Is Violent Racism Making a Comeback or Has it Ever Gone Away? by Randy Woodley

Is Violent Racism Making a Comeback or Has it Ever Gone Away? by Randy Woodley May 23, 2012

Many White people thought we had racism almost licked in America. We would all at the least, like to believe racism has become more subtle than it was in former days. I don’t see it.  It was shameful to hear how the entire stock of “Trayvon Martin Targets” sold out in just two days. The targets did not have Trayvon’s face but were of a young man in a hoodie holding Skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea. The target was on the heart, where Trayvon was shot. What is especially frightening about this is imagining those many thousands of targets and what the people who are shooting at them are thinking as they pull the trigger.

I do see stronger laws in place like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. (Robert Byrd, Jr. was a 49-year-old black man who was dragged behind a pick-up truck by three white male members of a white supremacist group in Jasper, Texas and Matthew Shepard, a young man who was gay who was who kidnapped, beaten, and tied to a fence near Laramie, Wyoming). I see a move in society to speak of such things now in code, but they still mean the same things they always have.

Unfortunately, many hate crimes go unreported for many reasons. Sometimes they are not reported because the perpetrators are the ones who keep the records. Hate groups are still on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there has been an increase every year for the past 11 years (see graph).

Hate crimes, as reported by the FBI, also continue to be disproportionately committed by Whites against Blacks. In 2010, 58.6% of all hate crime offenders were White and only 18.4% were Black.* Among single bias incidents (the cause being race alone) 70.0 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-black bias but just 17.7 percent were victims of an anti-white bias.* This tells me that educating what has in the past been the White dominant culture, concerning racism, is paramount to the success of our society becoming civil and just. On that note, I’d like to personalize things just a bit.

We rarely hear how people’s lives are changed from hate crime encounters. I recently came across a newsletter from our ministry that reminded me of our encounter with some haters back in 2006. We had begun a fifty-acre, self-sustaining ministry school and farm (L’Abri style) for training Native American leaders and those ministering among us. Our run-in changed the lives of our whole family. Here is the newsletter in part:

Dear Friends of Eagle’s Wings Ministry,

We want to keep you informed of the progress of our situation. This is a brief report and a special thanks to so many of you who have sent us emails or letters of encouragement. These letters have really been helping us get through these hard times!

The immanent danger in the neighborhood appears to be over. As soon as the “For Sale” sign went up on the property, all the 50 caliber machine-gun fire stopped. The racists think they have won and are likely now gloating…please pray for them because we know these evil actions will come back around on them. We want them to experience Creator’s shalom—not judgment.

We are still looking for a place to relocate our home, farm and school. Things looked promising in Montana but now seem to be falling apart. We asked the Chief of the host tribe to extend some small form of welcome to us-and after a month-this has still not happened. This has become a major red flag to us, especially since our offer on the place we hoped for (contingent on the sale of our house) was also ignored.
The door has closed on several other locations we thought might be the right place as well. We have received several interesting offers from supporters in Lawrence Kansas to relocate there. We are still waiting for more confirmation but at this point—we must wait on the sale of our home before we can do anything. If you think you may know of a special place to relocate Eloheh Village for Leadership & Ministry Development we are open to pray about it. Please join us in our efforts to sell the property in Kentucky.

Some disappointments recently were the cancellations of four out of the five scheduled summer work groups intended to finish the staff cabin. This means we must now hire local trades people and pay for the labor. Needless to say—the money to finish the cabin is going fast and we don’t have enough to finish it. We lack the funds to complete work on the well pump, septic/drain field, finished plumbing and finished carpentry. But—for every disappointment, there is also a joy…

There have been several new births among our goats and a beautiful baby bull calf this year we are calling “Paint Boy.” Strangely, this year we lost several lambs at birth and are still trying to understand why. Also, our grown Piney Woods bull came up missing yesterday. Neighbors have seen him but like a phantom-he continues to allude us… Life on the farm is never dull but the animals invigorate us all with life lessons, godly pleasure and  fresh organic eggs, milk and meat!

