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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Racism or intolerance, that is the question.

    I live next to a very active church and often come home to find the street filled with cars and my "normal" parking spot gone.  How grateful then, I am to have a driveway that I can pull into, no loss, no foul, no long walk from the car.  However, over the 10+ years that I have lived here problems arise when my driveway is blocked and I cannot get OUT of my driveway.  
          That happened again yesterday.  Rather than sit and pray about the situation, I determined to call the cops ... then decided to ask in the church first.  A young lady said she knew who belonged to the car and would get them--but I was too angry to wait.  Again, I didn't pray.  I said to the teen not to bother, that I guess the asshole deserved a ticket and a tow.  
          I went outside and called 911, but the cell didn't complete the call, so I went inside to use my land line.  When I came out, the sidewalk of the church was lined with people angry at me for interrupting their party, angry at me for swearing to and abusing a child, yelling at me that the car was not one of theirs.  Again I didn't pray first which would/could have turned the entire moment around.  I could have asked them to pray with me--though arguably they were too angry.  The teens mother wanted me to apologize to her child.  I wouldn't and the incident accelerated with words on both sides until I called the mayor and the police arrived.  
         The police calmed me down.  They found out who on the block owned the car.  A neighbor I barely knew (contradiction in terms, right?) came out to move her car saying she'd only been there a minute (an hour?)  and that her own driveway was blocked. They gave her a warning--but I walked down the street and noted that her driveway was not blocked.  Again, instead of praying and rising up and letting go and letting God, I insisted she be cited for blocking my driveway. I called her a liar, (a word I had also applied to the teenager from the church).   The police said they would send her a citation, and they calmed me down. While I walked back up the stairs to my second floor home, I saw the policemen--three now--go over to talk with the crowd.   
          I went inside, collapsed weeping, cursed myself for my part in the incident, and began to fear that the people of the church would sue me for a racism that I don't have, reversing a life that has worked against racism in every way I knew how.  Finally I was praying.  But I could not let go of my hard heart, and so I went to bed weeping.  I forgot to look at the amazing full moon of the night, forgot to call a friend, forgot all about the amazingly good poetry reading I had had at a Friend's meeting earlier in the day.  What a waste.
          Finally I woke up with a softened heart, able to note all the times I could have prayed, hoping to find a way to make amends. This is the first thing--to write about it.
          In the entire situation above, I am the only white character.  I realized that last night.  I realized that by the time the policemen arrived and realized I was scared that I had reacted as if I was just an angry woman and not in a potential racially charged situation.  I think, though, that I am the only one who thought about race in that negative way--none of the crowd had said the usual things I was used to from being a teacher, an early 1970s feminist and an activist.  I said to the policemen that I was scared, that I was white and---they stopped me and said don't go there.  They knew me.  I had lived int the area for a long time.  They had come by for a break and entry.  As I said, they calmed me down.
          I feel humble, softened and ashamed.  But I am also still afraid that it was a racial situation and that the group will sue me for everything I did wrong.  That they will say I wouldn't have treated them that way had they not been black.  That I am racist.  That I am racist.  That I live on privilege.  All my life I have worked to understand privilege.  I fear that one incident when I acted from anger will make my entire life a lie.  
          I am waiting for the shoe to drop.  And so I am praying that I overcome my distrust, that I can cure my anger.  I did not expect to bump up against this fear.  I thought I was beyond that in self consciousness.  I know I have a problem with anger, but I am seeing that I still have racism lingering in my heart.  This is how we find out about the vestiges of racism, when we bump up against them in our hearts instead of opening the door to pray together with whoever is there of any race, in any situation.   
          My BFM tell me that this is a leftover 70's overzealous guilt--that my real problem is intolerance of imperfection and quickness to anger. 
          So let us pray.


[addendum:  The church facilitated a meeting between the mother and I which was positive in so many ways that I was in tears again. She had sent her number so I could call.  From her first enthusiastic response to hearing it was me to the final words she made me feel blessed,]