I was moved by an opinion column in today’s Chapel Hill News. Anita Woodley‘s column focuses on forgiveness. Forgiving those who have hurt her with racist remarks and forgiving herself for “feeling that [she] had to prove” that she belongs, that she’s “entitled to be somewhere.” Woodley describes her experience at a workshop, “Race and Grace: Changing the Race Dance” where she was the only person of color in a group of about 20 folks. She endured horrific stories, resorting to an emotional disconnect to protect herself.
The following day, Woodley started a two month self-esteem support group for women, where once again, she heard the N-word. In this case, a woman actually tried to convince Woodley that the N-word is no big deal. After all, that woman had been called “whitey.” Woodley describes the emotional turmoil that eventually led her to forgive that woman, and in the process, to see herself as she is: courageous, loving, and strong.
I’ve been a part of these conversations for years. It’s discouraging that whites still diminish the black experience in this country. I see the legacy of slavery, I see undereducated black kids, I see a class system with widening chasms. Woodley’s advice is sound. Forgiveness is one place to start. Playing an active role in changing hearts and minds is another. We all lose when a single child’s potential is lost.