside with a grin and a shrug and a "Oh, you know Jerry, always gonna say something over the top."

But good gracious Lord, let a black man give vent to some anger and frustration over the racism that still exists in this country. Let a black man go "over the top" with a statement and it's the end of the freaking world.

Oh, we puff up with our righteous indignation and rebuke any man of the cloth who says anything controversial or incendiary. Oh my goodness gracious, that wasn't nice, what he said.

What Fred Phelps says isn't nice. What Pat Buchanan says isn't nice. What Jerry Falwell says isn't nice. What Ted Haggerty used to say isn't nice. whisper- but they're white, so we overlook it.

Because that sting you may feel when you hear those words is shame and guilt, because deep down, unless you have no capacity to tell yourself the truth, you know there is a nugget of truth in the words. And we don't like to feel shame and guilt, so we project it back at the speaker. You know we are a racist, homophobic, xenophobic society but it's much nicer to just pretend that because you aren't that way, then no-one of your race is that way.

And if you don't believe that overt, hateful racism still exists in this country, then pull your head out of the sand and spend a few minutes perusing the comment sections of Charleston.net. It is appalling. I'm not even black and it offends the hell out of me what people say.

I've heard supposedly educated people in the "helping professions" call WIC supplied formula "welfare juice". I've heard those same people say that illegal aliens should be "shot and their bodies left to rot on the border as a warning". I've heard sentences begin with "all those blacks" or "all those towel heads" or "all those Mexicans" so many times it makes me want to scream.

All? All? You can't see what an insult that is?

Thor sez: Stop! I can't take it no more!

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