Poison in the Shadows

Today was interesting, enlightening, surprising, difficult, meaningful, hopeful — all of which came as a bit of a surprise to me. I’m attending an antiracism training.

I expected some shaking up; it upsets me when something poisonous creeps out of the shadows of my unconscious—like some horrendously bigoted, racist phrase. I learned a few such sayings at about the same time my first grade teacher was trying to get the idea of “subtract” into my head.

My mother taught me “sweatin’ like a nigger on election day”. Even in the context of this blog, it grieves me to admit I ever said such a thing. It was years before I really understood what it meant and how truly mean and arrogant it was.

Over the years I expunged those racist aphorisms from my speech, and by my early thirties I had a good working knowledge of what “white privilege” meant. I knew I had benefited from it all my life. But that was head knowledge. Today I began to experience what it feels like to have sailed through life, free to get an education, compete for a good job, join any club or church I liked.

And it didn’t feel good. I felt ashamed, frankly. I have been quick to judge my forebears in this country for climbing to economic wealth and sociopolitical privilege on the backs of the First Nations and Africans, but today I began to understand how I’ve kept that dynamic alive.

Cleaning out the shadowy corners is dangerous and not a little scary. It would be a lot easier to just dismiss the feelings and continue to think I’m not a racist because I don’t say “those things” any more. But until the poison in the shadows is revealed, experienced and healed, I will continue to wear a face of racism.

I have no business claiming to follow Jesus until I’m willing to own up to my participation in the sin of separation, in any of its ugly guises.


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