My grandmother was an overt racist; growing up in a small town in middle Tennessee paved that way of life. She wasn’t the “quiet, ignore people with brown skin” racist, but the vehement, outspoken kind that makes your stomach turn to think that anyone could speak to another human that way. In 2005 when an African-American family moved in across the street (her first close contact with people of that race), in a fit of frustration, she exasperatedly said “What am I supposed to do now?” My mother laughed and simply said “Well, go talk to them of course.”
Selfishly, I like to think that God blessed me with a gracious mother, but she was gracious long before I came around. She took an unfortunate raising, surrounded by hatred and choose a better path. I can’t really grasp what it’s like to be taught that a group of people are lower than you and consciously choose to recognize them as equals. I am sure that there were years of conscious filtering of racist thoughts and words and come natural if that is the environment in which you were raised.
My life path has intersected with a very interesting group of people who meet together and worship; tonight we had a a potluck, but I think community meal has a more fitting connotation. I was in a beautiful conversation with a homosexual friend about her process of coming out to her family and church, and how wonderfully difficult it’s been. She shared with me about being called evil things by the people who claimed to care for her unconditionally only a year beforehand, and how difficult it was to act graciously towards them. She also allowed me to share (and sympathized) at my own frustration with my past self, things I had said, and who I used to be.
Throughout the conversation I was constantly filtering my thoughts for ignorant, homophobic statements that unfortunately come without effort. It’s not hard to do this anymore, because I’ve been working at it for so long, but I’m still on guard. Hopefully in the future, the next generation will be exasperated with how frequently homophobic language crept into our daily speech and the damage it did will be identified and eliminated.
I’m grateful that I have the chance to aid this process, and more grateful for people who offer grace when I do slip up and let my past speak for me, and know that it’s not a judgement on them. They recognize that I am more than my past. Thankfully my mother recognized it about herself, and I am recognizing that my future is so much more than my past ever could be.