To my dear white neighbor in Ashland,
I don’t know you, but you’ve been on my mind ever since I heard about your angry exchange with our black neighbor who is an OSF actor. A couple of weeks ago after a disagreement over where a car was parked, you invited him to leave Ashland because he is “not like us.”
Now I think of you often when I am frustrated and I look at my internal arsenal of hate and rejection and see how easy it is to allow frustration to turn to hurtful and hateful speech or worse. You see, I am white too, and I know that part of my internal arsenal includes xenophobic racist feelings and remarks that were given to me by my race and my society as a part of my white heritage.
What a burden it is to you and to me to work to disarm those feelings and remarks only to find that they are still there. They are so effective, so damaging, so final a barrier to relationship with folks who are “not like us.” The way this man is not like me is that he is infinitely more talented and educated in his profession than I am. However, he is like me and you in that hateful, excluding speech wounds him just as it does us.
When I was a child I had a Christian grandmother who taught me about her beliefs by taking me to the garden. She told me that God made so many different kinds of plants to ensure variety, beauty and health. Perhaps in our Ashland garden we also have the chance to see ourselves being who we would chose to be as we continue to deal with folks who are “not like us.” The choice is ours.
Since I know you have a lot of the internal pain that I have, I send you love and hope that today and tomorrow we will grow past our fear and rejections and embrace a love of the “other” as a part of the variety in our Ashland garden.
Thinking of you,