Sunday, January 06, 2013

Some Thoughts on the "N" Word by a White

Oddly enough, I think back to the early 70s song by lefty-loved singer John Lennon called "Woman is the Nigger of the World." And I still gasp at it. After all, the "N" word is absolutely verboten as a "racist" term. Unless, that is, a black (or person of color) uses it in reference to another black person.

Now, I have been called "honky" before by blacks, and somehow, I have managed to not be offended and to laugh it off. Racism, it seems, is something that forevermore will have a double standard. And it ought not to have a double standard. If it's racist, it's racist. No matter what the color of the skin.

There's another interesting corollary to this subject. I have from time to time have heard this discussed among whites and blacks both. This might step on a few toes, but I have to be honest. And please keep in mind, the most severe censure I have heard on this—justly—comes from blacks. And it is this. The term "nigger" is reserved for the lowest, most shiftless stereotype one can imagine. It is heartbreaking that it has to be a stereotype. But it is just that. An unfortunate, false stereotype. The actor "Stepan Fetchit" used to get a lot of grief over portraying exactly that stereotype. When you look at the global contribution of African-cultured folks to the world, it is enormous. Because of American slavery in the 1800s, it is often forgotten that Americans did not invent slavery. Slavery has been done among many cultures, and not always dictated by skin color.

There's another fun term. "White Trash." Or how about "Trailer Park Trash." Here again, skin color seems to be the focus of the problem. And it ought not to be. Here's some truth.

Red and Yellow, Black and White, we're all the same in His sight. We have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. We are all of "one blood" according to the Bible, and we ALL are brothers and sisters. We all need to repent, and trust in the Lord Jesus for our salvation. And as a result of our salvation, we need to learn to love one another. Skin color doesn't matter.

When I was a little boy, my mother and I (she still lives with me and is nearly 90, every moment precious) knew a precious black couple. Johnnie and Annie Wilder. When my Mother had to work, she used to leave me with Johnnie and Annie to keep an eye on me. One day, the subject of race came up. (Keep in mind, Johnnie was an old, old man, well into his 80s—and my mother was in her late 40s at the time.) Johnnie reached up, patted my mother on the face, and said, "Miss Rea, when I look at you, I don't see black and white. I just see you."

That was the best, most wonderful, and most poignant, true lesson on race that I ever received. I have never forgotten it. That is why I find it so reprehensible that modern "race-baiters" like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton etc. get so much publicity, because they get their money and power by perpetuating conflict. And to their shame, they are both publicized as "Reverends." People who ought to spread the love, forgiveness and reconciliation of Christ. Instead, they spread division and anger.

One more lesson from Johnnie. One day, he wasn't feeling well, and we got him to the doctor. He had heart trouble. My mother ended up on the hospital at the same time over another malady. Despite his illness, black Johnnie went to visit my white mother in her hospital room. He was prescient, and he said "Miss Rea, I'll see you on the other side. I'll be waiting for you at the gate. Don't you disappoint me!" Johnnie went back to his room, and went to be with the Lord a short time later. Annie lived a while longer, and then she came down with cancer. We tried to stay with her as much as possible. And that leads me to another aside, one that fills me with righteous rage to this day.

We took Annie to church with us. This "church" I now recognize as a cult or at best, aberrant, because of its teachings. This particular church is strong in the American South (and it's not Baptist, so don't go there). I am no longer part of it in adulthood, and am part of a true, Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church. But we brought Annie to church with us when I was 9 or 10 years old. People actually got up and crossed the aisle when Annie came in with us and sat down. The majority of the people of this church—even though it was in northern Illinois—were people from Arkansas, the American South, where racist attitudes were prevalent. The Southerners could not make it in agriculture down there, so many (including my father) moved North to work in the factories to make a living for their families.

When Annie came down with lung cancer, we helped her daughter, Mattie, take care of her. But we were not able to give her the pain shots she needed. We had registered nurses in our church congregation, so we asked if someone could help. The answer was, "We're going snowmobiling, and we can't be available. She's going to die anyway." Oh, my Lord. Have mercy on their souls. We loved Annie, and the Lord provided to take care of her. She got the pain relief she needed. That year of my life—spent in my youth—was all I needed to teach me about race relations. Love—the biblical love of God—overrode all. And that's all I want to live.

As for me, I'll remember my beloved Johnnie and Annie. "I don't see color. I just see you." And I trust I will see both of them in Heaven, and nothing of this earth will matter. Especially color.


crownring said...

What a BEAUTIFUL and heart touching blog entry, Sola! I am so glad I popped in because this is the best thing I've read online in months. Are you and Rea in touch with Mattie?

Solameanie said...

Hi, Crownring! Glad you liked the post.

Sadly (and maybe I should have put this into the post), Mattie was murdered about 25 years ago. I was in radio news when it happened. A family member was suspected, but I don't think they solved the case. It's been too long ago for me to remember for sure. Heartbreaking, because she was a sweet lady too.

crownring said...

Oh, such a terrible thing to happen to a dear friend, Sola! Small solace it is, I am glad Johnnie and Annie weren't forced to bear the sorrow of Mattie's murder. Perhaps it was 25 years ago, but I still pray that Mattie's killer will face justice or at least that the truth will be discovered.