I ended up not sharing my carefully prepared words. Others had things to say that I wanted and needed to hear. I don't regret remaining silent. But I still need to confess what I chose not to publicly confess last night. So here's the statement I didn't share last night:
I am 30 years old. You need to know that for what I’m about to say to really sink in. I was born in 1984; I have always lived in a world with CD players, air bags in cars, and a channel devoted only to weather.
I am 30 years old, but when I misbehaved as a child, my grandfather said to me, “If you don’t act better, I’m gonna go get me a little nigger girl instead.” I was an adult and he was dead by the time the meaning of those words sank in. My grandfather was born in 1917; he never lived in a country with legal slavery. But more than a hundred years after slavery was supposedly gone, buying a person with dark skin was a joking matter. He never thought twice about using the racial slur.
And I don’t know where to go after that. Because I know there’s a part of my words that are purely a confession—I was taught hate by one of the people I love most. I was taught to be racist as a byproduct of the culture I grew up in, even as Black History month and Martin Luther King Day were part of my education.
All I have is confession: I confess that racism is beyond me, beyond Michael Brown, beyond Eric Garner, and beyond Shawn Brown—the little boy I used to babysit, the first young man I saw lectured about the penalties he would face if he screwed up while being black. In my tradition, it is Advent, a season of repentance as we await the Christ child. We read the words of the prophet Isaiah during this time, so I offer his words about when God’s reign finally comes, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks…neither shall they learn war any more.” I confess, I pray to God may it one day be so.