REPUBLISH: I found an Op-Ed I wrote on Thursday, September 17, 2009. I remember everything about the time I wrote this Op-Ed, including where I was sitting when I wrote it. It was posted on another blog site that I could not get access to. And today, I got in! So, I thought I’d post it, again.
Former President Jimmy Carter dared to verbalize what has been on the minds of many African Americans who have felt the piercing whispers of racism ever since we elected our first African American president. In an interview on NBC Nightly News, Carter said, “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.”
Everyone thought the election of an African American as President of the United States would show that America had healed from our past racial injustices. But racism, along with its other ism siblings, has its foundation in a more complex complex. One that is deeply rooted in our hearts and minds; hidden so deep it’s hard to recognize it when it shows up and it’s almost impossible to root out. It’s called the superiority complex. That is what we must uproot if we will ever stand as a Nation undivided. In ignoring its presence, we unconsciously apply it to every area of our lives. So, when we elect an African American president, this complex complex rears its ugly head and appears disguised, this time as patriotism.
I was told by one of my coffee shop friends that the changes African Americans want to see in America will take time. “It’s a complicated situation,” he said. This conversation was not taking place in the early 1600’s when Africans were brought to the United States as slaves. Neither was it taking place more than 150 years later in 1787 when it was written into the American Constitution that slaves were only three-fifths of a person. Nor was this conversation taking place almost 200 years after that during the Civil Rights era. This conversation was taking place more than 400 years since Blacks came to this Country, in the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign where an African American had a real possibility of being elected President of the United States.
Although a complex complex, the issue of superiority is quite simple to me – it’s about humanity. Simple humanity. It was even simple then. So, what now? Do some Whites in America still need more time to decide that every other race of people on this earth is just as human as they are – even the ‘illegal alien’ Hispanics that are crossing our borders? To me, it’s as simple as recognizing that we’re all human. Simply human. Period. So, not understanding what it could possibly be that some Whites needed more time for, I asked my coffee shop friend to please explain.
Using an example from his own life, he said, “I’ve accepted the relationship my daughter has with a Black man. He’s very nice. He’s a doctor; very educated and respectful. But my father will never accept it. He’s 82 years old. Every time I visit him, he asks if his grand-daughter is still dating that nigger; and he prays to God out loud that he will not live to see a nigger become a part of his family.”
“I don’t agree with him,” he continued. “But he’s 82 and there’s no need to argue with him or try to change him. It’s too late. Unfortunately, he and his kind will have to die off. That’s the time we still need.”
I thought momentarily whether this ‘dying off’ process was the answer to our complex complex. Then I thought, millions of racists have ‘died off’, yet this world still suffers from inhumane atrocities caused by one person or a group of people believing they are superior to another. So, really, why should some Whites still need more time to realize they are no better or worst than anyone else? I couldn’t buy in to his ‘die off’ theory. I believe it’s the hearts of the living that must change; and that starts with honest non-judgmental coffee shop confessions like we were having.
Knowing that my coffee shop friend is an interim Pastor at a small Methodist church, I asked him if he believed the views and actions of his father toward African Americans were sinful. He said yes. I then asked him if his father believed that anyone who dies in their sin will go to hell. He said yes.
After a moment of silence, we changed the subject.
Later at home, I cried. It was not just a quiet tear, but an uncontrollable weeping. I realized that I was not crying because my coffee shop friend’s father refused to recognize me as 100% human, equal to him in every way and with the same inalienable rights he is privileged to enjoy. I was crying because I believe that when this life is over we go exactly where we believed we would.
I pondered the craftiness of this complex complex. So intimidating and frightening that we would rather our countrymen ‘die off’ and go to hell, than uproot the evilness of superiority within our hearts and come to a place of repentance, healing and a righteous understanding of humanity.
The piercing whispers of racism concerning our President have become dangerous shouts of anger. Let’s get to the root of the real issues facing our Nation. It’s a complex complex.
Thank you so much for reading my op-eds. I would love to hear from you. Did anything resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below.
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As always, thank you for allowing me to share in your journey to purpose. I am forever grateful.