I Married a Black Man
As a white college student in the 1960s, I married my anthropology professor who was a hereditary Mende chief from Liberia, West Africa. After 30 years of marriage, we wrote together Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia, which was published in 2009. In it, he described the effect of racism upon his home country, comparing it with America’s racism. As a white woman, whites confided in me, revealing their racial attitudes. This included comments by two white pastors I happened to come across.
“Racism is the Fault of Blacks”
As a white woman married to a black man, I’ve been privy to racial attitudes on both sides of the fence. I was speaking recently with a white pastor who read my book Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief, which I wrote after my husband’s death in 2009. and spoke very frankly to me.
He said, “Racism is the fault of blacks. Whites aren’t racist. No one today believes blacks are inferior. It’s just what blacks are thinking in their minds. Blacks should get over any feelings of inferiority or resentment. They should ignore racism and have their own self-confidence.
“I’d like to have a class on racism, but blacks aren’t open. They aren’t willing to change their minds. They don’t want to listen to whites or change their attitudes.
“It’s Their Fault, Too”
“Blacks are just as racist as whites. I’ve been treated rudely by a black clerk who obviously didn’t want me there. A friend told me recently, ‘I was in a restaurant and I was the only white there. A black man came up to me and said, “You better leave before you get killed.” ‘ “
I said, “Yeah, but racism is the result of slavery in America.”
He said, “They had slavery in Europe, but it’s a different attitude there.”
I said, “Well, slavery in the Old South was unique in history. In Old World slavery, a Roman slave could buy his freedom and disappear into the community. Greek slaves were used as teachers in Roman society. During the Middle Ages, in the absence of machines, serfs provided the labor. In America, slavery was based on race and justified by Negro inferiority. It was not only permanent. It was hereditary. Race remains divisive because of obvious racial differences and the heritage of racism. As a result of discrimination, blacks and whites have different cultural communities.”
I pointed out the pastor’s racial advantage and difficulty in imagining life as a black man. I talked about how racial appearance works against complete assimilation. None of it resonated with him.
“Obama’s the Problem”
He went on, “Obama’s the real source of this resurgence of racism. Everything got worse after he was elected. He should never have said, ‘Travon Martin could have been my son.’ That just inflamed things. This business about police brutality. White cops shoot white people all the time. He’s the worst president we’ve ever had. He didn’t even go to church on Easter.”
“Blacks Aren’t Comfortable in White Churches”
Recently, another white pastor told me, “Blacks wouldn’t feel comfortable in our church anyway. There are other churches down the road for them to go to.”
“The Preacher AND the Congregation”
All of this reminded me of an incident my black husband told me about which happened in Florida about 10 years ago. One Saturday, our pastor took Ben, as his token black, with him to a community forum of white and black pastors. The idea was to discuss issues of race outside the realm of their own congregations. Ben waited until the pastors said their piece and then volunteered, “We’re not addressing the real problem. The best thing you white pastors can do is preach against racism in your own congregations.” There was dead silence. After a long pause, a white pastor said, ‘If I did that, they’d crucify me. I’d end up being both the preacher and the congregation.’”
What Do You Think?
Can whites and blacks ever be honest with each other? Who’s unwilling to listen or to change? You be the judge. To read about an interracial, cross-cultural marriage, read our love story.