|Wed, Sep 17, 2014 09:41 PM
|Issue of September 10, 2014
July 23, 2014 | 10:31 AM
I have tried many times to sit and write this column, writing this first paragraph, erasing, beginning again, only to repeat the process.
When I embarked on my professional career four years ago, they didn't tell me that some days it would be very hard for me to remain impartial, detached and emotionally separate from the news I would be presenting to the public. My professors didn't tell me that some days it would be hard for me to remain calm in the face of adversity, and they didn't tell me about all the sadness or pain that I would be privy to on a first-hand basis.
My mentors didn't tell me that I would meet people whose beliefs are so radically different than my own that I would go home crying from the shame of it all and that the world would sometimes feel like a very ugly place.
There's a lot that they don't tell you about this business. There's a lot that they don't tell you about life.
I thought I was going to spend this space addressing what I see to be a problem in the United States, one that has continued to fester for as long as we have been a nation, but I'm not. Instead, I'm going to tell you about hope and faith and one simple phrase that has helped pull me through this last year.
"And there came a lion." — 1 Samuel 17:34 KJV
It's a powerful statement.
There is a book, "Streams in the Desert," that explains it better than I ever could.
"It is a source of inspiration and strength to us to remember how the youthful David trusted God. Through his faith in the Lord, he defeated a lion and a bear and later overthrew the mighty Goliath. When the lion came to destroy his flock, it came as a wonderful opportunity for David. If he had faltered and failed, he would have missed God's opportunity for him and probably would never have been the Lord's chosen king of Israel. ... Normally we think of a lion not as a special blessing from the Lord but only as a reason for alarm. Yet the lion was God's opportunity in disguise. Every difficulty and every temptation that comes our way, if we receive it correctly, is God's opportunity."
So, where am I going with this?
This week I have been presented with an opportunity. We recently received a call-in that was less than complimentary.
"Hate speech" is what I believe you could use to describe the diatribe that was thrown at my voicemail box.
I had thought to point out how racism and anti-semitism have grown in the United States during the past decade, and I had fully intended to write a scathing piece about how hurtful it is to be on the receiving end of prejudice.
Because it does hurt.
But it is also an opportunity. I think that many people disagree with each other or are bigoted or prejudice simply because they don't know anyone who falls into the categories they're trying to compartmentalize — as people we do that; we want things to fit into neat categories and we don't appreciate surprises — or maybe they've had one bad experience and it has spoiled their entire thought process.
Either way, it's often ignorance and a lack of experience — not in the 1+1=2 sense — that leads to this way of thinking.
The call we received was in no way related to me or who I am. Most likely it was someone who had a few too many drinks and decided to rail against the system. However, I'd like to share who I am with you because it's relevant.
Racism has long been a lion in my life as God saw fit to create me from a white mother and a black father.
It is not a fact that I have ever hidden, but some of you may not know. Now you do.
If you don't know anyone of a separate race than yourself, my name is Leslie Radcliff, and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
I want you to know that it does not shame me to be borne of two races; it is not something about myself that I have ever wished to change, in part, because I have a phenomenal support system in my family and friends and I very much like who I am and the woman I've become.
I have lived with prejudiced opinions for as long as I can remember, and I will live with other people's prejudices until the day I die. That is sad because I once had hoped to see the end of radical racism in my lifetime, and I still hope that it can be achieved. But unless everyone is willing to open their minds to acceptance the way they often open their mouths to preach misunderstanding, it won't happen.
But I'm hopeful, and I do still have faith.
People are people, and there are evil people everywhere. However, if you flip the coin, turn the page or round the corner, there are good people everywhere you look, as well.
Prejudice and racism have been my lion. They have been my Lord's opportunity in disguise, and it is my hope that, by knowing me and learning about my life through my writing and our interactions, you, the public — at least in our small area of readership — will come to understand that different doesn't have to mean bad.
The world is not now, nor has it ever been, black and white, and I want children and adults alike never to walk in fear of being who they are because of how they were born.
To the person who called for the extinction of an entire race of people simply because he disagreed with the color of their skin, I say this: History has taught us that, instead of celebrating our similarities, we should fight wars over our differences. But, sir, you are wrong.
You are wrong and you are missing out. There are a lot of really great people out there who don't look or think the way you do, and it's unfortunate to think that someone could lose the chance to experience that based upon an ill-conceived notion that one man is inherently better than another based upon pre-determined biological makeup.
Perhaps it's time to write a new history.