Yesterday I overheard an African-American teen I know telling an adult about an experience from earlier in the day in which she had been called the “n” word. She is one of the sweetest girls I know and I felt for her, but I didn’t listen in further as it wasn’t my conversation. To think of someone treating her like that bothered me a lot. To think of anyone being treated like that bothers me a lot.
Earlier in the day I had received an e-mail notification that a comment was waiting for my approval on a video I posted last year from a neo-Nazi counter rally in West Allis, Wisconsin. The comment said only, “Dumb n****rs”; except, of course, the word was spelled out. Needless to say I didn’t approve the comment. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person it was whose sole comment on a video where African-Americans, white Americans, and others were gathered in unity against hate speech consisted of nothing more than two hateful words. Is this the totality of his thinking on race? Is this as far as he can move himself toward any kind of real thought? Is this acceptable in our society?
It is mind-boggling. This is 2012, right? Right. It is the 21st century in America, and somehow we are still struggling to evolve emotionally and spiritually beyond petty hatred based on the color of someone’s skin, the nature of their love, or any one of a number of other things that make us unique and should be celebrated. Somehow after century upon century of our existence we still have people who are crawling out of a moral morass or, worse yet, wallowing in it like pigs in mud. We are in a country that most Americans like to define as Christian, a religion founded upon the principle of loving all of one’s fellow human beings, and yet we are the most violent nation on earth. Despite the capacity to love unconditionally huge segments of the population choose to love conditionally and to hate based upon differences. I don’t believe this is the world that Jesus envisioned, or Mohammed, or Buddha, or any of our great religious thinkers.
At this juncture in our history the family of man is itself dysfunctional. It is a family in which we share the same genes and blood and common ancestry and yet we cannot get along. Some of us abuse other members of the family and others stand by idly and let it happen. The hatred is perpetuated from generation to generation and never questioned. It is never talked about in any kind of real way. We cannot get past it because we haven’t figured out how to communicate with each other yet or even realize that we need to do so.
I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t know how to talk with someone who uses words like that, who can’t seem to rise above broad generalizations, but I know I must find a way. I know that conversations need to happen—not accusatory ones where blame is placed, but honest ones where real questions are asked, feelings are laid bare, and where we can begin to figure out how to love one another in order to survive as a family. The future of all of us depends upon it.