I am currently listening to a couple of older women sitting here in the café behind me speaking half in English and half in low-German about the evils of young women “falling into the arms of dark men” with the odd “Negro” thrown around for good measure.

It is awkward for me.

It is ridiculously racist and blended with bad theology.

I can’t decide if this is a chicken or egg issue…which came first the racism or the bad theology? Does it matter?

Part of me wants to turn around and tell them they are being racist and they should consider the good equality of all people and the image of God embedded within each one of us. Another part of me (a louder part) simply says “why bother…they will not change…they will simply be offended and get up and leave or tell me to mind my own business.”

The louder voice has won. They are well past racist themes and have moved on to other topics. There is no thread or direction to their conversation, merely random cluckings heading to no particular place. At this point they have probably even forgotten that part of the conversation.

Now I am wondering if I am a coward. Should I have more courage, after all its 2013, shouldn’t I turn around and challenge two old women on their racist attitudes?

It seems so strange and foreign to me that there are such broken assumptions and attitudes in this world. No matter how long I live I hope these casual conversations on why others are inferior to us white folk never fail to shock me.

Can I use that as an excuse? Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I was incapable of standing up and defending my brothers and sisters who happen to have a different skin colour because I was in shock. A poor excuse in the end.

I am saddened by the many costumes that hate wears. I want hate to be obvious. I want it to be the ugly, scarred obviously evil and angry man who is clearly an ignorant beast. I don’t want hate to be dressed up as a soft, prayerful, plump and pleasant grandmother with a gentle smile and comfortable shoes.

They’re still talking.

They have no idea I am sitting here writing about them in the next booth.

Now I feel guilty.

Maybe I am just as bad. Here I am writing to you about these people and their horrible nasty ideas like some shameless gossip – literally behind their backs. To them I am simply the back of some guy’s head…not an enemy…not a spy.

They have moved on to baptism now and the importance of their faith…my faith. How can we be so different if we share the same faith? Are we…am I so different? I caught them unawares. They felt safe to reveal a little of who they really are with one-another and I caught them like some shameless voyeur. What if that happened to me? What secret blackness would leak out of me in an unsuspecting moment into the ears or eyes of another that would shock them as much as these ladies have me?

I should pray for them…but now all of this introspection has me feeling like I need to pray for me just as much. That could be the point of this random encounter. There may be no point and I may be manufacturing reason where only day-to-day madness exists.

At this point their conversation has taken a wonderfully ironic turn. They are talking about how wasteful people are to go out for coffee instead of saving their money to stay home. Seriously this is quite wonderful. Since I have been here they have gotten up twice to re-purchase coffee and extra muffins. To be so oblivious to one’s own self.

Of course this just bounces back at me. When encountered by these things you just cannot help but wonder about your own blindness. Where am I laughably unaware of my own flawed self? That’s the problem with a lack of awareness – you need other’s to point it out…which brings us to the value of community and maybe back to why I couldn’t stand up and challenge their earlier racism.

I know that I would only take criticism seriously from people in deep and intentional loving relationship with me. Not some shmoe in another booth at the coffee shop…a mother or father; a brother or sister; a lover or a friend speaking purely out of concern and genuine compassion…not anger or judgement.

Evil can be most effectively challenged in the context of community; in the context of ekklesia. This requires relationship. This requires love.

I have to stop eavesdropping now…it is too hard. It keeps bouncing back at me.

2 thoughts on “Negro

  1. Benita

    Forgive them Peter! Their judgments are as blind as they are innocent. There is no such thing as a perfect solution to the issues we have to face as a society and there will always be those who can hate without logical reasoning. The question is, do they know any better? We like to think that we are all equipped with the same tools that aid us in making qualified decisions…. but the fact is, not everyone is capable.

    It can be a very dangerous thing when our perceptions of the world contradict how things really are because not everyone is ready (and/or capable) to accept and move on. Hatred is a very dark and confusing emotional state, I feel sorry for those who are unable to free themselves.

    Perhaps avoiding intervention was a good decision. In the end, what could possibly be accomplished? Be proud that these women have done nothing more than confirm that understanding and acceptance is a beautiful thing for the human race and that hatred is best expressed privately in a coffee shop with someone equally as ignorant and blind.


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