Friday, October 7, 2011

Taken aback

Yesterday, I was taken aback with the unexpected, or a series of unexpected events.

First, I went to a meeting at a church, but mistakenly went to the wrong church. I had relied on a facebook post for my information without looking closely; had I looked closely, I would have realized that this post was a year old.

I realize my mistake after speaking to the pastor briefly. I turn to leave when a man drives up. I wait for him to exit the car to see if this is another person who had made the same mistake as I have. It wasn’t. My eleven year old son, Rusty, turns to the man as he exits his car and says, “There isn’t a meeting here tonight.” He didn’t realize that this man did indeed have a meeting with the Pastor.

At this point, I need to comment about color. My son and I are Caucasian, the pastor was African American and the other man was Caucasian. I normally don’t comment about this unless it is relevant to the story, which in this case, it is.

The pastor looks at the Caucasian man and says, “See that white boy thinks that because you are white, you don’t belong to this church because it is a black church.” And he is laughing.

The Caucasian man says, “It’s Ok. I’m really black too. It is just that my skin is white.” He was laughing too. He thought this was funny.

My son and I were not laughing. See, I have never attended this church for Sunday morning worship, so I don’t know the racial makeup of the congregation. My son doesn’t either. Not only that, but we don’t really care. We were looking for my meeting.

I have to say that I was offended. I felt that the pastor had made a racist remark. According to the free dictionary, Racist is defined as “discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion.” He wasn’t really discriminating against us, as much as assuming that my son was being discriminatory against him and/or his church. I really don’t think that he was.

Turn this story around. Let’s say for the sake of argument that a Caucasian pastor was approached by an African American woman with her African American son at a church that had a predominately Caucasian congregation. Then an African American male approaches. Let’s say the child turns to the African American and informs him that there is no meeting. Then the Caucasian pastor says, “See, that little black boy thinks that because you are black you don’t belong to this church because it is a white church.” I think that the parties involved would be offended; very much so. I think that things might even be escalated to the point of formal apologies being made.

So, in my offended state, I became angry. I didn’t respond verbally. I just walked away while giving a very potent stare to the offending parties. As I left, I was more annoyed about the exchange than I was about missing the meeting. I considered calling that pastor’s supervisor, the District Superintendent to relay my feelings.

As I drive, I play the potential conversation over in my head that I would have with her. I know that she would listen and then talk to me using words like forgiveness and reconciliation. Knowing her like I do, she might even tell me to grow up. And I know that she would be right.

I have a very good friend who is an African American pastor. He told me the story of a time when he ministered to an elderly white man. He said that the man told him that he had never had a “negro” to pray for him before. My friend said that if he chose, he could have been offended. Instead, he chose to understand that this man came from a certain generation in which that is the terminology that was used. He said he chose to be understanding and not let it bother him. He is a good example. I need to follow his example.


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

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