I was appalled by the events in Charlottesville this last weekend. The whole thing just made my gut turn. But I have to admit it just didn’t surprise me. This kind of thing just isn’t new. It just makes me sad to see yet event that highlights the divide between people that from my perspective is completely unnecessary. I am tired of the constant coverage on TV and Internet repeating over and over the same events creating a cyclone of commentary that slowly eats away at my desire to find any hope for our world in light of this onslaught of tragedy. So in light of that, I hesitated to even start writing down my own thoughts and reflection today. But I did because despite my frustration I think there is still a space for a broader perspective. A perspective that doesn’t feed the fire of frustration we all feel but attempts to fuel a passion for people to connect and heal not just from this week’s events but beyond.
In the days since the tragic events in Charlottesville, I have been thinking a lot about racism. I find it imposable to fathom the kind of hate against other people that would result in the actions that resulted in the death and injury of people in Charlottesville or other similar events. Even though I know it exists I just don’t get it. As I see it there are two types of racism the blatant kind like we saw this last weekend where people are categorized by the color or their skin or their ethnic heritage. Then there is the more subtle one where people are categorized by their beliefs ideas or values which is called discrimination but I think is just another kind of racism. Both place a value on people based on a set of beliefs that devalues them as a human being.
In 1997 I found myself face-to-face with the aftermath of one of the world worst racial conflicts. Over the course of just a few months, nearly one million Tutsi’s were killed by their Hutu neighbors in a genocide that nearly destroyed their nation. I was in Rwanda and even standing side by side with Hutu’s and Tutsi’s I couldn’t grasp what the differences where that would cause neighbors to rise up and kill each other. To me, there wasn’t much difference except their average height and some subtle facial features. Several years later I was in Cambodia in the killing fields where as many as 3 million people were killed by a regime that wanted to get rid of all education. So in that world just because I went to college my life was worth nothing. In the Middle East, Shia and Sunni Muslims have gone to war over subtle differences in how they practice their faith. Christians have done the same thing at different times in history.
In the United States, we have never really resolved the racism that has plagued our nation. We fought a civil war over it. Went through a civil rights movement moved us slowly in the right direction till we even elected an African American president. These events may have moved us away from racism on the surface but underneath another possibly more lethal kind was growing. The one that separates people not only by their skin color but by ideas. The kind that caused millions to die in Cambodia and Rwanda the kind that caused Holocaust and fueled the inquisition the rise of ISIS and other blood baths that fill the pages of our history books.
So while I am grieved by the events of this last weekend I am not surprised by the reaction its another event a long history of hate that has circled the through the pages of history. I hope it’s a cycle we are working our way out of it but all the chatter makes me wonder. Until this morning when I saw something that gave me hope. I was waiting for the light to turn green on a busy street corner there was a late model high-end SUV in front of me and a white homeless man approached asking for money. The woman driving an African American woman rolled down the window and started to talk to him she then leaned into the back seat and grabbed some food that a far as I could tell was from her own lunch bag and gave it to him. Mean while the light had turned green and cars behind me started honking but she didn’t move till she was sure he had safely stepped out of the way and we could all go on our way.
I was fighting back tears as I pulled away. I was humbled by the scene that played out in front of me. How many times had I passed up an opportunity to demonstrate the solution while stuck in a cycle of cynicism? So despite what our leaders, institutions and events seem to be saying when a wealthy black woman takes the time to give a poor white man her lunch there is hope.
Author: Andy Yardy