Last Saturday night there was a festival in a park near our condo, and folks were parked in the streets and tailgating on the sidewalks. In my attempt to get to the gate in front of our building, I said, “Excuse me” to a group of partiers. And then I was called a “fat cracker-a** hick.”
I was coming home from a long day at the pediatric hospital and my brain was trying to figure out my unfinished sermon for the following day. So being called racial slurs by intoxicated persons wasn’t really on my radar or agenda.
Since I was exhausted and still had work to do, I simply smiled and kept on walking. But the more the scene set in the more angry and hurt I became. I looked out my window and they were still on the sidewalk. I was angry and they were intoxicated. Nothing good could likely come from that combination, so I did not go back outside. Instead, I owned the times in my own life when I’ve had prejudice thoughts toward other races and forgave them for what they called me.
As I stated in a previous post, “labels are meant for clothing, file folders, and toddler sippy cups at daycare. Labels are not meant for people. I’d like to see more naming of assumptions and prejudices during respectful dialogue than name calling or avoiding conversations altogether.”
I’d like to add that crackers belong alongside those toddler sippy cups at daycare or coupled with ginger ale and given to nauseous pregnant women. Cracker (or the more eloquent “cracker-a**”) isn’t a name. Fat isn’t a name. Hick isn’t a name.
And this Saturday night, I witnessed varying reactions to the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman. I heard reactions of outrage, shame, happiness, and hatred. I heard Zimmerman called names, and saw many change their Facebook profile pictures to Trayvon Martin’s young face.
There is incredible energy in the reactions, and it is my hope that all persons filled with passion about Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman being declared “not guilty,” and the countless other stories of violence and racism, will use their passion and energy nonviolently to work for change. Name calling doesn’t change anything. Reactionary violence doesn’t promote equality among races. Hating the jury doesn’t change anything.
Choosing to raise children teaching them that all faces are equal and valued regardless of color can change something. Not standing for being called a racial slur, or calling out others when they use one in our presence, can change something. Not categorizing every person in any given race as the same as one particular person of that race can change something. Not being afraid of each other can promote equality among races. Killing negative stereotypes and racial profiling would change something. Not killing each other would change a lot.
My face is white. My husband’s face is the same color as Trayvon Martin’s. Our future children’s faces will likely be some shade of mocha or khaki similar to George Zimmerman’s biracial coloring. One day they will hear about the verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial and ask us about it. We will be aware that how we respond as representatives of two races will directly impact our children’s view of multiple races. And that changes everything.
*Someone perceived this post as an equal comparison of my experience to Trayvon’s death. So I feel it is important to note that this is my take on the past two Saturday evenings, and not at all intended to be an equal comparison of prejudice thoughts versus murder. This is simply intended to be a glimpse into just how far we have to go as a nation when it comes to race.