Everyone that knows me knows that I’m the farthest thing from a racist.

Photo by Mia Gracia Tabili on Unsplash

A South Florida man posted a rant on his Facebook business page. He said both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter are hoaxes. It was a long and tortuous rant, weaving its way from fond memories of a church sermon of his youth to calling George Floyd, “a disgraceful career criminal, thief, drug addict, drug dealer and ex-con…” There was much more to the post, you can probably still find it through a Google search.

It wasn’t the rant so much that I found shocking. Appalling, yes, but hardly shocking. I’ve heard many variations on that theme since George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. What’s surprising is the man’s disbelief that his words could possibly be construed as having the slightest whiff of racism. He tells the local news,

“Everyone that knows me knows that I’m the farthest thing from a racist.”

It’s heartening that soon after his post, over 6,000 people in that Florida county signed a petition demanding that his business contract to supply produce to county schools be terminated. He has his own large camp of supporters though. Thay back him with mask-less gatherings where a live band plays, among other favorites, Southern Man. They call BLM activists and protesters “terrorists”

Meanwhile, my liberal friend is examining her own racism. She laments the fact that when she moved to Baltimore from her small town in upstate New York, she would sometimes cross the street if there were a couple of black men strolling down Greenmount Avenue. “I probably wouldn’t have done that if they were white,” she admits.

Another friend, a younger woman, kind and caring, recently graced social media with yet another All Lives Matter meme, much to the delight of her older, more conservative friends. While some might interpret that as racism, or white privilege, I’m not quick to judge her. She’s been too busy caring for stray dogs and, despite her own limited resources, helping anyone in need. She doesn’t watch the news because it hurts too much. She would be open to reason. Willing to listen and learn why those words are not what they seem. It’s on my to-do list but I’ll have to be gentle about it. A true empath, the thought that her words might have caused someone pain would make her weep.

As a child, I attended vacation bible school at our Methodist church in Baltimore city. We had Kool-Aid and Lorna Doones. We decorated popsicle-stick crosses and sang songs. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Our new minister invited the black kids, watching from the sweltering heat of the sidewalk, to join us. When the church elders got wind of that, the minister was re-assigned quicker than you could say Archie Bunker. Didn’t he realize it was just a song?

When I was a teenager, and naively optimistic, I thought that by the time I had children, systemic racism wouldn’t be a problem. Those were the days of free love and we thought we’d just mix it all up till everyone would be the color human. Crayola would have to stop making that flesh colored crayon. That didn’t happen.

When my daughter was about seven years old, we had a pool membership in a Maryland suburb. My daughter had a friend, Malka, an Orthodox Jewish girl. Malka was still young enough that the prohibition of being in a pool with people of another gender hadn’t kicked in. Her mother packed her a healthy kosher lunch and allowed her to go swimming with us. When we arrived at the pool, Malka’s eyes opened wide. She turned to my daughter and asked, “Lydia, you swim with the Schwartze?” There were maybe five black people in the area. This child came from an ultra-religious home. Her parents were well educated professionals who would have, like that Florida man, been incredulous at any suggestion that they might have a racist thought.

Until we are willing to examine ourselves, and by that, I mean all of us, until we are able to confront this toxic beast among us, we’ll not begin to heal this country. This world. We’ll have those Band-Aids for black and brown skin. We’ll use all the current politically correct labels telling ourselves we’ve settled it. We’ll go on pretending that racism doesn’t exist, at least not in our own pure hearts, because everyone that knows us knows that we’re the farthest thing from a racist.

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Baltimore native battling fire ants in Florida. Award winning essayist. Pushcart nominee. Writes because it’s cheaper than therapy. www.eileenvorbachcollins.com

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Eileen Vorbach Collins

Eileen Vorbach Collins

Baltimore native battling fire ants in Florida. Award winning essayist. Pushcart nominee. Writes because it’s cheaper than therapy. www.eileenvorbachcollins.com

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