Some time has passed since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and I still do not think everyone who voted for Trump is a racist.
Because I write and speak at length about issues of race and racism, some people expect the opposite.
Currently, we live in times where to get along with different groups, we are supposed to agree and follow every single belief unquestioningly.
And that’s not me. At least, that has not been me for a long time. In the future, I might evolve into a better “yes” woman. Who knows?
That’s not a lot of people, either.
So, why do we automatically write off people because of their voting choices or for any reason?
During the past week of my year-long pause from Bible study, I revisited the ways we can easily dismiss people.
It began with John at the grocery store.
Entitled to Yell
I was grabbing a chai tea latte made with coconut milk (because details are essential, Folks) at the café in a local grocery store.
I noticed that John, one of the clerks, did not seem like himself.
John had yet to come across as Mr. Sunshine and Rainbows on steroids. On this day, he looked as if he was the love child of sorrow and misery, which was uncharacteristic of him.
I overheard him as he tried to keep the conversation away from customers, as he spoke to one of the baristas off to the side.
Upon hearing details about a rude customer, I blurted,
“What? Someone yelled at you?”
John lifted his crestfallen had and looked at me as if he was trying to figure out if I was an informant with the FBI. He seemed leery of sharing more than what I had overheard.
With his initial suspicion subsiding, John replied, “Yeah. It happens a lot.”
I asked, “Why do you think it is the case?”
John responded, “Some people act like they are doing us a favor by shopping here. Some people act like they are entitled because, well, they make a lot of money and expect us to act as their servants.”
I began to think about my observations of different customers and their attitudes.
As a regular, I had not witnessed customers yelling at the team members, but I believed him.
The barista, confirming the crude behavior from his experiences, and I empathized with John.
It was wrong.
Some things are just plain wrong.
Dismissing and treating people poorly because you have a higher income bracket is wrong.
I saw Christ in John.
I viewed Christ because John was dismissed for not fitting someone’s criteria of worthiness.
I recalled, from the time when I used to study the Bible, when Philip told Nathanael about how he had found the Messiah.
Nathanael responded, I imagine with accompanied eye-roll, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Good Lawd, tell me how you really feel, Nate.
When we yell at people because we think people who work in certain professions are less than us, we become the Nathanael’s of socioeconomic status.
Even without the Bible, if we believe Christ is love, then we do not think dismiss or esteem people based on material wealth.
Going with the Crowd
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we respond like Nathanael regarding hot-button issues.
We might empathize with the working man, John, but what if I told you that John, a white man, had voted for Trump?
Would you empathize less with him?
Would you think that John could do no wrong?
Some of us write off the entire story of a person upon hearing her/his voting choices.
Don’t get me wrong the mass bigotry on display has been hard to ignore.
And I feel/understand the frustration of those who perceive people are ignoring or minimizing it.
When it comes to issues that we are sensitive to, we can more easily ignore the fact that masses of people do not include everybody.
Numerous people probably share in my righteous indignation about John’s experience because they strive to treat people with respect and dignity across professions.
On the other hand, we are quick to dismiss others as something terrible from Nazareth whenever we see a label or identity that we deem as unworthy of empathy or listening to.
I have dismissed people in other ways that are more popular to justify.
I have written off folks.
I have done it when I have been a raging liberal or a judgmental conservative.
I have done it with or without religion.
After significant confrontations with my own humanity, I began re-evaluating it.
Still, Lord, help me not to write off or dismiss people. Reveal the hidden ways of my heart.
In the spirit of every parent who cautioned us about jumping off bridges from following crowds, just because there is a crowd of people doing the same thing does not make it right.
If the crowd grants permission to dismiss a person, wouldn’t it be useful to evaluate the criteria?
Beyond the Land of Keyboard Wars to Nazareth
I do not shy away from politics because I think our responses reveal much about our hearts.
I have studied and experienced both liberal and conservative racial bigotry to know that Democrats and Republicans have their unique ways of expressing it. I know conservative people with much more awareness about how race and racism operate than people who use their liberalism as an excuse to avoid looking at themselves.
Playing pin-the-tail on the racist via an entire political party is an exercise in futility.
You can be Republican and racist. You can be Democrat and racist. You can join any political party and still directly or indirectly support racism in this world.
When people from these parties engage in their distinct forms of racism or questionable racial practices, we need to address it.
If the shoe fits, then folks need to quit-quit their racially problematic beliefs.
Sadly, the Republicans who repudiate racism and bigotry (and not the ones who only see these in People of Color) experience backlash from their respective groups in the same ways Democrats do for not following blindly as a social justice warrior.
It is fashionable to jump to conclusions and write people off because we assume we know why they do what they do based on a vote.
Although we might find common threads of political rhetoric and media talking points, I believe there exists a critical mass of people who remain unheard and probably scared out of their minds to dip their toes into even trying to have a conversation.
These are the conversations and relationships, away from the land of keyboard wars, that support my refusal to dismiss people based on their political involvement or lack thereof.
Slapping a sticker with the name of religion, religious denomination, or political party on top of these practices of dismissing people does not redeem them.
Seeing Christ in John challenged me to continue my journey of striving to follow Christ and not the crowd.
With the racial division in the United States, it might be a worthwhile practice to look for the good in places we dismiss as Nazareth.
Three Points of Wisdom from Days 64-70
1. Principles withstand the sway of the crowd.
2. Something good can come out of Nazareth.
3. Another challenge to grow beyond either/or thinking, (regarding politics and race) lies in both recognizing common patterns and beliefs prevalent in different groups while simultaneously allowing space for individual particularities.