“I hate them because they are black,” she said.
My mouth dropped open, I was so shocked at the sheer boldness of her statement. I don’t think I had ever heard someone be so clear cut in expressing their racism. I sputtered, trying to put my thoughts together so that I could form the sounds that make the words.
Luckily, my other friend that was sitting at the café table with us had her wits much more about her as she admonished immediately: “How DARE you!?”
I’ve lived from a young age in so many different countries, submersed in many cultures. I’ve undoubtedly seen a lot in the way of racism. I’ve been a witness to systematic racism and the snide comments or jokes that one is expected to take in stride and are “no big deal.” I am also positive I have been racially insensitive at points in my life, due to things like this – though never from a place of malice if/when I have been. When I’ve personally witnessed racial injustice I have tried to help when I am able, though my heart feels as though it’s beating out of my chest – but those are stories for another time.
This day was different though. This white lady was talking about how she was upset that some Sudanese people had moved in to a house on her street. We asked why she’d be so upset. We expected her to say they were loud, or kept their yard messy… or whatever one neighbor might typically be annoyed about another for.
“I hate them because they are black,” was her response. Admonishment was swift and immediate – and don’t for a second think my friend didn’t have more to say than “How DARE you!?” She ripped into her – and the offender? Well, she seemed confused as to why we were upset and was not at all sorry that she said such a thing.
She was one of the church ladies in Australia. I never looked at her the same way again, and you know I don’t think I ever spoke to her again after that day. I left that church shortly after that event anyway, but she never even tried to acknowledge me in town either.
Clearly, no big loss on my part.
With all that is going on lately though, I am still shocked at how emboldened a lot of racists have become. Especially in America the past few years. It breaks my heart, and it makes it all the harder as a parent living here. I’m lucky to be living where no riots have taken place, but at the same time I am filled with dread living with my children in a country where there are all too many people siding with the alt-right, the racists… The racist adjacent people who say they’re not racist but still push back against BLM and support corrupt cops. The ones who say they voted for Trump because he’s the Christian anti-abortion candidate and ignored and still ignore all of the terrible things he says and does.
Just because one goes to church and calls themselves “Christian” does not mean they aren’t racist, clearly. We need to be sure that bold racism never becomes the norm. This must always shock and disturb us, and we must work to recognize inherent racism as well so that we can continue to work at nipping it in the bud.
I am ashamed, in that moment at that café, I did not have the words at the ready; that I hesitated. My excuse is that I was so taken aback in the moment. Even now, with all that is happening recently here in the USA – I’ve made small gestures of support of BLM sharing things on social media and what have you… Even so I can’t even handle Facebook right now…
But as a writer with an actual audience, I’ve sat silent. Sometimes, unfortunately, I just don’t have the words or it takes awhile for them to form. Finally, I am here adding my voice to the crowd in support of Black Lives Matter. All Lives cannot Matter until Black Lives Matter; or any other lives the ALM people conveniently leave out of their list.