Us Versus Them
It was time for a stack of pancakes. My friend goes to another church now. IHOP has become our new sanctuary. Every few months we meet to eat and catch up with each other’s lives.
She’s a brave woman. Beautiful. Strong.
We’re not color blind with each other. I know her color has influenced who she is, just like she knows my color has influenced who I am. It’s inescapable.
During our last conversation, she made a comment about how the black people at her church traditionally dress very nice.
That’s when I made my blunder. I still feel bad about it.
I told her, “Yes, y’all always look so sharp, and we look like slouches.” (Myself included.)
Ugh. It was the classic duality I don’t like to make.
As if we are on two separate teams. As if we can categories whole races of people into two little words: us versus them. Whites versus blacks.
Those goofs are why we sometimes avoid having conversations.
- We don’t want to offend anyone.
- We don’t like feeling awkward.
- We don’t know how to handle our white guilt.
Above all, we don’t want to appear racist. Because we don’t want to believe we are racist.
But here’s the biggest misstep:
When we’re too afraid of saying the wrong thing, we too often say no thing. . .
. . . which is the wrong thing.
Mess Up Anyway
What can we do about it?
- Speak scared
- Have awkward conversations
- Ask if we’re offensive
(If you like to read novels, I highly recommend Small Great Things, a powerful story that speaks directly to discrimination. The title is taken from Martin Luther King Jr’s famous quote: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.“)
We are going to mess up when we talk to each other. We do that at some point with everyone we talk to, regardless of the sameness or difference of our color or gender or religion or political preference.
But if we don’t talk about touchy subjects, we mess up even more.
Talking is one way to be the change that needs to happen. Grow closer. Get smarter. Bring more peace and love and joy into the world.
God is happy when his colorful kids play together. He made us different on purpose, not by accident.
Intentionally celebrate his intentionality.
My friend let my blunder slide that day. We just kept talking. Maybe she thought nothing about my vocabulary of “us vs them”. Maybe she did. Next time I’ll bring it up and find out.
But love is like that: It covers a multitude of sins. I know my friend loves me. And she knows I love her.
Live in Color
Later that week she sent me an affirming text, a prophetic word related to a spiritual decision we had discussed that day.
She ended her text with this: “I love you to life.”
We’re not in a race against each other. Life isn’t scored like a ballgame.
It’s not: If I win, you lose. Nor is it: If you win, I lose.
It’s both/and. Not either/or.
Seeing life in color is more beautiful than being color blind.
* * *
- When I’m Embarrassed to Be White
She said it. “Then I know why he did it.” I wanted to crawl inside my pale skin and turn inside out.
- But What Will Happen to Me
It’s not about just us. And it’s not just what we stand for. It’s who we sit with.
- When We Are Different
Her mom said, “Tell her what we say at our house.” But I already knew.
- Do You Assume the Best or the Worst? And a Barking Lady
- Being Right – Table of Contents