Headed to Little Rock… "Racism? Still?"

So, now that I’m back on the road full time again… I decided that each week I will post a little something that either happened in the city I’m working in… or something memorable from my travels to and from each city. I’m a little behind in reporting on a couple of cities… but will post a blog about Spokane, WA in the next day or so… it was a weekend I’ll never forget!

Two weeks ago, I was headed to Little Rock, AR. While on the plane, I was reading this great Tim Keller book called “A Reason For God” . Or, trying to read the book. Seated in front of me was a sweet young mom with a VERY rambunctious 2 year old who was screaming, crying, yelling and running down the aisle… all making concentration impossible. And, oh my, how someone’s diaper needed to be changed! Wow.

I was also distracted by the thoughts of that morning’s events… still nagging for my attention. I needed to journal them to free them from my mind…. so I put my book down and grabbed my legal pad.

I was greatly disturbed that morning, while waiting in the security line at the Nashville airport. There were 3 gentlemen in front of me… that I guessed were businessmen accustomed to travel… which is why I chose to stand behind them. A good secret to getting through security lines quickly – avoid moms with strollers and anyone looking like a vacationer. Locate businessmen with simple briefcases. They have the security process down to a science and you are certain to move through the line quickly. The gentlemen seemed, however… to not be on a business trip… but on a pleasure trip… my guess was a golf trip. As two of them carried golf-related literature… and all three were wearing the most amazing plaid pants.

Here’s what was disturbing: As we all approached the first station of security… where you still have your ID out and have to show the agent your passport or driver’s license and boarding pass… the agent checking our ID’s made a comment about the name of the man in front of me (note: both the agent and the golfer were Caucasian). Apparently, the businessman/golf-enthusiast’s name was Johnnie Cochran. The security agent looked at his ID and said, “Well… I know you’re not the Johnnie Cochran… you’re too pale to be him!” Mr. Cochran chuckled and said, “Well, believe it or not… I’m a lawyer, too!” The security agent exclaimed, “Well no kidding! Now all you need to do is git you some black shoe polish and you’ll have yerself a big career!” Mr. Cochran chuckled uncomfortably… retrieved his ID and boarding pass… and moved on.

I don’t know if I was disturbed at the comment in general… or because there was also a black security agent standing right next to the white security agent… trying to look unaffected by these comments. But I saw the heavy shadow that crossed his eyes as he stood silently… avoiding eye contact and suppressing his response.

I know that deep within each of us lies some level of prejudice. Not just the black and white kind. But the kind that comes from our presuming any cultural stereotype that assumes attributes and characteristics of people based on their ethnicity, geography, economic levels, sexual orientation, education and/or any other demographic principle we choose to project on them without cause or warrant.

And as appalling as the security guard’s tacky comment and attitude was – I did exactly the same thing in my judgment of him. I immediately assumed him to be ignorant and unaware….behind the times in his cultural progressiveness. Surely, he’s not as advanced and open-minded as I… surely, I could teach him a thing or two.

That is ugly indeed. Ugly of me.

That attitude puts people in an unfair box. It limits our perception of their potential and God’s design for their life. And often keeps us from truly enjoying others who are not like us… and from entering into true relationship with them.

Anyway, enough preachy-ness. As much as I am grieved that prejudice still exists… I am grieved at my own judgments against those who are bound by racism.

I still have so much growing to do!

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2 thoughts on “Headed to Little Rock… "Racism? Still?"

  1. great post debbie. i wrote a paper on racism in graduate school…on my own prejudice as the class what about bringing us all to an awareness of the judgement that we all carry around with us. self-awareness if the first step, no? traveling mercies!

  2. very thoughtful post and good reminder to all of us. i look forward to reading about Spokane! i rarely hear of any good experiences on the east side of washington. 🙂

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