**Blog post to come later about our Fall Retreat in Bristol!!**
I started this blog post on Monday, November the 7th. I have added more thoughts after spending a week in a world with President-elect Trump.
This morning, like any other morning, I went to the bus stop near my house and rode to Five Points. I got off and walked to another bus stop that is right in front of the station.
In order to get to the 16 bus stop, I have two options. I can either get off where the bus drops off and everyone piles off. I then have to walk around a corner in front of two convenience stores. Typically, there are a lot of men chilling outside of these stores. Without fail, I will either be catcalled, yelled at, offered a cigarette or weed, or greeted nicely by the men. I usually walk fast, don’t make eye contact, and ignore the comments made about me. Generally, the men are all black, and I notice how people notice me. Perhaps they are questioning why this white girl is in this part of town. I generally feel safe because there are always cop cars parked out on the street outside the station, but I’m sure the men outside do not look at those cars the same way.
So, I’ve learned to get off the bus a few stops earlier. I can walk to the bus stop from the other side of the street. I avoid the large groups of people and encounter only one or two people walking away from the bus stop. So far, no one has talked to me until today.
I was already feeling a little high strung, and my sense of awareness immediately sets in when I step off my first bus. I start heading towards the bus stop and I spot two guys who are about to pass by me. One is shorter than the other and they are walking at a fast pace and are about to pass me.
I hear the shorter person say something in a high pitched voice, which reveals to me that he is actually a young kid, but I don’t hear what he says. I am so focused on getting to the stop, making sure I am ok, that I can’t distinguish what he says. So, I give them a small smile and keep walking.
But the comment the older person says shows me the response they wanted to hear back… he said, “that’s fucked up that she didn’t say good morning to us. What a bitch.”
I get what it must have looked like to them. I looked like a racist white girl who didn’t say good morning to these two guys. I didn’t have the courtesy to say hello, good morning, like a normal, respectable human being. By ignoring them and not responding, they were feeling a snapshot of oppression they face on a daily basis from other members of the white race.
But I had my reasons, and I did not ignore them because they were black. I ignored them because of the fear they would want to talk to me. Often, if I respond back to the men on the corner, they will want to keep talking and pester me. I’ve even had an experience with my roommate Melacia where a guy walked besides us and wouldn’t stop pestering us. I did not want that attention. I did not want to give fuel to the catcalls, gestures, and crude language that could continue for other women.
Yes, I learned that what they said was simply a “good morning,” but my brain assumed it wasn’t a positive comment. I assumed it was a gross statement, a belittling and degrading comment. I assumed the worst.
This week has felt like I’ve been walking through a haze. After spending more time in this President-elect Trump nation, I am disgusted by what I have seen on a daily basis. Not only do I notice what I have experienced first hand, but I am hyper aware of how people are treating others with disrespect, dehumanization, and belittlement because of race, gender, religion, and so much more. It is not ok that the nation elected a man who condones such behavior. Certainly, racism, sexism (or as we like to call it at Mercy Church, genderism), discrimination and more has been around before Trump. But, because of his treatment towards the borderlands, the marginalized, the non-White man, his behavior has been voted acceptable.
Over these past few months, Mercy Church has become my home and my refuge. I have found it to be a safe space where I can expect to be treated with love and care, and I know that goes across the board with everyone. Despite our addictions and our patterns, we strive for balance, respect, and love in a world where we are cast aside because of society’s dictations. We worship, pray, study, break bread, and praise God for our differences and the ability to gather at a shared table because we are all sinners.
Yet, Mercy is not a perfect community, and I experienced a moment where my “home,” my safe space, was violated. One of the members of Mercy Church cat-called me this past week. I wasn’t doing anything to warrant such a reaction. There is no excuse for why he hollered at me like an animal. I felt belittled and frustrated that he demanded my attention in such an unnerving and assertive way.
In most cases, I typically would ignore such an action. I would keep walking, not make eye contact, and move on with my boiling anger. But I had nowhere to go. Instead, I addressed why he whistled at me and that I did not want that attention. I’m not sure he fully understood why I responded this way, but it is a start.
I think back to the two people who called me demeaning words when I didn’t talk to them. In no way can I understand what they felt, but I think we could both agree we didn’t feel respected. They did not feel respected because they felt I was being rude and racist in ignoring them, whereas I did not feel respected because of my sense of vulnerability as a woman and my expectations that I would be belittled because of my gender. Perhaps I need to reconcile that not every man who wants to talk to me intends to harm with his words, but I have a long way to go to change my attitude and calm my anxieties.
I think we could agree that we would both fight for the same shared respect, and I do believe this can happen, but it will take time, patience, and courage to stand up for justice. I do believe that despite this election’s turn of events, we can fight even harder and be united in our efforts to stand up for love and trump any and all hate. I see hope in Mercy, in my roommates, and in my sisters. I see hope in the refugee children that delight in God, play tag, and continue living life despite their fears. I see hope in this seemingly dark nation. God is sovereign, y’all.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!