This Label Shuts Down Honest Talk

By March 15, 2016Uncategorized, WNIJ
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Photo by Jean Pauley.

A person can disagree with President Obama’s policies, or be afraid, or be troubled by our open borders, or question Sharia law, or think “maybe Trump.” These days a person can be white, going about their business. The name flies up: racist.

That racist label shuts down honest talk. When people are silenced, their thoughts fester and rankle, turning to rage. They find presidential candidates who “tell it like it is” refreshing. They vote their anger.

When someone called me a racist, I sobbed. When my boss arranged for a meeting to address micro-aggressions as a response, my heart hurt so bad I almost called 911. And then I said, “Fine. You think I’m a racist. Then I’m a racist.”

In some ways, we’re all wired to beware of the Other, with a flight-or-fight instinct that saved the ancients. But I step back horrified. I refuse this name. I choose to offer hospitality to people who trouble me.

I think about the famous Jesus saying. “Don’t take the splinter from another’s eye, if you’ve got a log in yours.” If I see racism in someone else, then maybe, just maybe I might want to examine my own racist tendencies—those quick thoughts that repel me from the Other.

And another thing: We tend to find what we’re looking for. If we look for racists, we’ll find them. If we look for good people, we’ll find them as well.

I’m Katie Andraski, and that’s my perspective.

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7 Comments

  • Darlene Elsbury says:

    Love this, Katie, so timely, especially your Christ-like lesson and example, but we must also beware of a log in someone else’s eye, or the blindfold, black hood, and earplugs they choose to wear. How does a Christian respond to that? I saw an interesting quote about “liberals” recently, how they like to advocate tolerance until you have an opinion that disagrees with theirs. Fraudulence also changes honesty and dialogue. My fear is it also stifles actual thinking, that true nonviolent pacifists, or the poorly informed, simply will force themselves not to think, not to question or speak, or vote, for fear of the cost, the social consequences. And, that can create a malignant silence, until there’s an eventual eruption of anger in which people are so busy yelling simultaneously that no one is listening.

    That’s how Christ was killed, is it not? The ultimate victim of prejudiced thinking, and no matter how good he was, how holy, or how honest, His FATE was predestined. His disciplines ran and hid in silence, fearing for their own lives, and his enemies turned off their hearing, strapped on metaphorical blindfolds, and amped up lies and accusations about him that led to, well, we know what happens in the end. Is that to be the fate of Christianity today as well?

    ISIS has more than a splinter in their eyes. They will not listen, negotiate, or accept invitations to break bread. Their mission is to lop Christian heads. Notice, I did say ISIS, not Muslims. Yet, if anyone studies excerpts in the Quran, it claims that Christianity and democracy are evil, and both must be purged, which is why some non-Muslims do fear all Muslims as a race, though it’s a religion.

    As for racial tension in our country today, after decades of painstaking progress, we’ve regressed like 50 years in perhaps five, and forgive me, in part, due to our current administration. As our Commander in Chief, his example, his press conferences, fuel the fire. He foregoes funerals of American heroes, like the Supreme Court Justice who died recently, or Nancy Reagan (sent Michelle), or a highly decorated Major who was the highest ranking military officer killed by ISIS–and for lame reasons like Golf, a Film Festival, etc. Yet, his representatives show support and respect at the funeral of a black kid in Ferguson who was shot while robbing a store and attempting to shoot the cop who told him to freeze. And then, we have celebrities like Beyoncé at the Super Bowl, using a halftime show, a nationally and internationally broadcasted event, as her podium to celebrate and reignite a Black Power movement that advocated violence in the 60’s. I felt smacked in the eye with a tree, not a log or splinter. By the grace of God, I’m the survivor of a Black Power riot, an unsuspecting white kid, late to school one morning, waltzed right into a payback protest. Since that day, I’ve vowed not to be racist, not since I was beaten to the ground into momentary unconsciousness, for the color of my skin, by a black supremacist movement. Watching that Super Bowl performance, my muscle-memory trembled and my heart rate was far from normal, and I was a teenager under attack, AGAIN. Is this the American dream?

