On the day of our wedding Anniversary Spring rejoiced with us. March 22 greeted us with warmth and brilliant sunshine. I took that as God’s reminder to capture the moment. That I did. A plan was etched and I set off to meet my wife during her lunch hour.
As I came onto the main roadway I saw an elderly lady. She was pushing a large shopping cart. My heart leaped for joy at seeing her. Several months ago we met during the Black Lives Matter protests in Georgia. That morning as I was heading to the Post Office I had a sudden urge to wear all black. I donned a black cap with the cross. Black shorts and shirt. Not my usual walking gear but it just felt right. As I walked I noticed that motorists were staring at me. Little did I know that date was designated ‘Black Out Day’.
As I was about to re-enter our apartment complex a spritely elderly Asian lady warmly greeted me. We chatted, laughed and bemoaned the death of George Floyd. Our talk lasted for over an hour. It was like meeting an old friend. She told me her name but I had forgotten it. There were many times I wondered about her health and family.
In my eagerness to speak with her, I quickly went close to her.
“Hi! How are you?!” I said, beaming with joy at seeing her.
Her eyes wrinkled in anger. Her right hand quickly rose before her to reveal an unsheeted pocket knife.
“I have the killer”, she responded, waving the knife in the air.
I was puzzled at her reaction. “Why was she so uneasy with my presence? This was not the person I spoke to several months ago?” All I sensed was her unease. To put her at ease I reminded her of our first encounter.
“We met several months ago. We talked during the time of the Black Lives Matter protests. You had expressed dissatisfaction with the murder of George Floyd. Aren’t you from the Philippines? You told me about your husband. He is white. You both live in a retirement home just down this street.”
” You also told me your daughter was happily married to an African-American. And your concern for your grandchildren.”
“That day, I was dressed in all black”, I continued. , “We stood and talked right there at the entrance to the apartment complex, where I live.” I pointed across the street to the entrance of our home.
Her eyes lit up above the mask. “Yes! Yes! I remember you now!”
The pen knife disappeared.
“Where are you going?”
“Right there to do my shopping. I am OKAY”
Suddenly I felt very uneasy. Something was wrong. I just couldn’t figure it out. Why did she initially react in that manner? Then I remembered that I was rushing to meet my wife. I bid her goodbye and continued on my journey.
A few minutes later the light bulb came on. Thank God for the Holy Spirit.
“She was afraid. She thought you wanted to harm her. The news reports of attacks on elderly Asians have made her afraid; especially of black people.” The Holy Spirit said to me.
“Wow! I did not remember about the attacks. I was so overjoyed to see her that I did not consider my approach.”
I was horrified to realize her initial reaction was borne from fear of being attacked. Worse a fear of a black man. It saddened me that these senseless attacks were happening.
Why does it seem that every few months or years a minority group is singled out to be the focus of hate and violence? In a bid to appear authentic, mainstream media has supplied us with various stereotypes. Unfortunately, most of us do not analyze what we are being fed. We simply drink the kool-aid. I know there are some people who are not influenced by an external source. They have their prejudices. As long as it doesn’t hurt them economically they are more than willing to maintain their stance. Only time will crumble their little straw house.
Yet we do not have to wait for time. Change begins with you and I. Time must be taken to understand others. It may be uncomfortable at first. There may be misunderstandings. That should not stop us. We must step outside our comfort zone to talk with people outside of our race. Movies, YouTube videos, News articles, blogs or other media paints a very narrow picture of people. If we do not move beyond the soundbites our views will be warped. Someone’s skin color or ethnicity will influence their life but it is not the sum total of who they are. I have been blessed to interact with many different races from my youth. Each experience taught me that we have far more in common than we realize.
People are dynamic. There is a multiplicity of thoughts and ideas in different people groups. Yet at our core there are many things that we do in common. We laugh, cry, hurt, love, love hugs, dream, have visions, we obsess over things that matter. We all bleed red. There is more that unites us than divides us. Far more.
The western world’s colonial past has left many deep fissures.For many centuries it thrived by dividing people based on race. That system was toppled. Let us loosen ourselves from the remnants of a dead system. Let us begin to see each other. Let us take the time to communicate with our neighbor.
We can begin with basic courtesies. Acknowledge the other person. Begin the conversation with a simple greeting.
“how are you?”
Let’s mean it.
Update: On April 9, 2021 my wife and I were driving home from breakfast when we saw our neighbor. Praise be to the Lord Jesus! We had a good talk. And were also very happy to pray with her.
#stopasianhate #stopracism #alllivesmatter