Archive for April, 2017

Honestly, I Wanna See Me Be Brave

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Despite the occasional nostalgic plea for “the good old days,” life in the rural heartland of America is pretty idyllic. I think that’s why I’m able to find humor in the minor foibles of life–my troubles are minor, and I know it. Most days my biggest problems, aside from raising a 63 year old, are pretty banal. When the wind blows hard (that happens often in Kansas), my satellite TV reception can be shaky. Sometimes the neighbor burns his field when I have clothes drying on the line. Like I said, pretty inconsequential stuff. However, the isolation from most of the world’s problems that makes life so peaceful and uncomplicated can lull you into complacency and inaction, both unflattering traits. I recently had a wake up call that made me re-examine my values, character, and most importantly, my courage.

John and I had some old friends over for supper who we hadn’t seen for a long time. We’ve known the couple for many years, and we saw them frequently when we were neighbors so we were both looking forward to an evening of reminiscing and catching up on the more recent events in their lives. And that’s exactly how the evening began. Unfortunately, during one of many stories told by the husband of the couple, he described an encounter with another man who he identified using the “N” word. I was so shocked by his nonchalant use of the term that I thought at first I must have misunderstood him. He only said it once, the story ended, and the conversation moved on to another topic, but I wasn’t listening. I kept playing back what he said in my head, and it became clear that my hearing had been correct. My thoughts were racing…”Nobody uses that word anymore”…”What was he thinking”…”I need to say something to him”…”How dare he?” And so I did nothing. The word hung in the air casting a pall on the rest of the evening.

Afterwards, John and I talked about the incident, and we both expressed feelings of guilt about not speaking up. The surprise we felt from his use of the word was no excuse. At any point in the evening, I could have easily said, “Could we just back the conversation up a minute. I have to let you know that your use of that word was offensive and inappropriate. That’s not acceptable language when you are in our company.” But I didn’t, and I have to own that. One thing I know for sure is that it will never happen again because I don’t like this feeling at all. I don’t like knowing that racism is alive and well in central Kansas and apparently so is cowardice.

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