Racism is Still Being Taught
Nelson Mandela spoke to our hearts when he reminded us that racism must be taught or it would not exist, and I was so grateful that President Obama reminded us of this recently. My heart goes out to everyone that suffered in Charlottesville. My heart goes out to the parents of Heather Heyer, who lost their daughter because of racism and hate. I greatly admire her spirit. She stood up for equality and love. She died for it. It’s up to us to live for equality and love.
The current President’s response to this domestic-terror tragedy has opened old wounds for many Americans, and people around the world. It’s so important to remember that as Heather’s mother said, her sacrifice must not be in vain. The sacrifices of so many who stood for freedom and equality must not be in vain.
We have a lot to learn about racism and how to come together to end it. One thing that has been heartbreaking for me to realize is that it is still being taught. You might be surprised to know some of the places that continue to spread racism. It isn’t just taught at white supremacist rallies.
I know this from personal experience, even though it’s pretty tough to admit that I ever learned to make decisions based on the fact that a person looked different than me. I had a very bizarre church experience growing up. Because I was brought into the church as an infant, I didn’t make the decision to be there. I was there for many years without fully realizing what the church was truly teaching. It was a horrifically racist church, but it took me awhile to figure that out.
They Condemned Nazis, Yet Were Still Racist
Racism is so inter-woven into religion that I don’t know if many people realize it’s there. And that’s a shame. I appreciate Pastor John Pavlovitz’ words on this subject. There is hypocrisy and irony all over the place. For instance, I was taught of the horrors of Nazism at a very young age, yet those same church leaders showed themselves to be racist. I remember hearing sermons while sitting alongside my parents, about Jewish babies’ heads being smashed into walls. From as young as four years of age I listened to those types of sermons every week for years.
I will never completely recover from those images being described to me as a small child, or all of the nightmares I had. At times the nightmares come back and startle me awake. I lie there shivering with my heart pounding wildly. I had one of these terrifying dreams a couple of months before seeing images of screaming Neo-Nazis and white supremacists on TV. This shouldn’t be happening, but it is.
I remember when I gave birth to my children, there were still horrors that would creep up in me that my babies would be taken away and harmed. From a very young age I had dreams about Nazis breaking into our house and taking my brothers and sisters. But I’m not complaining about hearing these age inappropriate sermons. I realize that others have had it much worse. Others have lived through or died in horrors that I have only heard about. I would think that most people feel fear and panic when they now see images of people marching and screaming Nazi epithets. Some people feel it more deeply and intensely.
Racism Destroys Lives and Relationships
Oddly, our church’s founder would talk about the horrors of World War ll, while also preaching a white supremacy message. “God was white.” “His favorite “tribes” of the Bible were white.” “Britain and America were God’s favorites.” Church members adhered to Jewish Old Testament Holy Days, including the 7th day Sabbath. The church didn’t appear to be anti-Semitic, but they were still racist.
As I got older I clearly saw the rampant racism against black-American and African-American church members. I can’t fathom why they stayed in the church. Most likely they were also brainwashed into believing that there was no other “true church.” They were treated horribly. I didn’t truly realize how horribly, because I didn’t see it – experience it all through their eyes and ears. As I got older I started talking to more people and making more friends. I started to better understand how bad things were.
“Your Grandfather Would Turn Over in His Grave”
My parents learned things from their parents, and so on back through my ancestry. I never thought my parents were racist, until I tested it. I wasn’t trying to test it, I just really liked a guy from church that I’d been getting to know. My parents noticed and thought they needed to have a serious talk with me. Being just twelve or thirteen at the time, I was obviously way too young to be thinking of getting involved romantically. I wasn’t too young though, to like people and have emotions.
