I did. I said something racist. It wasn’t said with any malice. There was no hatred in my heart. It was supposed to be funny, but when it hit the light of day it wasn’t. I didn’t need anyone to point out to me that what I had said was racist. As it was coming out of my mouth, seemingly in slow motion, I could see it hanging in the air written in bold letters that then burst into a puff of hideous smoke and disburse into the room like a fart. Oh, and I said it in the sanctuary. To a visitor I had just met. Although it would have been just as bad said in the parking lot or in line to order lunch.
It was not a revelation to me to learn that this nasty racism was inside of me. I was born and raised in Texas and learned from friends, foes, and family alike. Over the years I have come to understand that you don’t have to hate to be racist. Many of my expectations were racist and also my fears. Some of that bunk I have excised. Some of it is still in there, maybe for life. All I know to do is to try and be aware and then choose how I will act and what I will say, and try to get better.
But…last Sunday after church this phrase just slipped out of my mouth without me thinking about the implications. Immediately I replied, “I can’t believe I just said that.” I was horrified. I’m still horrified. I have been assured that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, but that’s not the point. It came out of my mouth. I cannot trust my brain to engage before I speak.
Friends, strangers, acquaintances of all races: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I said. Both that day and on other days. I’m sorry for anything I have said or done that hurt you. I am sorry for anything I have said or done that made you uncomfortable. I’m sorry for anything I have said or done that simply relied on my privilege. I promise you I will try to be more aware of what I say before I say it. I will try. I will.
But that just doesn’t seem like enough.
I hope and pray that you will tolerate me enough to give me another chance. Let me get to know you and you to know me. Know that I do not hate you. Kick me in the butt or scourge me with the stink-eye when I need it. And yes, please forgive me.