I Was Scared at Walmart Today


I’ve been weirdly numb after Charleston. As a Christian, I ought to be devastated, angry, and appalled that the house of God was violated by a racist killer. Those who arrived at 7pm to meet with God had no idea they would really meet him at 9.

But I am numb after Charleston because it comes after Trayvon Martin, after Mike Brown, after Eric Garner, after Walter Scott, after Tamir Rice. It comes after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., after the bombing of 16th St. Baptist Church, after segregation, after slavery. Black people being hated by white people is not new and it’s not news to me, in a weird sort of way.

And so I’ve been numb.

Then I went to Walmart.

And while I was there, I was scared. For a fleeting moment I was afraid someone would hurt me. Aware of my blackness, I was careful to smile at those two white guys who looked at me strangely. Weren’t they looking at me with frowns, as though they didn’t like me? Like they wished I wouldn’t walk in their aisle, shop in their store, live in their country?

No longer numb, I was straight up paranoid.

And now I am just annoyed.

Annoyed at my stupid sense of relief that I attend a predominantly white church.

Annoyed that Christians are talking about bearing arms to protect church services.

Annoyed that the Confederate flag flies over Columbia, endorsing the Dylann Roofs of the old south.

Annoyed that it has come to this – nine murdered in a Charleston church – for the conversation about race in America to emerge again.

I’m skeptical. Even though nine are dead, I’m pretty sure the conversation will also be dead in a few weeks. Won’t it? Why won’t the conversation be dead?

I’m guilty of letting conversations die. After hosting a discussion about race in my home in February with a group of Christian friends, I haven’t done a darn thing since then to move the needle, to keep the conversation going, to make a change somehow, somewhere. That’s what numb people do. We get used to injustice and accept it as normal. We move on. Too busy. Too tired. Too safe to care.

Until we go to Walmart and we project our fear on some nice white guy buying auto parts. This is how racism takes root. Our preconceived notions, our own fears, prejudices and history converge in a big box store. Surely they’re all alike and they’re all against me.

No longer numb, I’m letting racism get the best of me.

Maybe after Charleston will be different. I hope so. The powerful symbolism of God’s precious ones – martyred after welcoming a stranger into their Bible study – is enough to knock the numb out all of us. The question is, will it?

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