The “you shouldn’t get involved with someone who doesn’t look like you because it’s not God’s way” explanation, thoroughly confused me. It would have been easier for me to understand an explanation about my being too young. I guess they felt the race issue was more important. My parents were quoting a Bible verse about “being unequally yoked.” It didn’t make sense to me at all. I argued with them, but I was so fearful of disobeying them or going against what I had been brainwashed to believe was “God’s only true church,” that I caved. You can read more about my childhood church in an earlier blog.
I Felt Sick, But I Tried to Explain to My Friend
It was the most awkward, uncomfortable, embarrassing and f-ed up conversation I ever remember having. I tried to explain (to this guy I really liked) what my parents had told me. I felt so stupid. The words that were coming out of my mouth weren’t in my heart. I wanted to run. I don’t even remember what he said, but I remember that he was hurt and quiet. It was understandable that he later got together with some of my other friends and made fun of me for my insanely stupid speech to him. I wanted to die.
It’s very hard to write about this now. I’ve carried guilt and shame about it since then. I apologized to him later, and we actually stayed friends for many years, speaking off and on through phone calls. It was a painful lesson about the hurtfulness of racism. One thing I learned is that I’d never had a speech like that given to me, so I couldn’t know how insane that would feel.
I imagine how horrible it would be and understand how pointless is the reasoning. I do empathize. It’s so important to walk in other people’s shoes through asking them how they feel – to make it a priority to learn – even through fumbling blunders. And even if it’s really embarrassing to share what you learn with others, it needs to be done. Maybe through sharing, our understanding will improve. I try to understand what it would be like to be treated so unfairly in so many ways. Of course people have broken up with me, but it’s never been told to me that it was because of the color of my skin. It is the stupidest unreasonable “reason” to judge anyone for anything. It’s no reason at all.
My Father Apologized to Me
In one of the last conversations I ever had with my dad, he surprised me, when seemingly out of nowhere, he apologized for ever having said that I shouldn’t date or marry someone of color. That meant a lot to me. I hadn’t brought up the subject, and I’ll never know what sparked the topic in his mind, but I will always appreciate his kind words. It was important to him to correct his past thinking. It was very healing to me that he understood my thinking, and that he had had a change of heart. He was 72, so it IS possible for someone to learn and change at a late age. My dad was always tender-hearted, just misled and mis-taught too.
Why is Racism Still Being Taught?
Why are religious leaders still teaching that God or any other source of creation would create diversity and then want us to be segregated? People are like flowers, I believe. Variety is beautiful! The church I grew up in taught that segregation was “God’s way,” and that one of the reasons was that children of inter-racial marriage were somehow less-than. That’s a sick thing to think or say, but it’s the way they interpreted the Bible. I separated myself completely from that church, but I know those ideas are still being taught as “God’s way.” Factions of that church are still around. People are still being taught that we are all supposed to stay in our own separate places, and that God intended this.
Is it any wonder that America has a president who espouses racist ideals? Is it any wonder that he connected to churches and gained their support? I cannot help but see that these things are connected. There is still racism taught in churches that is masked as “God’s way.” If people believe that God loves white people most, that’s a HUGE problem, to say the least. Even if that is not taught loudly from the Sunday pulpit, it is still a poison that runs through the evangelical bloodstream of modern churches.
God is Not a White Supremacist
It’s insane to think that deep down some people still believe that God likes white people best, but until that core belief is entirely abandoned, we’ve got immense problems. It’s disturbingly enlightening to note that racism, misogyny and narcissism often are found together. They are the unholy trinity that churches don’t want to talk about. It’s about using fear to control people and the belief that white men alone deserve this false power. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I wrote a book about it to help rid myself of the awful things I learned as a child. I wanted the book to serve as a warning, so I made it a fantasy, hoping that it would reach more people that way.
It is horrifying to see that white supremacy ideas are attempting to rise again, and sobering to realize that they have always been there, floating around, waiting to reemerge in a more prevalent way. It has been said that when you know the enemy, you can more successfully defeat the enemy. The enemy is hate. The only successful combatant is LOVE. Hopefully, understanding the places that the hate comes from will help us to end it.