Yesterday around lunch time I drove to our nearby Good Times hamburger joint, where I went through the drive-thru. I had a difficult time understanding what the cashier was saying as he took my order and I kept having to ask him to repeat himself. However, we got it figured out, and I drove up to the window to collect my food. The person who had taken my order, and to whom I was going to give my money, and who then was going to hand me my two hamburgers was African American.
“That’ll be $11.98,” he said to me.
“Here you go,” I said in a cheerful voice while handing him my credit card. “I am really sorry I had such a difficult time understanding you. I’m just old and hard of hearing.”
Which wasn’t true at all. Well, the part about me being old and hard of hearing is true. But that wasn’t the reason I couldn’t understand him. The real reason was that the intercom system was crappy, and his voice was cutting in and out.
But in the 90 seconds that it took him to sack up and hand me my food (I know the exact time because he warned me that he would return with my food in 90 seconds), I thought to myself You are being unnaturally nice to this fellow. If he was a white cashier, you wouldn’t have apologized and you would have been crabbier.
I realized that I was reacting to everything that’s been happening in the recent past. I was demonstrating to this young man who I will likely never see again in my life that I am a good person who isn’t bothered by the fact that his skin color was different than mine. Which, of course, was (and is) true. I really couldn’t care less. But I began to wonder if this was the new way I was going to react to people of a different color than me.
I will admit that I am a bit taken aback by everything that I see happening around me. It almost feels like everybody is trying too hard, maybe making up for lost time. I know that what happened to George Floyd was desperately wrong. I believe that these types of things happen more often to black people than it does to white people. I think it is justifiable to express concern about all of this via peaceful protest.
Maybe these types of protests (and I’m talking the peaceful protests and not the ridiculous looting and property damage which is all the media can talk about) will wake up the police forces that still allow choke holds and they will make it against the rules. Perhaps the negative publicity will result in some training for rookies that will explain that blacks and whites should be regarded and treated the same (amazing that this would have to be taught).
But I’m afraid that none of this will have much impact on the actual problem of racism. The reality is that there are people who don’t like those who are a different race or color than they are. Nobody is going to change their minds. People who believe that white people are superior are not going to watch a protest or look at a black screen on social media or observe a sign in their neighbors’ yards and change their minds.
Here’s what I think we need to do. We need to teach our kids and grandkids that all people are the same, no matter how they look on the outside. And we need to do it in the way we live our lives, not in the form of lessons, but by modeling. We need to demonstrate our belief that God loves us all the same by treating everyone with respect. Not by being nicer to black or brown or yellow or red people than white people. Not by being nicer to white people than black or brown or yellow or red people. Just by recognizing with our very being that people matter. God made all people and all people matter.