When I Visit I Speak English
A Guatemalan family visiting in Lovettsville, Virginia is accosted by a white female hiding behind sunglasses. The woman demands that she be shown their passports and says the family should stop being freeloaders “on America.” For almost a minute she rants and tells the family to go back to “your ******** country.” Why? Because the visiting family was speaking Spanish. The restaurant removes her, banning her, and the Loudoun County police come and the attacking woman leaves. End of story and its brief casting on several news outlets.
Being interested, I went to the Lovettsville site on my computer and learned that German immigrants had settled there in 1732. Under the early history of the town, I read this: “These German-Americans were fiercely patriotic in the Revolutionary War, and also later during the Civil War. The Lovettsville area voted overwhelming against secession (88 percent opposed) in 1861, and, along with Waterford (a Quaker community), raised the only organized military unit from the present state of Virginia which fought for the United States of America: The Independent Loudoun Virginia Rangers.” If I knew the address of the sun-glassed attacker, I would send her that short paragraph. But, would her mis-guided rage keep her from understanding the significance of that history?
American history has many examples like The Independent Loudoun Virginia Raiders, but many incidents arise today like the one in Andy’s Restaurant in Lovettsville. For example, next to Lincoln Highway in Chester, West Virginia a Confederate flag flaps from a pole and beneath it is a Trump flag. Confederate flag license plates for sale are displayed next to Jesus license plates for sale. South Carolina not only has “In God We Trust” on its state issued license plates but its legislature wants to display the same slogan in every public school. (South Carolina is not alone in this religious fervor.) A news’s clip shows a man on a flight from Spain to England ranting at a black woman sitting next to him. He became so verbally violent that the elderly woman had to be moved. And more and more. But each incident is soon viewed as not news-worthy, forgotten by us all, until another situation showing overt racism soon comes along. We watch it or read about it and utter, “How sad,” or “What a shame,” or “Will this never end,” or some other such comment. Our comments and reactions accomplish nothing. They may make us feel a bit better for some kind of reaction, but we take no real action.
When I taught Dr. King’s essay, Letter from the Birmingham Jail, I also had my students read the one-page newspaper letter that he was responding to. The public statement of April 12, 1963, which was signed by eight local clergymen, was “An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense”. The letter stated that Dr. King’s demonstrations were “unwise and untimely.” I don’t know if Dr. King was aware of the Independent Loudoun Raiders and their fighting for the Union, but I am glad that the raiders and he did not wait for a timelier time to act.
In Galatians 2, St. Paul writes of his challenge to Peter, one of the Twelve, for his hypocrisy during the Agape, or Love Feast. The Jewish law allowed for only one chosen people, at this time the Church was opening its doors to any who Believed. Slaves, gentiles, Jews, all shared in the fellowship of the meal. Then one day some Jews from Jerusalem and used the name of James (unjustly) to persuade Peter to stop sharing the Love Feast with the non-Jews. St. Paul did not wait for a timely time. He did not form a committee of citizens “with their knowledge and experience of the local situation.” He, to put it bluntly, “got in Peter’s face” and challenged him for his hypocritical act. I am glad that St. Paul did not wait for a better time and wrote later in chapter 3 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Racism is alive and well in America. Just because we twice elected a black president, we are not racist free. Small, everyday events and displays across this land show how well hate is doing in our country. As Dr. Clarence Jordan said in a sermon, “…most American are seeking the mind of the President and not the mind of Jesus Christ. They look to the decisions of the Supreme Court, not to the dictates of the Sermon on the Mount. We listen only to law, and spurn grace. We act from compulsion, and not in the ways of love.”
Let’s remove all the printed slogans of “In God We Trust” and start living as if we trust in God. Let’s remove all the symbols of hate and act in the ways of love. Let’s remove all the “Thank You, Jesus” signs from our yards and aid our neighbor. Let’s become disciples of the true and one living God and do, not talk.