We also have been granted an incredible opportunity to establish our own herd of Choctaw/Cherokee Mustangs. We have been offered to board a stallion and six mares for several years and we would get to keep all the foals. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We believe this gift is from the Creator and that God will supply just the right place so this can happen.
Friends, our deepest hope is to sell the place soon, get our children and livestock to safety and settled in before fall. Then we can start hosting schools once again in the late fall. We need your prayers to make this happen…please remember us whenever you can.

I won’t go into all the unpleasant details that occurred as a result of this incident, but you should know, we were never able to begin our school again. We lost our livelihood, our home, livestock and most of our possessions. And, without getting too personal, life has been very difficult for almost every member of our family—but following Jesus, and forgiving our enemies, we go on. More often than not, when people hear our story they say they “can’t believe these things still happen in America!” Believe it, they happen every day. Once we all believe, perhaps we can do something more about it.



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  • Anne Wood

    Randy, I am so glad you are finally telling this publicly. I would like to add my voice to verify everything you said, for I was there to witness it, as were several members of our church and others. I did tell the special rep from the U.S. Justice Dept, who has been investigating racism in KY for over a year now; but it is good to have this in your own words. Believe me, the Justice Dept is taking a very strong interest in this, and some top level members from D. C. are coming soon for more inquiry, for racism in Ky against all ethnic groups of color is strong.
    I want to say here also that your handling of the situation was the most Christ-like of any human I have ever known. Whereas some of us were ready to take up arms ourselves at one point, or scream to the media, you spoke and demonstrated Shalom when evil-doers were trying to destroy you. You prayed for your enemies even when they treated you with hatred, and you turned the other cheek.

    Little did we know, when I was helping you search for property for your endeavors, that we had stumbled unknowingly into the very center of one of the worst areas. My black friends will not even go into that county without strong reason, and never alone. We were ignorant of all that then. When I brought the professor from North KY State to visit you, it was because even though he wanted to meet you, he said that as a black man he dared not go alone, for a lot of things can “accidentally happen” on those country roads. And his body would never have been found. He was not the only black friend who has told me that. I was safe, as an old white woman whom all those neighbors knew was from the United Methodist Church. They did not dare take on the whole UMC in KY.
    Yes, the shooting stopped when the For Sale sign went up, and one of the perpetrators was overheard at the feed store bragging to his friend, “We sure got rid of them Injuns, didn’t we? Ha, Ha, Ha!”
    I am still trying to live up to your example of Shalom; but I must admit that sometimes I would like to ‘slap ’em upside the head’!

  • This story was brought to my attention by Anne Wood. I was very sad to read even the partial version of this story. I’ll share the comment that I posted in response to Anne’s link here:
    I want to believe racism and other forms of hate crimes are dying off, but I think what is happening is that as more people “see the light” those who don’t get more agitated. So deep down I believe that there is positive change underway and it is causing those who preach hatred to double their efforts to recruit people. They may have some success, but I feel that the scales are tipping in favor of a more tolerant society. Perhaps I am just a dreamer, but I truly believe that you must visualize the reality you want in order to find the right path to it. This is true in business, in love, and in life.

    • Anne Wood

      Randy, it is I who must say thanks for the way all of you welcomed me and took me into your hearts.
      I think that when our kids are hurt it is impossible not to be instinctively protective…that is an automatic as breathing. We would be pretty poor parents if we were not angered when they are threatened, just as Jesus was angered when the innocents were mistreated by the powerful. And he was mad, for sure! Creator made us that way. The thing is, you persevered in the right actions no matter how severely you were tested. You passed the test. And now that you are in your present position, you have been given a much wider audience for your teachings….it’s just being done in a different way. So even though the previous goals were snatched away, you will still have the joy of seeing fruit from your ministry. Creator is taking what was meant for pure evil toward you and your beautiful family, and making something beautiful spring from it.

  • Anne,
    You are too kind. I wish I had handled it all as Christ would have but I had some very human moments over the years since, thinking about this and especially the affect it had on my oldest two children… But, I am reminded of Creator’s faithfulness and what a great friend and grandma to our kids you have always been! Thanks!

    • I heard a story today–and Irish story. A man died and went to heaven. St. Peter greeted him and asked to see his wounds. He had none. St. Peter replied, “How sad that you had not nothing that important to fight for.” Evil can get us into terrible situations. You stood up for important values. I am sorry for your sufferings. I hope you and your friends and family heal and that you become strong in the broken places. God bless you all.