A Civil Conversation?
by Billy Beasley
I grew up a product of the Deep South and spoke and did things I am not proud of today. But also, as a small child, sitting in church one Sunday morning, as racial tensions in our city were at a fever pitch, a thought came to me. Why don’t we come together here? Isn’t this the right place? Afterall, we sing Jesus loves the little children of the world. Yellow, red, or black or white. They are precious in His sight. But they were just words they taught children to sing but not to live.
I drew from those racially charged times to write, The River Hideaway. My childhood, decades behind me—I still wonder today. Why can’t we come together and just talk and listen to each other? Not wait for the first moment of disagreement to begin lashing out and calling each other names or dig up something someone said thirty years ago. Who hasn’t said things they wish they would not have ever spoken?
I am very proud of The River Hideaway. I believe with all of my heart, one of the lines in the book that struck a chord with many. Hearts have no color. There is another part that I am extremely pleased of because it deals with fairness.
It is when Teke, a young black woman, and Bret, a young white man, are drawn to each other and she urges him to cross the racial lines of that time.
Teke: “I don’t care whether this will be possible in twenty years. I’ve only got one life, right here, right now. I love you, Bret. Tell me that you don’t feel the same. I’ve seen your heart Bret, and it is the same color as mine. It’s what’s inside of us. That is what is real. Nothing else really matters.”
Bret: “You say that now, but being stared at in public all the time...Not being able to enjoy a decent dinner out.”
Teke: “Why do you care? You only have one friend, and he’s black, remember?”
Bret: “And do you think that he won’t mind? You don’t think that the black community won’t frown on us being together? Are you so misguided that you think that they will accept us? I walked in that gym at Williston and I was called a cracker. The only reason I got to stay, and the only reason they didn’t beat my ass is because of your brother. Prejudice runs along both sides of the street. If you think that your daddy, or mom, or even Money will embrace this you’re wrong.”
In the line, prejudice runs along both sides of the street, I am not even saying for one moment that I understand anything a black person has gone through in any way, shape, or form. But if you hate or look down on me because I am white, how is that okay? I probably value and try to be fair as much as I do anything in this life. I can’t stand it when people twist things to meet their agenda. Hello politics. Taking things to such extremes, while if your candidate does the same thing as the opposition, suddenly it is okay. No. No. No. If we could be fair with others, regardless of their politics, skin color, sexual preferences, you name it. We could have conversation.
I have a neighbor, who is a racist Donald Trump follower and regardless of how many times I have told him that I don’t care what color people are, it never registers. Now, are we going to lump every person that voted for Trump as racist? Some people do. Eight percent of black people voted for Trump and thirteen percent were black males. What are we going to call them?
Like many people, I am active on Facebook. One person, who I interact with frequently, likes to stir the pot. He is a proud black man who once played basketball for me as a kid. But when some of his followers state things like, you just can’t trust white people. Or all white people. He calls them out on it.
I hate racism and I think we should pick out real racism and do our best to combat it. At the same time, let’s don’t call people racist because God forbid, they don’t share our politics or our opinion.
Let’s have a conversation and not assume things about people because they have the audacity to think differently than we do. There will always be people like my neighbor, who once stupidly said, “There is an interracial couple in the neighborhood. Keep an eye on your things.”
My reply was, “Oh, like your buddy, that stole things in the neighborhood?” His buddy was white. Did any of this compute with my neighbor? Of course not.
I doubt any of the extremists who read this are going to change but the rest of us don’t have to partake. We can be civil. We can listen to each other. We can show compassion. We could not participate in name calling. We could let go of any stereotypes we still cling too.
I have shared this before. The minister from Baltimore, who preached at our church several years ago. He received a direction from the Lord to integrate his church. He did so. People left, including members of his family. He stood proudly, and declared that twenty percent of the church was now white.
One of my greatest rewards in writing The River Hideaway, was people who told me it made them check their heart as to whether they still clung to any prejudice. It encouraged them to examine their heart as we should all do.
Regardless of how passionate you may feel about anything. Politics, religion, racial issues. If you choose to be rude, arrogant and ugly to others. Your message is lost on me.
I so admire that with all Martin Luther King endured, that he could speak and live by the following words.
I am a simple man with simple beliefs, and I believe with all my heart and try to live accordingly with one of my favorite scriptures.
1 Samuel 16:7: The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Not the things we say. Not the color of our skin. Not whether we are Democrat, Republican, or Independent. Our heart.
All of us can choose to just be kind. We just have to want too.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway - a traditionally published work of faith based fiction and the newly published novel, The Preacher's Letter. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read his “Sunday Inspiration” column on the 2nd Sunday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.