“Myesha, you gotta come up here.” Those were the words Larry said to me last night. I was in the kitchen examining my menu options for dinner. Vashti was in the basement entertaining our pups, Rock and Candi. There was a certain urgency in his voice so I said, “Here I come,” and ran upstairs to the office. I figured he had found a good article or something online that he wanted to share. As it turned out, it was an e-mail from a member of the Cancer ministry at our church. Larry serves in this ministry that provides love, support, and a whole host of services to cancer survivors at no cost. The e-mail was sent out to “undisclosed recipients” so we knew it was some sort of distribution list of which Larry was a part.
The e-mail was a forward and the sender wrote, “I wish every Obama supporter could read this. Interesting.” I will not relay the contents word for word but it was a scurrilous attack on Barrack Obama. The comments were racist and called Obama everything but a child of God. Needless to say we were both very hot. I did not know the woman by name, but interestingly enough Larry was able to point her out because she sat next to us at church the previous Sunday. Both of our children were acolytes so we both sat on the front seat with them as is the custom. During the greeting time, she made a point to greet Larry, “Hey Larry, I didn’t see you sitting there.” I first met her at the acolyte training over a year ago but we weren’t really acquainted.
Why did she send this e-mail to Larry? Either she had just forwarded it to the ministry distribution list or selected folks from the group. We took Barack Obama’s lead on this one. Instead of joining in her mud slinging, Larry stayed on the high ground in the response. He replied by asking her to remove him from this list and telling her how highly offended he was to receive such an e-mail. He talked about being disappointed in the divisive rhetoric being spewed by the McCain campaign and their obvious lack of ideas, solutions, and policies. He lauded Barack Obama’s humble beginnings and overcoming unbelievable odds to be where he is today. Larry called into question her Christianity to be spreading such garbage. Then he ended by, again, asking her to remove him from the list.
That she held these views and was a McCain supporter was not a surprise to us. We attend a majority white church where there might be two to four black families. We are, by far, the most active black family and are pretty visible. Our community lies in a suburb of metro Atlanta and is, no doubt, majority Republican. Our church is a microcosm of the community, although there are more blacks and other minorities in the community than attend the church. We love our church and have been enriched in our attendance. Vashti attends the afterschool program, many of the kid ministries, and the children’s choir. I am in one of the choirs and teach Sunday school in the summer. I have just accepted the call to serve on the Lay ministry council. Larry is a part of the afterschool ministry board and the cancer ministry. We have found a home there. Larry and I joke that if more brown faces started to pop up in a large percentage, signaling a big influx of minorities in the community, the church would eventually relocate. As Martin Luther King once said that, and I’m paraphrasing, Sunday morning at 11:00 am is the most segregated time in America.
That we are are black family in a majority white area and church is most apparent now during this election season. There are, by far, more McCain/Palin yard signs than Obama/Biden signs. An Obama/Biden sign proudly dons our yard and bumper stickers are soundly affixed to our cars. Despite this divide, the e-mail Larry received is the first “dialogue” we have had with a McCain/Palin supporter. It serves to reiterate that we disagree with our “neighbors” on fundamental issues. This is not the problem. The quandary we find ourselves in is we are surrounded by folks who smile in our face, shake our hands, serve with us on church ministry councils, and countless other community encounters, but are engaged in race baiting and mudslinging behind our backs. What is usually tucked away behind closed doors leaked out in this e-mail. Larry and I joke about what our white fellow church members really think of us attending the church. Race or politics just doesn’t come up in any meaningful way with our fellow parishioners. If it did we would hope the conversation would be respectful and decent. The truth is we know that these sorts of conversations would take them out of their comfort zones, a place they want to stay. We understand this and would not think of “causing trouble” by trying to have such a conversation. I do not believe everyone at our church shares her views. Looking forward we will probably talk to the pastor about this and encourage him to develop some sort of e-mail policy.
The woman did respond to Larry’s e-mail by saying she was a Christian. She was concerned about Barack Obama because he was pro-choice “and a gay rights (her words).” She was concerned about the sanctity of marriage. She did not respond to the other issue about her lack of common respect and Christlikeness. Her response let us know that she was from the so-called “base” of the Republican party. Those who are really excited about Sarah Palin, the “hockey Moms,” the Joe six-packs,” “Nascar Moms and Dads.” She is a “values” voter. These voters aren’t interested in substance, nuance, reasoned discussion on the issues. They so readily believe all the lies about Barack Obama that I am convinced they would rather believe a lie than the truth. Over the last couple of months Larry and I have watched the Republicans turn increasingly negative and vicious. The McCain rallies have, perhaps, been the most incendiary:
We were shocked at the woman who faked a story about an attack by a, you guessed it, black man because she was a McCain volunteer.
Receiving this e-mail from a church member, served as a stark reminder that these issues are right at our front door. We are heartened by the number of people who support Barack Obama and his ideas for America’s future. These people are black, white, young, old, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, from every walk of life. In essence this election is about more than this mudslinging and fighting. It is about the hope I see reflected in my daughter’s eyes. This reminds me that I cannot focus on this negative stuff. We have to rise above, not fighting fire with fire, but with a higher ideal, praying that we are on God’s side. Yes we can!!!