Friday, January 13, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: An Apology

Dear Readers,

I owe you an apology. All of you, whether you are fired up about racial issues (on either side), completely ambivalent, or--most likely--somewhere in-between. Because I saw a racially-charged incident today, and I didn't do anything.

I was at the gas station, spacing out and pumping gas, when a car pulled in. A car running on the fuel of stereotype. A car blaring rap at high volume, full of angry young black men, making sure that everybody knew it. I may be fairly woke, but to my old and weary ears, it was obnoxious. I'll admit it.

Perhaps that's a racial incident in and of itself. Perhaps that's the discussion we really need to be having here, the discussion that I wasn't even tryna be... annoyed out of my complacence by their pain and anger. I just wanted to pump my gas and let some caffeine kick in.

So y'all tell me. But until then, I'll continue with the incident as I saw it. The car drove up, I (at least mentally) rolled my eyes, and then someone spoke. Also loudly.

"An ounce of C-4 would cure that noise!"

Imma let it sink in for you for a moment, dear readers. Some of you may already be pissed. Some of you might be confused. Some of you may not think it's a big deal.

I'm pissed, but also confused, and it is definitely a big deal. A big damn deal.

This was not a random thing. It's actually scarily specific. An ounce? Of C-4? Does this guy have some at home, and next time, he might decide to use it? Does he have experience with explosives? Perhaps in some ways it would have been scarier and more inappropriate if he had said something about using a gun, but in some ways, not so much. Because lots of people have guns. And lots of people threaten to use them. And that in itself is an inappropriate threat of violence. A mass murderer of nine black folks in Charleston, SC was just sentenced to death, and such gun violence must be condemned. But four little black girls also died when white supremacists bombed a church in Birmingham in 1963, and I fear that those days are closer than we think.

In a "Trump America," people feel free to speak these threats out loud. And I've now heard it in person.

You might try to tell me that it wasn't racially motivated. We can agree to disagree on that one (even though I think you are completely wrong), because it doesn't matter what this guy's motivations were. The fact remains that a white man vocally relished the idea of ending black lives and thought that was appropriate, even welcomed. He thought the rest of us white folks at the pumps would agree with him. He thought he was in the right, and in the majority, and in charge. That's a dangerous combination.

Please don't try to tell me he was "just joking." I don't care if he was just joking. There was a real threat behind it. Because he had already dismissed those young men as so much "noise." He had already de-humanized them and decided that violence was the solution to ridding this world of that noise. Don't try to tell me that he was picturing taking the people out of the car and then throwing C-4 at just the car. Just don't. Whether or not he would ever go through on it, whether or not he pictured it in detail, is not the point. The point is that he contemplated violence as a way to end an inconvenience to his happiness. The point is that in his mind, black lives don't matter. I guarantee you that he would not have said that if it had been young white men. He probably would have said somebody should have spanked them more when they were little, and I'd have agreed. But he didn't, and I don't.

And did I mention that I'm pissed? Because I am pissed, and more than anything at myself.

Remember when I said I owed all of you an apology? I owe you an apology because I didn't say anything. At first I didn't say anything because my initial response was sarcastic. And that's never helpful in racial matters with strangers. And then I didn't say anything because I was in shock. Who shouts such a thing to the world at large? Did he really just say that? Did I really just hear that?

But then I didn't say anything because I was afraid. And confused. And ashamed.

He drove off, and the "offending" car did, too. And I stood at the pump for I don't know how long, until I realized that my gas pump was done, and it was time for me to get back in my car, and drive away, too. "Wait!" I called weakly. "Sir, come back. I don't agree, and I need to tell you that. Violence is never the right answer to an offense..."

He didn't come back, obviously. And it's probably a good thing. Dude had a hair-trigger temper, probably a shotgun in his truck, and a hair-trigger trigger finger. At best, would he really have been able to hear me? I doubt it.

But maybe it would have mattered that I had said something. Maybe it would have mattered to some of the other folks, who all seemed uncomfortable, as well. And it would have mattered to Jesus for me to stick up for the imago dei in everybody, even that angry man.

So, now for my apology. And "Wait!" you say. "Isn't this a 'Free Shipping Friday' post? Sure has been a lot of YOU talking, Chandra. Where are the recommended links? Where are others' voices, hm?"

Sorry, one more thing to apologize for.

So, I apologize to the sisters in this article:

Charlene, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for the image of God in Black folks.
Nancy, I'm sorry I didn't stand alongside you, as a white woman, advocating for a Black sister.

I apologize to the brother who wrote this post:

Duke, I'm sorry I chickened out. You speak bravely every day, from both a position of minority and privilege, and I had a chance to join you. Pray that I will next time.

I apologize to the sister who wrote this important piece:

Christina, I'm sorry I didn't stand up against further trauma. Further trauma for all of us, further denigration of human beings, further silencing of voices--even my own.

I apologize to the sister who penned this vulnerable, insightful post:

Emily, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for your beautiful brown babies. Your wonderful black husband. Your fabulous so-very-white-lady-but-mama-of-color-and-that-matters self. They matter. You matter. I see you, and I rejoice.

This post isn't meant to be all "Woe is meeeeee... now somebody please tell me I'm good." It really isn't. I'm not beating myself up, I'm picking myself up, and moving forward in repentance. I'm not tryna get your sympathy, or respect, or accolades. Or at least the redeemed part of me isn't. What I know is that confession and redemption are good for the soul--are the very basis of the gospel--so imma apologize first, and ask questions later. I think the more we spend time sincerely apologizing to each other, and the less time we spend questioning (read: interrogating) each other, we'll see more of this kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

I apologize to the hateful, violent guy, for not speaking truth to you. Whether you were in a position to hear it is up to God. But I was in a position to share it, and I didn't. I wish I had, graciously and calmly.

I apologize to you, dear readers. If this post has pissed you off, left you raw, make you feel inadequate, helpless, or just plain antagonized, I'm sorry. I truly am. Can we talk about it? I hope so.

And to our beautiful creator God, I apologize. And I move forward in your truth. Because you are the God of redemption, of healing, of truth, of reconciliation, of bravery, of goodness. My apology is both necessary and also dealt with, because my sin is dealt with. Hallelujah! Hallelujah.

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