We all have chains of some kind, if we’re willing to admit it. For some of us, the chains are visible, but for most they are only visible by our actions or by the way we view ourselves.
I was watching a video done by Propaganda yesterday and it really spoke to me. If you get a chance, you should watch it too. https://youtu.be/yqAS2lPISa8 I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says in this video, but it really got me thinking.
I am a 48 year old white female. I did not get to choose my race or my gender, it was chosen for me. I believe in God, so I believe that what was chosen for me was right, regardless of the struggles I have had in accepting my gender over the years. I was not raised during the time of slavery and I thank God for that. I have enough guilt to live with without having the added guilt of possibly owning another human being. I was raised mostly by my mother and grandparents in upstate NY. We did not know prejudice, but we also did not know a lot of people of color. We had one black friend in middle school and I had one in college, but that was pretty much the only experience I had with people that were not white other than my Aunt from the Dominican Republic.
Personally, I have always been intrigued by people of other nationalities and colors. I find it very interesting to learn about other ethnic groups and I believe as humans we all have something different and important to add to the world around us.
I was talking with my sisters the other day and I was telling them how I was uncomfortable with something that a group of people that I occasionally spend time with were doing. Because of my upbringing in a very strict legalistic environment, I tend to be over sensitive when it comes to certain things. Here is what my oldest sister said to me, “Everyone is different. In these kinds of things (not black & white), you can both be right! It took me a long time to realize that there is no “formula” for a personal relationship (with God OR people). It’s organic and unique because every person is unique.” Of course, she was talking about relationships in the church, but it really applies in other areas, too.
My first experience with a black person as an adult was when I was working as an electrician’s helper in Hamilton, Ohio in 1990. I was newly married to a surveyor and when he got a job in Ohio, I decided I wanted to work, too. It was boring sitting in a hotel all day by myself. The company put me to work with a black, female journeyman electrician. I thought it was going to be awesome working with another woman, I was a little nervous about going into a male dominant field already knowing right off the bat I was going to have to prove myself. I was so wrong. The first couple of days weren’t too bad, but once she figured out I could do the work, she started disappearing. She would be gone for hours at a time, and I had no idea where she was going. One day the foreman came by looking for my journeyman and I told him I had no idea where she was. He gave me a look that told me he knew where she was, but he didn’t say anything. We were working in a paper mill, and it was hot all the time. Most of the time where we worked it was over 100 degrees all day long. It could be pretty physically hard work, but mostly you were on your feet all day on hot cement. It just so happened that I needed to use the restroom one afternoon and I figured out where my journeyman had been going all those times. One bathroom on the upper level was air conditioned and had a lounge when you first walked in. There were couches and lockers and it was really one of the nicest bathrooms I had ever been in. I walked in to that restroom and my journeyman was sprawled out on one of those couches just relaxing. I said, “This is where you’ve been disappearing to?!?!” She said, “Heck yeah, I’m not going to sweat my tail off all day everyday!” I asked her if she wasn’t worried about losing her job and she responded, “I’m black and I’m a woman, they can’t do nothing to me.” I could not believe those words came out of her mouth. I was working so hard just to prove that I was capable and able to do the job that they could have given to a man, and that I deserved to get paid the same as a man, and she was using her race and her gender to do the exact opposite. I was literally sick about it. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
I totally get it that black people have had a hard time getting past the prejudice. There are too many white people who just hate black people solely on the color of their skin. My first husband was a Native American from the South who was very dark skinned, and even the Native American’s did not want to be considered black. There is a video circulating where a white woman asks the crowd of white people if they believe that black people are being treated right to stand up if they would want to be treated the same way….not very many people stood up. I don’t think I would have stood up, even though I do think that we all have a lot of opportunities here in America that we just wouldn’t have anywhere else.
Sometimes I am really grateful that I was born white, even though we were poor. We didn’t have a lot, but my mom worked really hard to give us what we needed. We had a home, an education and she built in each of us a strong work ethic. I have rarely been grateful that I was born a woman. Just being honest, I believe that in many religions women are considered subservient to men. I have even seen that in black culture. Black people often feel that white people think they are less than them, and I believe there are some that do. I am NOT one of those people. But some black men, as well as some white men, quite often will treat their wives as someone who is lesser than them, and for me that is a problem.
Something I heard recently really stuck with me. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. I know its an old saying, but it really is true. If you want respect, treat other people with respect. If you want love, show love. If you want to be treated as an equal, treat others as equals. This can be applied in so many relationships. We all want to be heard, seen, respected, loved. It should not be so hard for us to be those things to other people, especially if that is what we want from them.
I guess I am saying all this to say that I understand that black people feel hurt by white people. They still struggle in many ways to overcome the issues that have plagued them for years. My son Isaac has a Lecrae song on his phone that we often listen to while we are driving called Dirty Water. One line says, “You call ’em devil, he fighting for self esteem”. I guess not everyone can relate to that concept. I can relate to that, because I have spent many years learning that I am enough as a woman, that I don’t have to prove myself anymore. In Propaganda’s 20 Years, he talks about a relationship that was really bad for twenty years, the man abused the woman, but she stayed. Then the second twenty years was good, but the scars were still there. On their 40th anniversary the husband said, “Let’s not talk about the bad twenty years, lets just focus on the last twenty years that were good.” At first I thought, well that makes sense, if he’s changed, let’s forgive him and move on. But then he said something that I just can’t shake. He said, “How can I forgive you if you’re not willing to admit you were wrong?” I know what the Bible says about forgiving, and I know that quite often we need to forgive in order to free ourselves, but not everyone is even close to being at that point yet. The truth is, it’s a lot easier to forgive someone when they have asked you for forgiveness and you know they are truly sorry. It’s a lot harder to forgive someone who is arrogantly refusing to even admit that they hurt you. Maybe what we really need to do is talk about it. Maybe it’s already being talked about in a positive way, I think with the way things are out there today, we need to talk about it just a little more.
I did not choose to be white, and I did not choose to be a woman, but this is who I am. I was not alive when slavery was accepted and practiced. I cannot change what was done years ago, and I cannot discern whether it was black people who sold their own into slavery or whether it was white people. I cannot discern whether they thought what they were doing was right or wrong based on their own heritage or social classes. The only thing I can do is say that I believe it was wrong. I believe today that it is wrong to own a human being as property and it was wrong then. I believe that we are all created in God’s image and that we all are equally valued in God’s eyes. I believe if we are truly followers of Jesus that we will equally value each other no matter what race, color, gender or any other distinction. I believe that is takes everyone, all groups of people with different gifts and interests and abilities to really make this world beautiful. I wish there was something I could do to change the past and make it different, but I can’t. The only thing I can do is to stand up as a white female and say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that we as a race of white people owned black slaves because we thought we were better in some way. I’m sorry that there are still white people who believe that black people are inferior in some way. And I am sorry that for some reason there are people of both colors out there that continually want to provoke and instigate this negative relationship between black and white people, because it is benefiting them in some way that I can simply not comprehend. I’m truly sorry, and if there is anything I can do to help change the way we perceive each other I will gladly do it.
We all have chains. I want to be a part of something that starts breaking those chains.