“Are you the new mayor of CHAZ?”
It was a one-line email from a family member who, as a conservative, enjoys digging at my husband and me. We called him on the phone and heard how he thought there were automatic weapons and burning, killing and chaos in Seattle.
We explained this was not true. I suspected he had gotten his misinformation from a TV news source.
The next day I wrote him back:
Good talking with you the other day.
NOW I understand why you were concerned about CHAZ. It was because Fox News manipulated photos!
Maybe check out CNN or MSNBC once in a while?
I couldn’t let it go because for too long, I’ve let this kind of stuff go. I can only think that explains why I jumped on a Long-Time Friend (who I dearly love) when she told the following story.
“I bought a red Tesla and thought my friend was going to buy a red Tesla, but then she drove up in a blue Tesla. She said, ‘My daughter finally got it through my head that the only people who buy red Teslas are Indian families. Sure enough, I looked around and it was true.’”
Long Time Friend laughed and I, too laughed as I said, “Wow. Super racist! What’s wrong with being Indian?” She kept laughing because I was smiling and laughing. But then it hit her and she got quiet. Very quiet. The whole table got quiet.
Both these encounters were uncomfortable and awkward, especially because I love these people. It’s scary because I know it’s only a matter of time before someone calls me on my own racism and micro-aggressions.
They may rightfully quote Matthew 7:3 to me: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Well, probably because I can’t see it, so please be gentle when you point it out.
A couple days ago I received another message from Relative:
How do you think this “summer of love” is going to end?
I responded with this:
You are right! I think it really is a “Summer of Love,” at least I hope so.
I love that we (and by “we” I mean white people) are waking up to racism in our country.
I love that I often feel awkward and uncomfortable listening to people talk about race because I recognize myself in the conversation. My discomfort reminds me that I am alive and awake to the pain around me.
I love that our young people are taking up the challenge and protesting for peace and basic human rights.
I love that I now deeply understand what Martin Luther King, Jr. said 53 years ago, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” He could have said it 53 minutes ago.
I love that COVID is forcing us to recognize our vulnerability and see that what I do affects you, what you do affects me. We wear masks to help one another.
COVID has made lots of us understand that we are all in this challenge together. And by “this challenge” I mean, 1) healing our country, 2) ending the Corona virus pandemic, 3) making black lives matter because for four hundred years we acted like they didn’t.
I think this “summer of love” will end when the weather turns cooler and maybe in September it will become the “Autumn of love.” Fingers crossed!
My last Uncomfortable Encounter was on a long walk with Long Time Friend. She was bothered that so many team mascots were being changed. She started naming all the mascots, most of them American Indians.
“Stop,” I said. “Stop. Because beneath what you’re saying is that you don’t care that they are offended by it.” We were passing a Grease Monkey oil change place during this conversation.
“Pretty soon they’re going to change the name of Grease Monkey!” she said.
“Huh? My uncles were mechanics and they proudly called themselves grease monkeys! Monkeys are smart and they’re agile. They can climb all over and under cars. It’s a perfect name.”
“Yes, but isn’t it offensive to be called a monkey?” She kept going on and on and on about the grease monkey
I was hot and tired and wanted to scream, “If monkeys found it offensive and we stole their land and oppressed them for hundreds of years, then we should change it.”
I wasn’t at all charming or funny in my attempt to help her understand. In fact, I did not attempt to help at all. I was thinking only of myself when I said in a loud voice, “Just STOP. Stop. Right. Now.”
Of course St. Paul’s chapter on love came roaring into my mind:
Corinthian 13: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I immediately looked for a loophole—and found it. “Easily angered.” I didn’t get angry instantly. It took a bit. Phew! But I wasn’t patient or even close to being kind. And as far as keeping no record of wrongs—I’m not only keeping a record; I’m writing about it.
I do rejoice with the truth but I just haven’t quite got the knack of articulating it. I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to racial justice conversations.
And upon further reflection I think we have stolen land from the monkeys and oppressed them for hundreds of years. Just look at the Amazon Forest!
Trust, hope, persevere.