This is difficult for me to write mainly because I don’t like to ruffle feathers and I’m writing about a hate in the heart experience with a relative. However, I also need to bring attention to this subject. Every bone in my human and motherly body tells me this.
I recently took a long road trip with 3 of my children and offered for a relative of mine to come along. He is someone I have talked on the phone with on quite a few occasions and who lived with our family for a period of time when I was a child. Well, I guess I didn’t know what I was in for.
It wasn’t long into the drive and I heard his first racist comment as I was driving behind a vehicle that he insisted must consist of a specific race. I didn’t understand why anything needed to be said, let alone in such a derogatory manner.
How would you respond? Did my response welcome more hate in the heart comments?
I know I should have said something right then and there… anything to let him know that I didn’t approve of what he was saying, but I kept my mouth shut instead and did what too many people do in that I just continued with another conversation. I hoped my children weren’t paying attention. I try to teach them to stick up for others, yet was not practicing what I preach.
Well, this continued on and on with my response not changing. I am ashamed of my response (or lack of it TBH). The comments were not only about one race, but he seemed to have many hateful comments about every race we came across except for white people. I say this, yet there was one homeless person he pointed out that appeared to be white that he also had some extremely hateful comments towards.
Does It Matter if The People Don’t Hear It?
Now I know none of these comments were directly face to face with any of these individuals. I have no idea if he ever talks directly to any of these individuals directly to express his feelings of superiority. Hopefully not. This doesn’t change the fact that he so obviously feels he is of a superior race with superior beliefs.
Here is what he did know, however. My oldest child is of mixed race. Many of the hateful comments my children and I were exposed to were directed to the specific race of which my oldest child is. As I was biting my tongue, I couldn’t help but picture someone referring to my own child in such a derogatory manner… not based on ANYTHING other than the color of his skin.
Everyone judges others… it is part of being human. We all say we shouldn’t, but we do. However, his judgement wasn’t based on ANYTHING of substance. These people of various races and religions… none of them were doing anything other than being human. They were driving. They were waiting in line ahead of or behind us. They were shopping. They were working. They were parenting their children. They were simply BEING. None of them were hurting anyone else by their actions. They were simply humans BEING.
My oldest child is of mixed race. Many of the hateful comments my children and I were exposed to were directed to the specific race of which my oldest child is.
The hateful comments immediately had me fearful for my own child. They had me fearful for all whose skin tones do not match up with the haters, no matter what race or religion they are. I, as a white person, have also had hateful comments directed toward me when out with friends as the only white person in the group. This is a multi-race and multi-religion issue. I don’t want to come across that it is just white people that can be discriminatory. However, it may have more to do with people having hate in the heart than anything else.
More than ever, I find myself reflecting on Leiloni Schulz’s words in her review of the book The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict. “The anatomy of peace begins, and ends with one very important concept, and that is whether or not your own heart is at war, or at peace… if your heart is at peace, you see people as people, but when your heart is at war, you see people as objects.” I have yet to read this book, but it is definitely on my list of books to read in the very near future.
Humans Being and Living in Peace Together
In the meantime, I will continue to envision the world as a place where all humans can BE and LIVE in peace with each other. This may be naive. However, I believe if individuals take the time to get to know one another as people, we will likely find that we may even like one other. We may find that we actually have some commonalities. And, if we don’t, I like to think we can be sophisticated enough to dislike that ONE person that we got to know rather than his/her entire race or religion.
As for my relative, towards the end of the drive, I told a story. The story ended using the same hateful words he used to describe many races along our drive. This time, however, it was about one of my own siblings using the words to describe my own child when he was just an infant. At first, my relative seemed shocked! How could my sibling refer to a nephew in this way based on nothing other than skin color? I shared how hurtful the comment was and how I felt when it was said.
I could see my relative putting two and two together. He understood why I was sharing the story with him. He was shocked to hear someone had referred to my child using those same words he had used repeatedly on our trip to describe so many… based on nothing other than skin color. How could the comment have been based on anything my child did or said? He was a completely dependent newborn! I did get my point across finally after being too sheepish to do so earlier.
Does Getting Our Point Across Change How People Feel?
Do I believe this will change how my relative feels? Probably not. I don’t think anything will change there unless his own heart becomes one that is at peace. At least he now knows that I do not in any way share his sentiments about people based on nothing of any substance.
I believe I’m doing something right when I see my children and their friends together. They all have friends who are of various races and religions. If each household promoted seeing fellow people as people, the much-needed end to discrimination may finally happen.
The Power of Observation
My hope is this. We take time to observe when we notice people of other cultures that we do not understand. I hope for observation to replace immediate judging and discriminating against. Chances are, if we look closely through a clear lens, we will see nothing to hate. Rather, we are most likely to simply see fellow humans BEING. Are there bad apples? Yes, for sure! Bad apples exist in every race and religion. Most PEOPLE, though? Most PEOPLE are good!
Don’t want to observe? Bambi’s advice will be helpful: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences on this subject. Please share in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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