Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Which I Get Fan Mail From Racist Trolls

Yesterday, as a part of the #ImAChristianBut hashtag on Twitter, I wrote the following tweet:

 It has been retweeted 40-some times as of this afternoon, and it was humbling and heartening to see people responding to a sentiment that I deeply felt: that we as a church have really tried to whitewash our pasts in a lot of ways, ways that ignore how we profited from both the slave trade and segregation, and how we tried to demonize, terrorize, and even kill those who worked to end those institutions.

That exposure hasn't come without garnering some flotsam from the trolls under the bridge:

Now...did you notice how "your race" got inserted into the conversation in that second tweet?  This will be a recurring phenomenon:

Then another interloper just comes out and says it:
The assumption, based on my tweet, apparently, is that I'm African-American.

Which, of course, I am not, a fact that can be ascertained by a simple search of this blog, a link to which exists on my Twitter page.  Simply searching the term "race" returns, on hits 2, 3, and 4, posts in which I refer to myself explicitly as white or Caucasian.  Go ahead, feel free to try it--the search function is on the toolbar to the right.

Personally, if someone mistakes my race or ethnicity, my first instinct is to gently correct them--it happens all the time because I'm part of a relatively small ethnic group (Armenians), and my complexion is outwardly ambiguous enough that I have gotten mistaken (sometimes in a hostile way) for Jewish, Latino, Italian, Arab, and even East Asian.

But then I went back and looked at some of the names they were calling me: Viper.  Snake.

Also, fraud:


Complete idiot:

And loser:

We'll set aside for a moment that name-calling isn't terribly Christian, but even as these insults came after I corrected them to tell them I in fact identify as white, there are people out there who thought it was okay to call (who they thought was) a black man they have never met and knew nothing about except for a lone, single, and frankly not very radical tweet, names like "viper" and "snake."

I cannot begin to imagine the racist abuse the leaders of African-American churches, #BlackLivesMatter, and other black-led organizations working for reconciliation must endure on a regular basis.  I was on the receiving end of it this once and it was appalling to me, even as I strove as best I could to parry it with facts, wit, and humor (I could have blocked them, but honestly, that's a measure of last resort for me, and I have had to do that once already today, so I wasn't feeling it again).

Again, just to reiterate for emphasis--I'm white.  And this is what I was on the receiving end of from people who thought I was black.  What on earth could possibly lead someone to think these insults were okay to say to someone we do not know at all, much less someone who does not look like us, except for prejudice?

So...if you thought that racism only comes to earth in the form of a terrorist gunman who takes the lives of nine African-American souls in their church, think again.  We still act horribly to each other in any number of ways, and this is but one.

So, can we begin to admit that there really is a problem with prejudice among believers to this day?

Can we begin to stand up to the racist, racially-charged, and prejudiced things we hear and see people say?

And can we, for God's sake, stop trying to shout down people of color and their allies for wanting what we have had for centuries: the privilege to live and breathe free in the United States of America?

Because I still have hope that we as believers and Jesus followers are still capable of building some small semblance of the kingdom of heaven in this little world of ours.

I still have hope that we can in fact do what my original tweet asked us to do, to be more honest about our past, as painful and sordid with the sins of slavery and segregation as that past may be.

And I still have hope that the closer to God each of us will forever be for having done so.

It is a hope I have, y'all.  I'd just as soon not jettison it now.


Longview, Washington
September 8, 2015

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