    As much as I wish turning the other cheek would fix this, my fear is the only fix may be a national disaster, like a 9/11, in which we all must put our petty and racial differences aside, or perish. I pray I’m wrong, but until that thundercloud claps, I fear dialogue, even between family and friends, is sounding a lot like blahblahblahblah.

    • katiewilda says:

      Wow, that’s a long impassioned comment. I think Jesus’ saying about the log talks about how we can project our stuff onto others. I do think people who call others racists, may themselves be racist and need to examine their hearts.

      I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s admonition in Letter From Birmingham Jail that people should examine themselves carefully before protesting. I hear you on liberals who are tolerant until you disagree. I have been on the receiving end of “liberal tolerance” and know what it feels like. I think there is already a malignant silence. That’s why Trump is so popular because he seems to be speaking for a group who has been silenced.

      I do think there is room for the prophetic voice to warn people.

      Yes, Jesus fate may well be our fate as well. Back in the day, Christ’s people were honored to be martyred. Though I am hearing reports out of the middle east of great revivals among Muslims who are coming to the Lord. They are seeing the brutality of ISIS and turning to Jesus like never before. I have been praying for the people being killed by ISIS and also ISIS.

      That is quite the story you tell about getting caught in a Black Power riot. How horrible. I was challenged on Facebook that I’ve never known racism. People seem to think that only African Americans can experience. That is so not true. Your story is an important one and I hope you tell it someday.

      Maybe turn the other cheek won’t change things, but I wonder if humbling ourselves, if reaching out to others and carefully listening might begin to bring healing, might soften people’s stance towards each other. We need to do this one person at a time, in our own communities. Here is a link to what Jon Katz wrote about actively listening to a Trump follower that makes a lot of sense to me. http://www.bedlamfarm.com/2016/03/14/leaving-rage-and-righteousness-behindthe-doctrine-of-active-listening/

      Thanks for stopping by and for your long and thoughtful comment.

  • Susan Dorbeck says:

    Several years ago I decided that, as an able-bodied (mostly), straight, white woman, I had to own my privilege, to admit to the fact that, as liberal and as educated as I am, I am still, all unaware, all unintentionally, all unmindfully, capable of participating in the racism and prejudices inherent in a culture where white is privileged,where the male sex, heterosexuality, young people, cisgendered, etc., are all privileged. That means I benefit from privileges that I am not even aware of . When I received a student evaluation that accused me of racism, it led me to search my soul, to ask what I had said or done, to admit that, perhaps, yes, some action I did or words I said reflected assumptions or prejudices so deep that liberal me did not recognize them. Because the evaluation was anonymous, I never did find out what situation the student referred to, BUT I did try to become more aware of myself as a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman in front of a classroom where many students were people of color. Privilege coupled with an oppression of African Americans so deeply painful and historical and long lasting in our country means that everyone–even people of color themselves–are instilled with racist cultural values reflecting white privilege.

    Becoming aware of my that privilege, and the benefits we receive from it, and the ideas that come as second nature to us as a result of our privilege, is very very very painful, and like any psychological pain, requires a great deal of psychic energy and work to admit to and face. My short answer is that, yes, I am racist, and we are all racists, because we cannot help to be anything but the products of the racist culture into which we have been born.

    Katie, a wonder full book on this issue, and a well written one is “Power, Privilege, and Difference” by Allan Johnson. He has a post on his blog with an excerpt from his book. Here is the link to the excerpt: http://www.agjohnson.us/books/privilege/excerpt-from-privilege-power-and-difference/

    Johnson is a very kind, gentle thinker who is considerate of many positions, but also a very good writer. This is a textbook, but has a very readable, narrative style. I hope you take a few minutes to read the excerpt in his blog post.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you for sharing your honest and vulnerable story which draws me in and helps me consider these same things, without arguing or shaming. It’s conversations like these that can help people recognize who they are and change. When students would say, You’re rich because you have horses, I’d say yes I am. They seemed startled that I owned my privilege. Then we went on and talked about whatever we needed to talk about.

      I will look into Johnson’s book and check out this excerpt. Thank you very much for this wise and vulnerable comment.

  • Ann List says:

    I’m sorry for your experience at work, Katie, but I appreciate that it prompted you to reflect upon it so eloquently.

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