I met a woman today.
Our church helped the local YMCA celebrate Healthy Kids Day, so I was greeting parents and children with some others from my church in the lobby of the local YMCA. We’re 10 minutes from Philadelphia, so it’s an extremely diverse group of people we’re working with here. One woman in particular pushed a baby stroller through the door with 3 other children hanging on the side. We greeted her like the other 300 parents and kids we met, offered her kids some silly kid trinkets and invited them all to our Friday night kid’s club at the YMCA.
Her response took me back a bit. “Ya’ll look like you’re rich. You rich? White people are all rich. We black people are poor.” My mind was racing looking for an appropriate yet thoughtful answer, but I was honestly at a loss for words. I wanted her to know it wasn’t at all about money; we’re offering this kids club free to anyone, and God’s love extends alot further than the checkbook. But I just sort of stood there, mouth gaping.
She eventually left and I sat and thought about it for a while. I searched her out and tried to talk to her some more, to let her know that I wasn’t just a white guy who didn’t want anything to do with her. But her questions were more of the same. Did I think black women were pretty? Would I date a black woman or did I think they were all ugly? Did I want kids or was I just trying to make money? I answered the questions carefully and honestly. Then I invited her to church and told her that I’d come pick her up if she needed a ride. But my heart was so burdened.
I’ve never been called a racist before. In fact, I didn’t really know it was much of a problem in America until I went to college down South, where many of my roommates were racist and many of my friends were black. I didn’t like every black person I met, but then, I didn’t like every white person I met. If someone is selfish or immature, it doesn’t matter what the color of their skin is, they need work.
I guess what’s weighing on my heart right now is the question: how should I have responded in that situation? I believe we’re to love like God loves, and that certainly isn’t limited by melanin. Talking to any other person I would have just spoken the truth in love; talking to this woman I felt like I had to go out of my way to prove that I didn’t hate black people. Which felt so strange, because I don’t.
Hopefully she’ll call for a ride to church.