A Gathering Voices Post by David Maxwell
As a white guy growing up in Oklahoma in the 1960’s, race relations have been a big part of my life. Tulsa was an extremely segregated town with whites on the south side, Blacks on the north, and Native Americans, immigrant groups, and very poor whites on the west side of the Arkansas river that flows through town.
In 1971 I was voluntarily bussed to the Black section of town. My mother and church leaders guided me onto the bus. Of the fifty white kids I was the whitest, tallest, blondest target there. Thinking I was doing everyone a favor, I will never forget walking through a mass of shouting Black parents who did not want us in their kids’ school. Lunch portions were smaller than at my all white school. Facilities were horrible. Daily bullying was the norm. Yet, it was my church community and family that helped me interpret this world. Our faith is one that engages the world and does not hide from it. I had walked into the midst of a situation I did not create but needed to help fix.
I have enjoyed two books written by white people about racism in the south. The Help is a novel by Kathryn Stockett about a young white woman, Skeeter, returning home to Mississippi after college. She and some local Black maids disobey cultural and legal customs and unmask the racism and economic slavery that still exist in the U.S.
I found Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson an even more powerful book, perhaps because he was born just a year before I was and he articulates a shared frustration of the stagnant state of race relations in this country. Tim grew up in a tobacco town in North Carolina and when he was 10 years old a black man was brutally killed by some white men who went unpunished. His father, a minister in the all white Methodist church in town, tried to convince people to confront their racist actions and got forced out of town. Unlike his father who is rightfully proud of his actions and of the Civil Rights movement, Tim is irritated that after all the blood shed, racism is alive and strong in this country and the movement lost its momentum.
Two years ago we published the Racism Study Pack on The Thoughtful Christian. Seven provocative studies are available for churches to discuss race issues of our day. If you have not had the chance to read that study pack, I strongly encourage you use some or all of the studies. The themes are very pertinent and I found them helpful.
Just last week a friend of color and I took a taxi to the Louisville airport. The white taxi driver felt free to share how he enjoyed growing up attending Ku Klux Klan meetings every week in his small town south of Louisville. My friend was terrified. I was livid. Racism is not dead by any means is it?
What do you see as hopeful signs or actions against racism where you are?
Additional Resources from www.TheThoughtfulChristian.com