Moments of Awareness & Silence
Thoughts on race and confronting racism from a former fundamentalist
We all have those moments in our lives, when we wish we could go back in time and do something differently, right? Lately, I’ve been returning to one prominent moment from when I was about 20 years old.
I was playing half-court basketball one warm summer night behind the gym at the South Carolina college I was attending. There were probably six of us. As it happens in these scrappy pickup games, one player eventually bumped into another or something and one young guy got angry. He didn’t just get angry though, he called the young man he had clashed with “a stupid n*gger.”
In that moment, the remaining five of us could have done many different things. What we all did was stand in awkward silence for a few seconds, saying nothing. Nothing. I said nothing. The other three white guys said nothing. I’m pretty sure one of the other guys was a university employee. He said nothing.
I have returned to that moment many, many times over the years. I’ve returned to it many times over the last few days.
Silence is complicity folks.
I wish I could go back and tell that young white guy to apologize. To dress him down. To tell him that regardless of whatever happened on the basketball court, he has no reason to resort — not just to bringing up his opponent’s race — but to bring up the most vicious racial slur imaginable in our culture. I often wish I could just punch him. And I’m not one to believe in punching first. I wish I could go back. I can’t.
That’s part of the reason I won’t shut up now.
I’d like to address my friends from those college days.
The college we attended, Bob Jones University, was itself a breeding ground for racism and bigotry. I think many of us who attended there get that. We dance around it, however, sometimes because we understand that not all of our friends from those days agree. Maybe we don’t want to make them uncomfortable. But it’s true.
I mean, Bob Jones University had a no inter-racial dating rule in place until the year 2000. Now, many of us who attended there never agreed with that rule. But this rule had a…