Guest Post by ObstacleChick
Recently, my husband and I were taking a walk when we passed by a neighbor’s house. The neighbors are a couple who have kids close in age to our own kids. Sam* coached our kids in baseball and served a term on town council, and Deanna* volunteered at the elementary and middle school. Both are active in the town’s Catholic church as well as in the community. Sam and Deanna were outside as we were passing by, so they came over to talk with us. Their older son Dan* just finished his junior year of college, and the younger son Nate* is a senior in high school. Dan chose to go to a Catholic university located about an hour and a half away from home, and according to his parents, it was the right place for him. We discussed how our kids were doing and asked where Nate was planning to attend college in the fall. Sam and Deanna talked about the pros and cons of the different schools that Nate had visited. Nate was initially interested in a particular large university, but he thought it was located “in the middle of nowhere” and was not thrilled about being stuck on a campus without access to a wider community. While another school located in Boston had a fantastic business program that Nate wanted to attend, he thought there were “too many Asians” at the school. Another school in Boston was ranked highly and had a great location, but there were “too many Jewish students” at the school. Deanna said that Nate really wanted to go to a school “where most of the students look like him because he’s not used to being in the minority”. Deanna and Sam stated that Nate needed to attend school where he would feel comfortable, “you know what I mean?”
Holy f&*%, that was out loud. Outside. In public.
My husband and I were stunned. I was speechless, and being quicker on his feet than I am on mine, my husband talked about our daughter’s college. Just days before we had returned from attending her college graduation. While located in the South, her university reports that 39.5% of its students are white while the remainder of the student body is composed of a wide variety of students from other races and ethnicities. Our daughter’s friend group reflects the diversity of the school. She loved having friends from a wide array of backgrounds, leading to deep, meaningful discussions. We told Sam and Deanna that our daughter had benefited tremendously from her friendships with a diverse array of people, and that we believed that particular university was the right choice for her. Sam and Deanna nodded along, but I could feel their skepticism. We quickly and politely wrapped up our conversation and moved on our way.
As we walked away, we saw Sam and Deanna’s Asian neighbor kids outdoors playing. We hoped that the kids didn’t hear that conversation. I was second-guessing myself – should I have spoken out more forcefully, directly calling them out on their racism? Also, I was disturbed by the fact that they assumed that because we were white that we would **wink wink nudge nudge**agree that our kids should attend schools with students who look like them. My husband and I knew that this couple had been Trump supporters in both the 2016 and 2020 elections. For a couple of weeks, they had placed one of those juvenile “Let’s Go Brandon” signs in their yard, and currently they have a “thin blue line” sign. We knew that they were die-hard Republicans, but we did not have proof that they were racists. My son had said that he knew Dan and Nate were Trump supporters, lumping them in with the “football guys” who were either overt Trump supporters or “libertarians” who secretly supported Trump but wanted to pretend to straddle the fence. Now we know.
In the couple of weeks since this interaction, we actively avoid walking past their house. A handful of families that we have known for years through our kids’ school and sports had supported Trump both times around. These are all seemingly respectable white families, active in the community, active in their Catholic church. They have coached my kids. They have volunteered at the school. They keep their lawns neat and are polite when we run into each other around town. Now I question how deeply they have absorbed the more extreme, nasty side of the GOP base. The racism, the misogyny, the anti-LGBTQ sentiment, the xenophobia, the Christian nationalism – how much of that is ingrained in their belief system now? They feel empowered to say it all out loud now, and we should listen. As Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. I believe them.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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well, nate is well on his way to be just one more little “tucker”. poor dear, such a fragile snowflake unable to be around people who might not look like him.
A man would have put Sam and Deanna at ease by saying, “Don’t worry. They all look alike. And contrary to popular belief, we found that not all Asians know karate and they are not all tech-savvy. Nate will fit in perfectly.”
the Angelou quote is so so apt here. People will tell you who they are if you listen…. Look at Revival Fires: The twit won’t quit. When these neighbors talk about Jewish people, they feel they are loving as God intends. Their hateful hearts are blessed through the communion. The twit might accuse them of being the wrong flavor of hate and so condemned. But as Maya says, just listen and believe it the first time.
I am familiar with the Angelou quote. It’s as sound a piece of advice as anybody has given.
