revelación

Recently, Pontheolla and I had the pleasure of hosting “Annalisa” (not her real name) at Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens. Annalisa is an engagingly convivial twenty-something ambitious college student with a thoughtful vision for her future. Annalisa is Puerto Rican. In this fact or rather my unbidden, yet inherent reaction laid the root and fruit of a significant, painful rediscovery for me about the insidious nature of prejudice.

This past Saturday, I asked Annalisa, “What are your plans for the coming Memorial Day?”, adding, “yet another annual American holiday.” Casting a quizzical look, she answered simply, “I’m not sure yet.”

Sensing our sudden shared awkwardness, I realized my mistake. But it would take a day or two for me to process how deeply I had erred. In my question, I intended to be kind, not assuming blithely, blindly that she would observe this national commemoration. That was my conscious thought, which could not camouflage, much less cover the vulgar nakedness of my ignorance. Annalisa is an American. Yet I, in my question, exposed my unconscious bias, objectifying her. She, at that moment of my inquiry, was no longer a person, indeed, a fellow citizen, but rather a symbol of someone, something I perceived as non-native, thus, not in possession and having no claim on the birthright of my national identity. Complicating my dis-ease, I am nearly constantly mindful that some of my ancestors arrived in this land in chains, possessing and having a claim on nothing.

Later, I had the blessed opportunity, the sacred necessity of articulating to Annalisa my recognition of my sin and asking for her forgiveness. She was quiet. A tear formed in the corner of her eye; silent testimony that she had felt the barb of my unwitting, yet no less wounding slight. She said softly, “Not to worry.”

For the sake of Annalisa’s graciousness, I won’t worry. In my recommitment to the love and justice of Jesus, for the next appearance of my resident ineffaceable prejudice, in vigilance, I will watch.

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8 thoughts on “revelación

  1. Paul,

    As you well know my long-time neighbors are Puerto Rican, so many times we’ve heard similar stories to what you shared and have listened to their hurt.

    What’s different in your story is that you immediately recognized your error AND most importantly, you cared enough to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

    I am confident that you’ll “keep watch” in the future, AND I happen to know that your heart and soul are golden and that your apology was deeply sincere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, I thank you, truly, deeply for your confirming word. Reflecting on your comment, I am reminded of an old saying my father oft repeated: “O, to see yourself as others see you.” Usually, he meant it as a criticism and an admonishment for me to watch my behavior. You mean it as a word of assurance and support, for sometimes what others, you see of me is good. I thank you for this. Much love

      Liked by 1 person

    • Amen, Ann, amen. And sometimes, given what I do and say, especially when divergent and distant from what I profess to believe, it’s difficult for me to behold my having been called, blessed, and given, for all I’m apt to see is that I’m broken. Therefore, my dear sister, I thank you for your sanctified reminder that in Christ, as he is, so we always embody all four elements. Much love

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  2. Memorial Day is complicated. (For an admittedly partial list of supposed ‘origins,’ see https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.snopes.com/military/memorialday.asp&ved=0ahUKEwi5qMi3uYzNAhUEYyYKHR0aA18QFggeMAE&usg=AFQjCNFHXXL34L-FBvG2vvY4EX87T4LaOQ

    Prejudice, racism, unintentional slights, …the world is confused, angry, and prone to knee-jerk reactions right now. I attempt to heal hatred and prejudice here in upstate SC. As a native of Charleston, I am keenly aware of the historical roots. On one side, I attempt to relate to the ‘minorities’ here (who, in fact, are in the majority) and show them that not all people cherish their hates; some of them, in fact, attempt to normalize the environment, if not to make reparations. On the other side, I am attacked by beloved family for “wanting to be ‘politically correct””…the latest slur.

    In short, “you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t” but at least we try to be conscious.

    I think you are doing a good thing. Sometimes showing others how easy it is to slip up is the best way to teach a lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kitsy. I appreciate very much what you have shared and what you are doing. It grieves me to know that some of your nearest and dearest dismiss your being and doing the labor of equality as “p.c.” No matter the praise or dissent for our efforts, at the proverbial end of the day (and the beginning and middle!), all any of us can do is try to match our beliefs with our behaviors. Of course, this sort of integrity can be claimed by any of us regardless of our beliefs, for example, a racial supremacist seeking to remain true to her/his convictions by practicing discrimination. That said, speaking always and only for myself, one who believes in love and justice unconditioned by human distinctions, I strive to act with benevolence and fairness toward all, even, perhaps especially for the sake of those with whom I disagree. Again, my thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

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