If you were to ask me whether or not I were racist in any shape or form, I would like to be able to answer in the negative. I do not want to be racist. I want to treat everyone as valuable, because we all are to God. Sometimes, however, I recognise that I still have some learning to do.
Whilst waiting to be called down to an assembly one time, I drew pictures on the board and asked my students to identify each picture. One of the pictures was supposed to be a fat Mexican on a bicycle. I was not aware that I had a Mexican student in the class, but even if I had been aware I do not think that would have caused me to not share this picture. There was nothing derogatory in my thinking towards Mexicans at that time. It was just funny – or so I thought. A few days later I was called to the principals’ office. A letter had been sent to the board office complaining about my joke and how racist it was towards Mexicans.
I confess that initially I found the whole thing ridiculous. I apologised to my class, still unaware of who the Mexican student was, but felt it was the right thing to do because someone was obviously upset. When the letter that the mother had written, however, was brought to my attention, I began to recognise how painful my naive actions had been both for her and for her son. The school board wanted to punish me for my actions, but fortunately for me my principal requested that he be permitted to deal with the situation. Since he knew me he was able to convince the board that I had acted out of ignorance rather than malice. I wrote a letter of apology to the mother, confessing my lack of discernment in the matter, and asked her to forgive me.
Although I am a white English lady, I do understand something about racism, or rather sexism. I have not been rejected because of the colour of my skin, but I have been rejected because I am female. I love to teach. I believe God has gifted me in this area. And yet so many churches would not permit me to teach simply because I am female. At churches where I have faithfully attended for years, yet without opportunity to use the pulpit, and then a young man comes along and is quickly invited to speak. I could share multiple examples of not being permitted to minister in the role of a teacher in the church simply because of my sex. This has been very painful for me. Hence, I do have some understanding of what it means to be placed to one side because of something that I have no control over – my sex. And I have to admit when anyone makes a joke about the role of women it does have an effect on me.
It is never my desire to offend someone, but I realise that sometimes I do, inadvertently. And when that happens I would like to be informed. I do not want to be told that I am racist, or sexist, or ageist, or any other name that could be put there. I want to be educated on how I can help you to know that you are valuable. Because you are – God made you and he loves you. I want to do the same.