Fighting racism with hugs
(Black History Month)
We often think of racism as blatant, easy-to-spot behavior. The racism in a KKK march is obvious. Or at a Nation of Islam rally. Both are filled with a haze of hatred so nauseating you can smell it.
Yet, more often than not, I find racism to be insidious … subtle and indirect. And, therefore, often slipping by us undetected and unconfronted.
But fighting racism successfully does not always have to be done with over-the-top tactics. Sometimes “subtle” is best.
And sometimes something as simple as a hug can work wonders.
Teaching inmates for nearly a quarter of a century at the Bristol Jail helped me better understand racism from countless angles.
At the jail, I once had a Black student named Marcus who insisted that “all white people are racist”. Therefore, he swore, “I would never even drink after a white man.” (Before you are quick to judge Marcus too harshly, if you knew his past experiences, you might well have joined him in his view.)
Eventually - after spending much time together in the tiny jail library - Marcus came to see me as a true “brother”. I can tell you the very instant I knew he felt that way. It happened when I bought us a Dr. Pepper to share together in celebration of his passing his GED test.
I offered Marcus the first half of the bottle, and told him I’d drink the second half - after he drank first. (I made sure we had no cups, and only the one bottle.) However, Marcus countered my challenge by insisting I drink first. Then he did something he swore he’d never do; drink after a white man. Marcus left me that day by giving me a hug so big he nearly broke my back.
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