This post is not theological, other than the fact that we as Christians should examine our prejudices and be considerate to others. This is the story of a high school experience. The names of the teacher and student involved have been changed.
I grew up in a small farming town in Washington state. Most people in town were White or Hispanic. There was only one student in my class who was Black. Her name was Donna.
One of my favorite classes was literature. I enjoyed reading. It was fun to be exposed to new stories like “Huck Finn”. Mr Reynolds was a little quirky, but he was a good teacher.
One day in class we were reading a story (I don’t remember what one now). The person in the story was using poor language (double negatives, etc). Bad grammar doesn’t go over with lit teachers, and Mr Reynolds was no exception. Mr Reynolds jokingly said, “That person talks funny! He sounds like he’s Black, doesn’t he?” Everyone in class laughed, myself included.
Everyone that is, except Donna. Donna spoke up loudly and said, “I don’t think Black people talk funny!” She was angry and shaking a bit. Then she started to cry.
The class was silent, and everyone felt awful. Mr Reynolds especially. I felt terrible because I also had laughed at the joke without even considering how it made Donna feel.
Some time later (on a different day), Mr. Reynolds apologized to Donna. He said, “I want you to know that I have thought a lot about what I said that day, and if it’s any consolation, I’m truly sorry.”
I have wondered in retrospect if the reason Donna cried was because of the joke or because of the response of everyone in class. I think it was probably more of the latter. The joke wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if we hadn’t all laughed at it.
That event happened over 25 years ago, but I still remember it clearly. I wonder if anyone else in that class remembers. I bet Donna and Mr Reynolds both do.
To Donna: I want you to know that I have thought a lot about what happened that day, and if it’s any consolation, I’m truly sorry.