Monday, December 26, 2011

I am recovering..

Watching the current rhetorical dance that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is doing concerning a newsletter he lent his name to, I started thinking about my own experience.

Now Paul can categorically deny his racist tendencies, that is his right and his internal struggle to deal with. As for me, I came to terms with it a long time ago. When I was 12, the television show Roots came on and it was an eye-opening experience.

After watching the mini-series, my mom turned off the TV and asked me how did I feel. My response was that I hated white people. Needless to say, my parents were stunned by my frankness, especially at that age. They had never expressed any animosity towards white Americans in my presence. Yet they clearly understood how I drew that conclusion.

While growing up in Chicago, I lived in a segregated environment: school, church, social activities, etc. There was no need to interact with whites other than at the bank or shopping downtown. We even had our own cultural parade we could participate in just before school started in the fall.

I had the opportunity to attend Princeton, but I chose Jackson State, one because of economics and two, because of cultural comfort. But it was my experience at a historically Black university that actually exposed me to the relationships that shaped my more progressive views on race relations.

I was exposed to segregationist rhetoric from a Black perspective and I honestly did not feel comfortable with it, primarily because I did not pragmatically see how that mindset was beneficial.

It was my involvement with politics that created the relationships I developed which turned me from a racist to a well-balanced human being. It was my involvement with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that opened the door to a world I had never fully immersed myself in.

That combination came into my life at the age of 18 and literally change my life for the better. I admit I am not a expert of white American culture, especially in the South, but I am sensitive to their concerns and values. I have tried to do my best to offer knowledge to my white friends and colleagues about African-American experiences in return.

As I further gained spiritual awareness and a better relationship with God, my tolerance and understanding of other cultures greatly improved. I learned how to disapprove or disagree without being discriminatory.

But the key to this evolution was to acknowledge that I am a recovering racist. You cannot solve a problem until you accept that you have a problem. I think that is what Rep. Paul's dilemma is.

Maybe it is more political expediency that explains his deniability rather than a character flaw, but it is not to say that it is acceptable. It is definitely not presidential. It is my hope that Mr. Paul comes to grips with his issue. I am grateful that I dealt with mine.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Erik, I appreciate your comments and your thoughtfulness. I do not claim to be an authority on the discussion of race and racism, but I would like to suggest that while your evolution is one that I think many conscientious and humble people of color experience and will experience, you cannot place yourself in the same category of Rep. Paul. I think the only similarity between the two of you is that you both have/had a problem that requires spiritual awareness and a better relationship with God. Racism, in my understanding, requires two coexistent realities - PREJUDICE + POWER. While people of color can be prejudiced toward whites, we do not have the power that accompanies being a non-person of color in the U.S.

    I am glad you have worked on your prejudice, and I pray that Mr. Paul has half as much humility to recognize he is a racist. It's not his fault that he is a racist, as it is not the fault of every white person born in the U.S. And unless and until he becomes actively anti-racist, he is and always will be a racist. I wonder, does this also apply to sexism? Ageism? Ablism? etc. etc.

    Thanks for this inspiration today. It reminds me that while I will never be a racist, I have much to do to overcome prejudice and stereotypes in all of my relationships with God's people, and think about my responsibility in relation to my power as an able-bodied heterosexual Christian in the U.S.

    Merry Christmas and Prospero 2012

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