I hail from a small, rural town in southwest Virginia. A place with rolling farmland, mountain vistas, and the best biscuits and gravy you’ve ever eaten. Now I live in the capital, affectionately known as “RVA” to those of us that call this city home. We love our breweries, restaurants, and small-town feel.
They say, “Virginia is for lovers” and I agree. I love my home state and feel a sense of relief whenever I cross into its borders once again.
But this week, our words and actions speak for themselves. Virginians displayed their ignorance for the entire country to see.
The events that transpired in Charlottesville this weekend broke my heart. The torches glowed while I went to sleep on Friday and images of violence and hatred seared my eyes on Saturday.
Messages of hate filled my ears but I was not surprised.
Racism and white supremacy has reigned in our country since its foundation; now, it manifests itself in many different forms.
My soul lamented and wept at church on Sunday as we discussed the events in Charlottesville. Our hearts ached for our friends of color in the face of such blatant hatred. But after a time of prayer, one of our pastors made a comment that struck my heart with such fury that I knew I needed to share it with others.
He reminded us that white supremacy is not new; even worse, it has often been endorsed and sustained by the church in America.
This means that men in hoods waving their flags are not alone. We too carry racism in our hearts and actions every single day. Our torches and signs might not be as blatant, forceful, or overt, but they are certainly just as destructive—perhaps even more so. [See this Facebook “message to Charlottesville…from your local Black farmer” for more insight.]
Before I continue, please hear me say that those rallying in the name of white supremacy are wrong. I do not want to down play their hatred, violence, and spirit of intimidation. I simply desire for all of us to look at ourselves rather than only at other people.
I write this post with a heavy heart, knowing that I have carried racism and stereotypes within me from birth. My white privilege sheltered me from facing it for most of my life—but no longer.
When I see the men and women rallying for white supremacy, I see myself. My own ugly heart. The depths of my privilege and idealism can no longer be hidden.
But, you know what? Because of this, I rejoice.
The truth reveals the lies and brings freedom. I call out the lies in my heart and reap the rewards of beauty.
Now, I see people who are different from me as they are. People made in the image of God, with dignity and love. Imperfect people. Moms and dads loving their children. Families providing shelter, comfort, and guidance. Communities sharing their resources and spreading their wealth and knowledge with one another.
I talk with them, learn from them, lament with them. The journey toward reconciliation is long and hard but it’s worth it.
I still have a long way to go, but would you join me?
Join me as we revile hatred and love people. Join me as we lament the mess that we call “home.” Let’s celebrate our differences and lift up one another when we are down. Let’s name the injustices of our past – and present – and vow to tolerate them no more. Let’s sit in the tears, the disappointment, and the frustrations of our friends in the minority, those that daily live in fear and oppression.
Join me in no longer merely pointing the finger at others, but also, in seeing the ugliness of our own hearts.