I hate racism…
My first introduction to it (that I recall), was in the 3rd grade. I remember the kid’s name, though I won’t say it…he may have changed, grown…..in which case he doesn’t need to be bashed….in many ways, I now recognize that he was a victim as well.
Anyway, I was always quite a talker….if you know me, you know that……So, probably because I couldn’t shut my mouth near friends, the class got a new seating arrangement. I had to sit next to a kid I really didn’t like. He was kinda dirty, mean, and always getting in trouble. I thought it would be good to try…..try to be friends, try to be nice, try to look past his faults. So, I saw my opening. He had a ring on, a tiger’s eye stone…..this memory is etched in my mind…..
going for small talk, I said, “I like your ring, where did you get it?”
***** replied, “….stole it off a dead ——–.”
It was like I was physically struck in the gut. Apparently, I knew what the “n” word meant, because I immediately pictured a black person in the ditch. I was shocked, worried, and panicked. …who is this person? ….might they still be alive and need help? …..who hurt them? ….are they getting away with this? ….does his/her family know where they are? I was sick about it all day…….
I can’t remember if I told the teacher….I think I may have, because by the time I got home that day, I was fuming, no longer worried, just livid! I remember walking in the door, and the first thing I said to my mother was, “I hate ***** ******!”
Then, I began crying…..
My mom said, “Now Lori, we don’t hate people in this house!” and then I told her what he said……..
She was quiet for a bit, then she made sure I understood no one was hurt or dead or dying at that moment, that it was an ugly saying. I just didn’t understand that level of ugliness….still don’t. Then my mother said, “You should feel sorry for ***** *******.”
I didn’t get that either. “Are you kidding….after what he said!
She assured me that yes, “For him to know and repeat that horrifying saying….. something wasn’t right in his home, that he was probably not treated well and didn’t know better.”
In that moment, a thought process was cemented in my brain that has served me to this day, “Put yourself in another person’s skin and try to understand what made them who they are.”
There but for the grace of God, go I*…..this means that given the same circumstances, I would most likely act as they are…..we need that right now…..we are all coming from our unique circumstances. You can’t fully understand anyone else from your own limited peephole but you can try and that will give you empathy and folks, that’s what we need right now….
*…so I recently read an article on Medium that had the viewpoint that the saying, “There but by the grace of God, go I…” was wrong because it insinuated that the person saying it is implying that they have been chosen by God to receive better treatment. I don’t agree with this vein of thought. Grace is not earned, nor distributed equally. Sometimes grace is a flat tire, a diagnosis of a fatal disease, or other seemingly tragic events. I believe that all of us are learning different lessons in this life…therefore we have different experiences. When I use this saying, it means (to me), I could have had those experiences and they would be terribly difficult…I’d probably have similar responses. This quote speaks to the “grace” I am referring to:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.