By Deacon Derick Cranston
“They didn’t like Atticus Finch because he was a (n-word) lover, wasn’t he daddy?” This is what my 10-year old biracial daughter asked me several years ago when I asked her what she thought of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the book she was reading in school.
To say it hit me like a jolt would be an understatement. I explained to her as best I could that the n-word was an awful word that bad people call a Black person. She then asked, “Am I a (n-word)?” I was crushed at this point and all I could do was hug her and tearfully say, “No, you are not.”
I am far removed from the effects that racism can have on a person. At least I was until I had to explain a racial slur to my 10-year-old daughter and assure her that it did not define who she was. Now, many of us who have not directly felt the effects of racism are having our eyes opened.
We must keep them open. We must hear the voices of those directly affected by racism, and empathize with the frustration they are feeling. No matter where you are at on the issue of race relations, please try to take time and truly listen.
The act of listening is a skill that has largely been lost in this time of divisiveness. How often do you find yourself focusing on your “comeback” when you disagree with someone, not really paying attention to what that person is saying? I know I have caught myself doing this.
Just watch any news talk show. Often you will find two people trying to talk over each other and it becomes a contest of who can talk louder and longer. They are not talking with each other — only talking at each other.
Sometimes it takes a sudden jolt for us to take note and really listen to what a person is saying. That sudden jolt is happening now, and I ask you, please, to take notice. You may not like what is being said, but please listen with both your mind and your heart.
For as Christ said in Scripture, “Those who have ears to hear, should hear; those who have eyes to see, should see.”
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)