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© 2016 Irma Herrera

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The Power of Awkward Conversation Across The Racial Divide

April 29, 2016

The Power of Awkward Conversation Across The Racial Divide (Part 2 of 2)

 

We see this word abomination often, most often in relationship to same-sex unions, but what does it really mean? The online Dictionary of Words from the King James Version of the Bible, http://tinyurl.com/zl475nf, provides the following definition of abominable: 1. Very hateful; detestable; loathsome, 2. This word is applicable to whatever is odious to the mind or offensive to the senses, 3. Unclean.

 

The explanation I most liked was from a Christian Minister Dr. Michael L. Williams, whose website is, What Christians Want To Know: Topics To Equip, Encourage & Energize, http://tinyurl.com/goj79g2. “The word abomination is a word that is used to describe a deeply held reaction to someone or something that is deeply disagreeable to our way of living or believing. In the Bible, the word abomination is not only used in a cultural sense, it is used in a prophetic and spiritual sense. Therefore, the common misconception that the word abomination can be used as a substitute for the word hatred is wrong. An abomination speaks to the conflicts between men’s (sic) souls (my own view is that the word souls here refers to our belief system). Christians should use every opportunity to communicate in ways that will cause others to listen to the message the God has placed on our hearts.”

 

Speaking of hate, I hate to break it to you, but we are all abominable given that at one time or another we have likely done or been the following: “proud of heart, hard of heart, condemned the just, loaned with interest to a brother, worn clothes of the opposite sex," (surely I'm condemned for favoring my 501 Levi jeans over skirts or dresses). For a more complete list about biblical abominations, including cites to bible verses see, “What are abominations according to the Bible?” http://tinyurl.com/pef5v3k

 

Much food for thought in Shades of America and the past days I’ve wondered about these Klansmans, and their views about racial purity. Would DNA testing confirm their own racial purity? A friend orchestrated the testing of various relatives for a family genealogy project and learned that her ex brother-in-law, an avowed racist, had significant roots traceable to Africa. 

 

My DNA results are consistent with the history of the migration of people from Africa to Europe and vice versa, the crossing of the Atlantic by conquistadores and the colonization of native people throughout the Americas. I’m 39% Native American, 49% European (23% Iberian Peninsula, 17% Italy/Greece, 6% Ireland, 2% European Jewish), 8% African, and 3% West Asian. I know, you did the math, and that's only 99%.  The remaining 1% traces back to other parts of Asia and Great Britain. Is it a wonder that beyond checking "Hispanic/Latino”, I also check the “Other” box too?

 

When the KKK members aren't suited up in their robes, I imagine them to be ordinary people with everyday lives and workaday jobs. Are they sports fans? What thoughts go through their minds as they watch Stephan Curry, Dante Fowler, A Rod, LeBron, or Ichiro Suzuki partake of these All-American sports?

 

When I lived in New Orleans, a friend and I were on a road trip and entered a way out-back-country bar. A KKK robe and hood were on display behind the bar. We immediately high-tailed it out, overcome with feelings of sadness, fear, and anger. So thanks Kamau, for meeting with members of the KKK and sharing the experience, it’s one I gladly had vicariously.

 

My favorite single line from the show was the KKK jokester saying kerosene is known as klansmen cologne. I still shake my head each time that line crosses my mind.

 

But lest we rest smugly about how we, the enlightened, aren’t racists . . . not so fast . . . the reality is that every institution in this country has been shaped by the view that people of color (in particular African Americans and Latinos) are intellectually inferior to whites. Even in the most liberal and progressive communities in this country, this belief in our inferiority is deeply ingrained. How could it be otherwise given our nation’s history of centuries of state-sponsored segregation, based on the notion that white people are superior and more deserving of education, good jobs, decent housing?

 

These are important issues to explore, dissect, discuss with each other, especially because they make us uncomfortable. And there are plenty of good people eager to be part of the discussion of how we learn to respect, like, and even love those who don’t look like us.

 

I explore these topics in my solo play, Tell Me Your Name, and in the vibrant post-play discussions that have followed.

 

I'll be performing again at Ross Valley Players (Marin County) on June 25 @8 pm and June 26 @ 1 pm.  Hope you’ll come and be part of the conversation.

 

Check out United Shades of America's future episodes, I know I’ll be watching.

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