Introduction to Rinnie Rants: a new blog series
I originally started writing my blog to talk about art, spirituality, and the intersection between the two. A year ago, I was dismissed from a church job that I held for about over 14 years. I stopped writing about hard things and all things spiritual. I started focusing on creativity and connecting with other artists and writers. I’m ready to write about hard things again. It’s time. Good friends of mine are hurting. I am hurting. We have to speak out when bad things happen, and it’s time for me to heal. In this blog series, I will turn to things that hurt – racism, narcissism, and more. I will rant, but know I’m also praying and healing and loving.
My friend hurts…
“When can I just be myself?” asks a friend as we walk along the path in the woods.
“I’m 62 years old, and have been dealing with this shit my whole life.”
Well, my friend doesn’t say “shit” (I do), because he’s a gentleman through and through. He’s always thinking about other people. He carries handkerchiefs in his pocket ALWAYS just in case he encounters anyone in need. He stops and talks with everyone we meet on the path, not just this day, everyday.
I’ve been walking with him for years – alone, on trails – and I’ve probably spent hundreds hours alone with him. He’s never been anything but a gentleman.
He’s been there for me and rescued me many many times in 14+ years I’ve known him. I’ve witnessed firsthand his generosity, his love of family, and his love of community. And now… his beloved community questions his integrity and his faithfulness. The words whispered about him are “Are you sure you feel safe with him?”
Because he’s BLACK – he’s a Black man – living and moving in white spaces – spaces where people in authority are progressive, liberal and white. And extremely toxic in their whiteness, unable to see the optics of how they operate.
My friend can be challenging. He’s an expert – at just about everything. He’s needed to be, because he’s Black. When we go for walks, I’m frustrated often about how friendly he is to EVERYBODY on the trail. I just want to walk and talk with him. I don’t want to greet all these strangers and their dogs. Yet, he’s compelled to, because he is Black.
“It’s my mission,” he says. (I paraphrase here – it irritates him to no end if I’m not precise in what was actually said or done.)
“I have to be friendly to everyone. People have all these stereotypes and prejudices about Black men, and I want people who encounter me to be challenged a bit. That all Black men are not stereotypes. That we are friendly, that we are more than what our society says we are.”
On this particular day though, there’s an edge to our conversation. We are talking about perception, and how sometimes his air of authority can seem pushy and overbearing. I’ve known him for so long that I live with it. He’s my friend, it’s his quirkiness. It’s irritating and frustrating at times. It’s what makes him unique. It can be crazy making.
I ask him to consider this trait and how people who don’t know him well might perceive it. Could it make others perceive him as a threat?
“Are overbearing white men scrutinized at this level?” he asks.
We pass by a young couple walking in the woods. As typical fashion, he greets them. “Beautiful day, eh?”
The guy says “wow…so friendly.” as they pass.
“See, that’s why I have to do that.” I’ve heard him say this many times. He has to overextend himself because white people often really don’t know how to handle encountering Black men.
My heart aches for my friend. How can someone who’s been in a predominately white space for 20 years suddenly be maligned by the white powers there? The powers that call themselves progressive and liberal and hold up signs that say “Black Lives Matter”?
A Call for Action
As white people, my friends, we have to start acknowledging that there is a mental, psychological, physical, spiritual and existential toil that people of color face that we as white people do not. We may be frustrated and tired of the words “white privilege” and “white fragility”, but we are not suffering as so many others are.
We need to understand that our actions and words have consequences. We have to be aware of the optics and how the things we say and the manner we say it can be harmful micro/macro aggressions that have DAMNING consequences on our Black and Brown brothers. A “whisper campaign” is modern day lynching, another Black man maligned for the sake of white superiority.
My Own Sin
A few months ago, I was shopping at Harris Teeter. A Black man, homeless, with a bag over his shoulder approached me for money. I quickly began scanning the parking lot for the security guard. I caught myself thinking “He was just here, where did he go?”
My first instinct, as a white woman was to be afraid of this man.
Then the words “Black Lives Matter” hit my consciousness big time, my guard dropped, and I said to him “Let me put my groceries in the car, and I’ll buy you a burger.”
My favorite burger joint was right there. We walked over, we talked. He said “I need a shower.”
I laughed with him “I can’t help you with that, but let’s get you some food.”
He ordered the most expensive burger on the menu, with fries and salad and blue cheese dressing. He settled down to wait for the burger, we parted, and he said “God bless” as I walked away.
I, who had initially wanted to deny this Black man’s humanity, didn’t deserve his blessing. I went away from this encounter feeling shamed and humbled.
We Can Be Better Than This
This past four years, our country was held hostage by a madman in power. Since the beginning of this country’s history, we’ve been held hostage by the notion that being white means being superior to all other races. We used that superiority to build systems and infrastructure to protect that superiority. While doing so, we also used the bodies of Black and Brown people to build us a paradise. We stole lands, we enslaved people – I don’t need to go into it – you know the history.
My friend wants to be forgiving. He wants to walk back into the space that is maligning against him. “It’s my home. It’s my community. Why must I give it up?”
But I’m not so forgiving. I am angry and I hurt for him. I am also hurting and angry for buying into the system for so long that values white skin over Black and Brown skin.
It could be that the people doing this to my friend will read this. I don’t write this to shame you. Please search your heart. Know that such whisper campaigns are not healthy, but toxic. You are setting yourselves up to injure, malign and harm one more innocent Black man. You are not standing on the shoulders of the civil rights movement, or the Black Lives Matter movement.
You are standing on the shoulders of the madmen who must bully, beat down, and weaken other people all in the guise of “superiority.”
Please, do not ruin the life and reputation of another Black man in our community today.
We can be better than this. Let’s be so now!