Last night we enjoyed some time in our town. Nashville in the late summer/fall is like none other. One of my favorite things to do with the kids is grab a meal and walk the pedestrian bridge over to the playground area near LP field. It was a normal Saturday night and of course the bridge was filled with tourists and Nashvillians alike. There were also several wedding parties headed out for photos on the bridge. We stopped to take a few pictures of the kids and watched as a large bridal party walked by.
The group was gorgeous. A collection of people who had obviously spent a large sum of money on the perfect hair, nails, gym memberships and attire to make the bride’s special day absolutely flawless. The wedding party was walking up the bridge on my right. To my left was a group of friends. They were likely college age or young career. The group was mostly black but I did spy a few who were not. They were super cute and looked like they were preparing for a fun Nashville evening. I overheard the girls in the group discussing how cute the wedding party looked. They praised the colors and the various aspects of how everything was put together. One girl in particular was so overcome that she yelled out Ya’ll look so cute!
What would your response be if you heard that? You might smile, nod, yell thanks! Something right? I truly hope so.
That’s not what happened. Instead, the members of the bridal party rolled their eyes. One girl said whatever. And they kept walking as if this compliment had messed with their moment of perfection. At this time I think it’s important to point out that this wedding party was completely white.
And here I stood in the middle with my family. Sick to my stomach. I watched the girl who made the comment say wow… and I watched her go through stages of embarrassment and offense. I should have approached her. But I didn’t. I wanted to somehow fix that moment. But I’m not sure I could have.
Right there as we stood in the middle I felt the weight of the tension in our country. I felt the weight of the very real thing that is privilege and racism. Could it have easily been switched around the other way? Sure. But that’s not what I’m discussing… although I know some of you will be quick to point that out.
What I want us to take away from this moment in the middle is this… we are not moving forward. We are stuck in a mess that leaves us broken and unable to communicate well. Can we please just step away from our pride and truly examine our hearts for racism, micro-aggressions and get to the root of this issue? I say that knowing full well that the root of this issue is a sinful heart.
I’m lacking in the answers department here but I couldn’t let this moment pass by without sharing a very real story that happened in my very real town in front of my very real children. I can’t help but wonder what that moment did to that sweet girl’s heart. I wonder if she will compliment someone again. Our words and actions create ripples. And in this case those ripples aren’t good ones that enact positive change. They spur on distrust, hate and tension.
The thing about the incident that haunts me the most is my failure to move. I’m certain that I should have gone to her and expressed my apologies for the actions of the bridal party. Not that I’m responsible for all white people everywhere… but as someone who was a witness to wrongdoing. It’s not possible that she will see this and read it… but if it were possible I would want her to know how sorry I am. The words of Dr. King are ringing strong this morning: The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
When you see something, when you know it’s not right. Speak up. It’s the beginning of the bridge toward understanding. Next time I’ll be sure to take my own advice.