Jesus and the Racist Veil
We met through a mutual friend, Cassidy*, and we became friends. There was chemistry there, but not enough to light a full-blown fire. Though we both desired the wild and untamed, in many ways, we were not compatible. We were both Christians though, and we hung in the same circle, thus the usual flirting, hit and misses ensued. Let’s call him Brad*. He is White, and I am Black
His perspective on racism in America was also a little off the mark, but nothing I was willing to raise a voice about. I had stopped discussing and debating race in America with White people and friends; it was better for my sanity. I don’t have to educate or argue an issue with you for you to know where I stand. A simple side eye, eye roll and “I don’t agree” sufficed.
But then I had to move one summer afternoon, and Brad was there to lend the much-needed manpower to the task at hand. Not only did he show up, he also brought along five able-bodied men to help, and one of his guy friends brought a truck for the huge items. My heart was happy and full. After they all moved me, we decided to go to dinner.
Cassidy, Brad and I had driven together in Cassidy’s car and we parked at the back of my new building. On our way to her car, Cassidy and I bumped into a Black man with locs. We didn’t see him, and I wasn’t sure if he saw us. I don’t believe he was paying attention but whatever the case, he, Cassidy and I, each said our “oops, excuse me” and kept it moving. In my mind, it was a regular oops, and people bump into each other all the time. But a few things happened right after the black guy had moved on with his life that perked my ears up. First, they both gave the “WTF was that?” eye roll and looked to me to join in the moment. I looked away refusing to join in; I was irritated and quite unsure what the issue was. What’s with the exaggerated reaction to a near collision? It was an accident! Second, right before we walked into the gentleman, Brad had been walking ahead of us, while we lagged a few inches behind chatting. Right after the near collision, Cassidy sped up to walk with Brad and left me behind. I chose to keep moving in pace, intentionally refusing to engage the foolishness.
After dinner, everyone left except us three. Brad had promised to put my bed together, and it was the last task we needed to complete for the night. We jumped back into the car, drove back to my new home and parked in front of my building. After my bed was assembled, I walked them back to the car. We stood outside and talked for a little bit, and as our conversation came to an end, I knew what was about to ensue. For a black woman in America, racism leaves clues and provides hints. I said my goodbyes, and he insisted on walking me to my door.
I refused and said, “you don’t have to walk me to my door, Brad. It’s right there.”
After the usual back and forth, I let him, and at my door, he said, “Is it bad that I want to protect you?”
“Of course not,” I said. “I want to be safe and protected. The only problem is I’m right by my door, and you don’t always walk me to my door when I’m a few yards away from it. I’m not exactly sure what you are protected me from tonight.” I continued.
“Well, if you are referring to the man earlier, it is not even a black thing.” Apparently, we, both knew what the elephant in the hallway was.
“Well, I didn’t say that. You just did.” That was when he dropped the kicker, “It is not even about his race. It was more a spiritual God instinct. It was in his eyes.”
And that was the most incredulous statement I had heard in a while, and my response was “You are going to make this about God and the Holy Spirit I’m not sure how to respond or justify that conclusion, but thank you and good night.”
I’m unable to shake off his last statement. Though our interaction has dwindled down to almost nothing, if not nothing, that conversation stayed with me and remains jarring. For a woman with a black father, brothers, brother-in-law, nephew, and friends, I couldn’t shake it off. I often find myself wondering if I was quick to dismiss his assertion that the Spirit alerted him to the danger the man was or could pose. I don’t have an answer, but I know justifying racism and otherness with the faith is as old as Christianity itself. It bothers me when we use God to justify racist rhetoric and actions. However it shouldn’t. If scripture was used to justify the vileness that was slavery in America, then using it as a tool to justify what we see across racial and political lines today or to justify racial profiling should not even be surprising.
*not real names