“It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”– Clay County, West Virginia Development director Pamela Ramsey Taylor’s Facebook post following Trump’s election as a President.
I got to be honest with you, when I read about this post directed at Michelle Obama I was truly hurt, sick and sadden. First, you need to understand my “relationship” with our first lady. One, I have a school boy crush on her. Next to my wife (yes I know better than to not add that caveat) I think she is a beautiful lady. Not a beautiful black lady, a beautiful lady period. Second, I believe she has been an exceptional role model for all American women. Not black American women, all American women. She has handled the responsibilities of being the First Lady with grace, compassion, and poise. She has not only earned our respect she deserves it as well. Third, she is authentic. As my wife likes to say, “I wish she was my best friend.” Not her best black friend, just her best friend.
My Dad grew up in a very small segregated southern town in the 1940’s and 50’s. He lived in a world that now I only see in pictures, water fountains and bathrooms marked for “colored” use, restaurants with separate entrances and sitting areas, white schools and black schools. It was a world of forced separation, the natural order of the way things “should be”, at least that was the mindset then. But my father, a man who by all accounts should have had the core foundation of racism built into his soul is not a racist. In fact, he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.
I asked him one day given the era and environment that he grew up in why or how did he escape carrying those racist tendency that so many of his peers still struggle with today and pass down to their children and grandchildren. His answer was simple, as he was picking cotton under a blazing sun as a dirt poor white 14-year-old working shoulder to shoulder with dirt poor black adults and children he figured out that at that moment he was no better than they were. His white skin may have allowed him some privileges, but at the end of the day he sweated and bleed just like they did, not like a black man, but a man, a human. My Father has carried these lessons and observations with him his entire life and fortunately for me, passed them on to his children and grandchildren.
Both my Mother and my Father have spent their lives working to erase the harmful effects of racism. My Mother taught in an inner city, predominantly black elementary school for almost 20 years. She could have transferred to another school and was given the opportunity to do so several times. Schools with more resources, money and less stress, but she didn’t, she never did. For many of her students she was the first white women to give them a hug, certainly the first to have shown many of them any love, care or concern. Her hope was simple, change the paradigm. Maybe she couldn’t change it for all but every fire starts with a small spark.
Back to Pamela Ramsey Taylor, she lives next door to you. She goes to church with you. Her kids play with your kids. You see her at the grocery store, at Applebee’s, at the high school football game. And you read her post on Facebook and yes they disgust you but you remain silent. Why? For every one Pamela Ramsey Taylor who gets a Washington Post article written about her Facebook remark there are a million more, the racist that lives next door to you, that don’t. At what point do we quit letting our peers get away with making these kind of racist flippant remarks. Are we afraid of being ostracized? Being picked on, having our kids picked on? Or maybe not being invited to the neighborhood Christmas party?
If you are standing silently by while your friends post racist remarks on Facebook, or tell a racist joke I contend you are doing just as much harm by encouraging this behavior. If you profess to be a Christian, at least in my opinion, your actions or inaction are doubly damning “But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
I really don’t want to lump Donald Trump’s 61,251,881 supporters into the category of racist but a few of them are making it pretty damn hard not to. Ladies and gentleman it is time to quit being silent. Given our future leadership it is easy for me to see this getting out of hand very quickly. I contend this tone is being set and propagated by a minority of Americans. Sadly though, at this point in time, a minority with a very loud and powerful voice. We may never erase racism but we also do not have to allow the racist next door to have a voice or a platform. It is our job, collectively, to prevent that from happening.