What offends me even more than overtly expressed hatred is the “nod-nod-wink-wink” variety ObstacleChick describes. The worst part of it, apart from its mendacity, is the presumption that you share it. “Oh, you understand, people feel more comfortable among their own kind.”
MJ, exactly right. The assumption that as white people we should understand just floored me. And I know that this couple are convinced that they aren’t racist.
The funny thing about Sam and Deanna is they probably think of themselves as the nicest people who just want what’s best for their son and for the nation. As a member of a minority group, I have found these quiet, passive racist way more threatening than the in your face loud haters. The former will pretend to be your friend, then stab you in the back when you least expect it. Usually after patting you on the head and reassuring you that “You are one of the good ones.”
Missi—I am too familiar with the kind of people you describe. When they realize (or I tell them) I’m transgender, they quickly interject that someone close to them is gay. Or—especially if they’re in the academic world or have taken a “diversity” workshop—intone, “Gender is performative, you know.”
When I hear such things, I reach for my gun (I’m being metaphorical, of course!) and time those folks until the knife (again, metaphorical) comes out.
“As a member of a minority group, I have found these quiet, passive racist way more threatening than the in your face loud haters. The former will pretend to be your friend, then stab you in the back when you least expect it. Usually after patting you on the head and reassuring you that “You are one of the good ones.””
ain’t that the truth
Missi, I think this is what’s bothering my husband so much – that these folks are considered pillars of the community, would probably point to (insert group) friends as evidence that they are indeed not racist, but have no problem saying something racist to people they think are white and “should” understand. My husband absolutely refuses to walk past their house anymore because he doesn’t even want to see this couple. We wonder how many other low-key racists are in our neighborhood. I consider these folks to be dangerous now, because they are committed to voting (staunchly GOP of course).
This is the reason why I found it laughable when one super conservative pastor I know about – we both come from the same (Asian) ethnic group – expressed his support for Trump. From the pulpit, mind you.
Doesn’t he know that for many Trump supporters, it doesn’t matter that he’s the correct kind of Christian if he’s not the “right kind of people”? Even my Evangelical parents were annoyed at Trump when he, at the start of the pandemic, blamed everything on the “China flu”. Notwithstanding my parents’ dislike for the Chinese government, they felt the statement was stoking racial prejudice. Against people like us, of course.
Ironically (or not), my parents are also very prejudiced against other (Asian) ethnic groups. Especially if they’re not the correct kind of Christians.
Evangelicals, and Christians of many stripes, always profess that the church is “elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth”. But their attitude often testifies to the contrary: religion can often be an enforcer of ethnic/racial identity in a negative “them vs us” way.
Kel, I cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be in a white evangelical world and not be white. There would be a lot to deal with in that environment. I have been listening to a podcast called “Chapel Probation” by a former professor at Azusa Pacific University – Scott Okamoto – in which he interviews a lot of his former students from diverse backgrounds and how they dealt with being people of color in a white dominant environment. There’s so much to unpack, from false assumptions to ignorance to overt racism to microaggressions.
Many of my daughter’s friends are not white, and she says that she only has to deal with being condescending to as a young woman, but her friends have a whole plethora of garbage to deal with on top of that. She has been fortunate to hear their perspectives. (Something as simple as someone saying to her Japanese American friend “do you even need to wear eyeshadow because we can’t see your eyelids anyway” is a straight up racist comment).
OC, thank you for your comment. I’ve always appreciated your take on various issues.
Yes, being a minority can often be a very stressful experience, no matter where you are or which country you’re from. But, I just hate the hypocrisy of Christians who discriminate against others while at the same time taking pride in their supposedly universal “all-are-welcome-by-Jesus” religion. I myself am not immune to prejudice and racist beliefs, but at least I try to address them.
You know what makes my story even “funnier”?
None of us is a US citizen, including that (downright insane and delusional) pastor.
Where I’m from, a great many Evangelicals do worship American preachers and theologians. Evangelicals are a relatively powerless minority here, subject to various types of discrimination. They seem to think that by aligning themselves with their ideological brethren in the US, they can work together towards a common goal/Christendom. Unfortunately for them, I believe that a significant number of white Evangelicals will never consider them as true brethren, due to “differences in culture” (read: race).
After all, a conservative Evangelical blog I used to follow once published an article which encouraged churches to reconsider whether they’re ready for being “multicultural” and not to force themselves if they’re “not ready yet.”