We don’t often get a chance to see our prejudices so clearly as I did that day. They often just peek out around the water cooler, in jokes with friends, or in the lack of eye contact at the supermarket. Seldom is the curtain of our soul pulled back so brusquely, exposing all our darkness to the light of day. But there I stood that day, culturally and racially naked. Later, as I examined my life in the mirror, I peered at that nakedness for the first time, and like the biblical Adam, I felt shame. Where did this sin come from? I wasn’t raised this way. Or was I?
… Looking back at my childhood, I decided parents play a passive or an active role in cultural and racial education. An active parent takes concrete steps to positively or negatively influence a child’s perceptions. A passive parent does nothing. In the presence of nothing, the surrounding community and experiences fill in the voids. When I was a child, my mother chose to do nothing, and many years after my epiphany, I confronted her, as we rocked gently on the porch swing on our front patio.
“Why did we not discuss racial issues in our family?” I queried. “Why was there no talk when Martin Luther King was killed? Why didn’t you explain why black people were protesting? Or what made some so angry that they responded violently at times?”
Her answer was profoundly and jarringly simple.