The last few weeks have been very hard, both for me and my extended family and I have not been around computers much. I do hope to catch up on all your blogs and emails very soon, but I did want to share this - especially in light of recent events.
A few weeks ago I attended a funeral. I had only met the man a couple of months ago when he asked to meet with me, interested in obtaining affordable housing for people he was bringing here from Ethiopia. He was a very kind man with a thick accent and a gentle rhythm about him. Although he was a recent immigrant himself, he was already working to help others. I liked him instantly. And then he died suddenly after returning from a trip to Africa.
Although I don’t like funerals, I thought I would attend his, thinking that since he was a new resident there may not be many people there and it would be nice for his family to have some people in attendance.
Arrogant, I know. Of course the church was filled to bursting. A man who spent his life helping others is bound to be surrounded by loving and grateful people..
I entered, quietly took a seat in the back, and instantly knew that I was the only white person in the church. It was a mildly weird feeling but also happily reminiscent of when Daphne used to take me to churches in Harlem where I stood out like a beacon in all my blond hair, blue eyed, whiteness.
There was much weeping and wailing at the funeral. And when I say weeping and wailing, I mean WEEPING AND WAILING. Loud, doubled over, heart wrenching wailing. I was crying and cringing just witnessing the outpouring of so much pain. And again I remembered my former Harlem church days. In those lovely gospel churches people would yell out whatever moved them in the middle of a service. “Amen to that brother!” “Lord hear our prayer!” I was always a little jealous of people who seemed to literally be moved by the spirit. Yeah, that would never have happened in the upright, uptight, almost all white churches of my youth.
Besides being a racial minority of one, I didn’t understand a word of the service which was done entirely in an Ethiopian dialect. I had no clue as to what was happening, I just sat and listened to the weeping. Sorrow has no language barrier. I felt totally lost and yet very much included all at the same time and came home emotionally exhausted yet exhilarated to have been witness to such a loving culture, even if only for a couple of hours.
This was still fresh in my mind when I heard the news coming out of Charleston last week. How many times have I been welcomed into black churches? Wonderfully welcomed. Warmly and sincerely welcomed. Every single time.
Hearing that the shooter hesitated because all those people had been so nice to him just broke my heart in pieces. Why is it that the nicest people always seem to get the worst of it? I am really struggling with this so I can’t even imagine what black folks are feeling. I would think anger. Lots and lots of anger. But then you turn on the news and they are all talking about forgiveness.
I once experienced extreme violence because I was different. Daphne experienced the homophobic violence but also the racial. All those hate filled words, all those hate filled actions. It all still rings in my head like it was yesterday.
Have I forgiven our attackers? Yes I have. Have I forgotten? Never. And somehow, today, I feel compelled to apology for my fellow race as I always felt compelled to apology to Daphne, though I never got the chance. No, not everyone is a racist. But if you are white and you are not doing something, anything, to help end this madness, you are not doing enough. Please do something.
"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another." - Luciano De Crescenzo