This is a strange way to celebrate love and show appreciation on this Valentine’s Day, but I hope you will allow yourself to walk with me on this one. Maybe you’ll see the meaning in the message towards the end.
I know that there are some people that prefer not to discuss the issue of race, racism, discrimination or anything that leads to any resemblance of the subject. I understand it isn’t a sexy or friendly topic if you’re uncomfortable or have troubles embracing the realities the conversation raises. Some may have never had the opportunity to speak openly about it out of fear of what others may think of them or fear of being mischaracterized. And some are just ignorant or oblivious to the realities that are around them.
Racism is not some isolated characteristic contained to any region or group. When you stop to think about, “What is racist?” or “What is racism?” you can quickly conclude that racism itself doesn’t abide by what it does.
What do I mean by that confusing statement?
Racism is an act of discrimination, but racism doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can be a racist. A person of any race, religion or creed can harbor racist attributes.
Racism is a silent psychological cancer that erodes the perception and interaction of the humanity of an individual or group. One of the most cancerous attributes of racism is when it is undetected and allowed to fester with subtly and in silence. You should ALWAYS immediately speak up and speak out against any form of discrimination. Racism is just one of the hideous offspring of ignorance and hate.
The phenomenon racism and discrimination are not new. In fact you can find instances of both in the Holy Bible; regardless if you choose to believe it or not it is written. Whether you choose to read it or not John 4:3-42 is the Apostle John’s account of the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria. Why is this important? It is just one example of racial tension between Jews and Samaritans.
Apparently Jim Crow is older than I originally thought.
Gee Walker is a mother of six children, five living. Her son Anthony, 18 yrs old was killed in 2005 by Michael Barton, 17 yrs old and Paul Taylor, 20 yrs old because of the color of his skin. They killed Anthony by driving an axe through his head. So just imagine the horror that his mother Gee Walker witness when she saw her son in the hospital.
After the two murderers were sentence to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison Anthony’s mother, a Christian found it in her heart to forgive these guys.
When asked by a reporter if she hate her son’s murderers she responded by saying,
“I can’t hate. I brought up my children in this church to love. I teach them to love, to respect themselves, and respect others. We’re a hugging family and they go out and portray that same image. We’re a forgiving family and it extended to outside, so it wasn’t hard to forgive because we don’t just preach it, we practice it. It is a life sentence. What does bitterness do? It eats you up inside, it’s like a cancer. We don’t want to serve a life sentence with those people.”
Now I don’t know if I would have the courage or level of conviction that Mrs. Walker demonstrated if I was faced with such tragic circumstances, but this is just another example of the reasons why we should always strive towards love instead of hate, malice and divisiveness.
During the Civil Rights Movement there are countless of instances of unreported and unresolved accounts of injustices based solely on race. It wasn’t just Blacks that were targeted, but Whites, Jews, Hispanics and Asians were targeted also. There was one incident that happen in Rock Hill bus depot in May, 1961 where Civil Rights demonstrators were trying to integrate public accommodations in interstate travel. When John Lewis (SNCC Leader) tried to enter a “white only” waiting room that was when Elwin Wilson grabbed Lewis.
Now 48 years later Mr. Wilson, a former Klansman apologized to the U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). Regardless of the length of time it took for the apology the fact that this man who was a Klansman had enough courage to seek his victim and ask for forgiveness is a demonstration of redemptive power of forgiveness and love.
More importantly, the courage it took Congressman John Lewis to accept the apology is a demonstration of the power of love, acceptance and forgiveness. Again, I don’t know if I have the testicular fortitude to forgive easily forgive a Klansman, but that the point of this article.
Now you may be wondering how these examples relate to Valentine’s Day. Well it’s simple. Valentine’s Day has been marketed as a day of love. It is true that there is no love in racism and discrimination, but if you look closer at these examples you’ll see a theme. Each person is presented with a socially justifiable opportunity to hate or discriminate, but they don’t. In return of responding how many of us would deem as justifiable they responded in love and forgiveness in midst of the accepted culture and history of racism and discrimination.
The fact that Jesus did not shun or disrespect the Samaritan woman despite the history of racial discrimination between Jews and Samaritans is just one example of how we can overcome the petty differences and resolve to see each other as equal.
The courage it took Gee Walker to forgive her son’s barbaric murderers demonstrates how we can rise above the adversities and the injustices presented in our lives.
The desire of a former Klansman to learn from the error of his ways and choose love over hate is the redemptive power of humbling yourself and putting away the foolish pride that often blinds us from seeing the similarities of our differences. The acceptance and forgiveness demonstrated by John Lewis is the strength we all should seek.
Now that we’ve arrived at this point together I just want to say that the meaning in the message for this Valentine’s Day is forgiveness, reconciliation and appreciation for one another.
We all have done something or said something wrong or offensive to someone at some point and since we didn’t see the wrong or refuse to admit to it we let the injustice fester like an unchecked cancer. Your deed may not have been an instance of racism or discrimination, but perhaps it was a case of insensitivity or just your own ignorance. Regardless of your personal beliefs, persuasions or ideology I ask you to give a Valentine’s Day gift that doesn’t require money, but its value is priceless and will not require a bailout or stimulus.
Use this opportunity to ask for forgiveness. Take is occasion to demonstrate love instead of giving flowers, candy or gifts.
References & Inspirations MSN Encarta “Segregation in the United States” Mormon Matters – 04/23/08 “A Case Study on Racism & Learning to Forgive: Anthony Walker’s Mother” Holy Bible – NASV “John 4:3-42”