I am not the only human who grew up in a small town. When I say “small town” I mean one church, one gas station, one school (from kindergarten to 12th grade), no stop signs, no traffic lights just a two lane highway running right through the heart. Everyone knew everyone. Most knew my father because he was the local pastor at that ONE church, which was the First Baptist Church. My father believed he was ordained by God to be the head of the church (in that town) and he was chosen to be the head of our household. If this sounds narcissistic… well, follow that line of thinking. It is. He was and still is.
I am white, my father is white, our whole town was 90% white and Christian. (Or at least most went to the First Baptist Church). There were people of color all around me at school. I became friends with some of them. I played sports with some of them. I enjoyedthem and loved hanging out with them.I wasn’t allowed to invite them to my house. I wasn’t allowed to invite these friends to the First Baptist Church on Sundays. According to my father, “those people” are more comfortable going to their “own” church which was a small buildingon a dirt road way outside of our small town. The building wasn’t air conditioned nor was it as nice as FBC that sat right in the middle of our small town.
I was completely confused by this. One afternoon after school a friend of mine from basketball offered to give me a ride home after practice. My father has a temper, and it is especially fiery when I disobey his rules. On that afternoon when my friend pulled up to my house and dropped me off, my father lost his temper. Not a little, a lot. Again, I was completely confused. My friend who gave me a ride home in his pickup truck was one of the nicest guys I went to school with. The other guys who owned the massive trucks with big tires and an American flag draped in the back window were bullies and rude and were sexually violent against most females our age. My friend was kind and sweet and an incredible basketball player and I loved being around him.
So why was my father out of his mind angry with me… I simply rode home in the cab of a truck with a high school boy who was black and I was white. “What will people in town say when they see you riding around with this boy” screamed my father. Honestly, I didn’t know what the people in town were going to say because I didn’t understand what the issue was. I am not trying to be simple minded; I just did not understand. My father also was on a missionto “win everyone to the Lord”and that included people who were Jewish. Again, I was confused… Jesus WAS Jewish…? Right? Why did he need to win them to the lord? What was I missing?
Fast forward many years and as an adult I am in the painful experience of understanding what was happening. There are people on the earth who feel their skin, their faith, their family, their community, their social order, their schools are WAY MORE IMPORTANT than others. It is a core belief they are superior because it is all they know. They grew up around like-minded people and have never traveled and have never gotten any education that made them experience other point of views or other cultures. I call this social arrogance / social ignorance. Is it hateful? Of course it is. Do these people think they are being hateful? No, they do not (the short answer). I do realize I could study this for many years and never have any answers.
There are moments when I fully believe we will never be the UNITED States ever again. We have splintered in a way that feels permanent. Then my naïveté kicks in again and I start believing we will rise to find our better days are in front of us. The one thing that gives me great hope is our young citizens. They are smart and engaged and they want good jobs and health care and they care about this planet we live on AND they want to be able to go to school without someone walking into their classroom with a weapon of war and killing 20 people in thirty seconds. I’m not sure why a pick up truck jacked up to heaven makes me nervous, but it does. I spiral right back to that small town full of church goers who are filled with hate toward anyone who worships differently, anyone who has a different color skin.
Not every massive truck holds a Christian nationalist who hates people who are LGBTQ+ or people of color. Yet, some of them do and I struggle to not have a physical reaction on the highway when that truck with the huge tires and flags and decals and way-too-bright lights crowds me from behind. I am working hard to find a place for my anger to go. I want to use that anger to be productive. I’m not there yet and I promiseto tell you when I do get there. I knowthis is a long and winding road. My gray sedan and I are on our way.