Realizing racism at a stop light
November 7, 2017 / By Anonymous / 1 Comment
I am currently living in Canton, N.Y., and I am 67-years old. I grew up in Massachusetts, and there was one black girl in my high school of about 1,500 students. I liked her, and she seemed just like all the other kids.
When I was a young woman, perhaps in my late 20s, I was traveling to a meeting in Albany in my car on a hot day. I didn’t have air conditioning, so my windows were open. Somehow, I found myself in a mostly deserted neighborhood where many buildings were boarded up. To this day, I have no idea how I managed to find this blighted area.
As I stopped at a red light, I noticed a group of teens and young men hanging together on the corner to my right. Every one of them was black. Suddenly, I was very frightened and anxious. What if they saw me and hurt me? What could I do? What should I do?
I sat there petrified, waiting for the light.
Over the years, this incident has stayed with me, and I think of it often. Not one of those boys so much as glanced at me. I was perfectly safe the entire time. I also learned that any one of us can be racist. Not that we WANT to be, but because we find ourselves in a situation we don’t understand, then we make a bad decision that often hurts others, and we don’t even know it.
I stayed there and waited for the light to change, when what I wanted to do was run the light and get away. Because I stayed, I learned a powerful lesson that has stayed close to my heart for all the years since: don’t make assumptions about people when you really know nothing.
My experience has left me humble and has made me think when I am among others who look, behave, or seem different. Did God influence me to stay? Some will vehemently say “YES,” but I’m not sure. Maybe I stayed for my own reasons. How can I tell when or where it is God’s will or my own inclination? In my heart, I know I can’t tell the difference between where God is and where I am, but the results are the same.