The Night Someone Called My Daughter A Nigger

post-the-nightby Pastor Chris Williamson
(written with permission)


What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

It was Saturday after midnight. I was sitting in my bed reading and preparing notes for the sermon I was to preach in a few hours when my wife and daughter walked into the bedroom. It was obvious that my daughter was visibly shaken and distraught. I could see that she was fighting back tears and her normally stately posture had now left her shoulders crumpled downward. She and two of her friends had decided to go to the city fair that evening. After being stuck in traffic for two hours to get there, the girls had a great time riding the rides, eating cotton candy, and giggling at cute boys like teenage girls do.

While walking through a dimly lit parking lot to meet my wife at the designated pick up spot, my African American daughter and her two Caucasian friends walked by an SUV blearing repulsive rap music. Over extensive bass and crisp hip-hop beats the girls could hear the word “nigger” being used repeatedly. Ironically, inside the black truck was a group of college-aged, white males. As the girls casually peered into the truck as they walked by, one of the men singled out my precious daughter and shouted at her saying, “NIGGER!”

My daughter kept on walking as she heard laughter coming from the truck along with other derogatory comments. When they got into my wife’s car, my daughter’s friends were gleeful and talking about the great time that they had while Chase sat quietly. When Dorena dropped the girls off at their homes, she asked Chase what was wrong. At this point, Chase began to cry as she told her mother what had happened and how that traumatic moment made her feel.

Chase felt attacked, assaulted, fearful, embarrassed, confused, and belittled. She also wondered why her friends were unaware of the psychological damage she had just endured. To her credit, one of her friends did say, “I hate it when people use that word,” but she had no realization of what “that word” meant to my daughter. I don’t even think Chase knew what that word meant to her until she was called it.

When I asked Chase to explain what had happened, she broke down in tears as she told me about the ordeal. I could not believe it (but then again I could). My sweet little girl, who gives life wherever she goes, had just been unfairly defrauded by a group of ignorant anuses. As she wept in my arms, she really broke down when she said, “I’m glad Charis (her younger sister) wasn’t there to hear that!” In an unforeseen moment where she had to be strong for herself, she also became naturally protective of her little sister, not wanting her to experience that kind of unwarranted misery.


A Preacher With Nothing to Say

This doesn’t happen to me often, but I had no words to say. A man who gives speeches was suddenly speechless. All I could do was hold her. I felt as helpless as Martin Luther King did in 1963 when he had to explain to his daughter why she couldn’t go to a local amusement park because of segregation. Dr. King wrote of this agony in his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” when he said,

“…when you suddenly find your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky…”

Like Dr. King, I make my living speaking and communicating, and like Dr. King, I found myself stammering for a reply. Fifty-two years after his uncharacteristic quietness, another black man still has to have a similar dismal conversation with his daughter. As I was sitting up in the bed with my Bible and other books spread out, I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless as I rubbed her back, seeking to comfort her. I silently prayed that God would not allow my baby to be permanently scarred by this mess.


God’s Embrace

Thank God for the Comforter, also known as the Holy Spirit, because although I was grieved, I felt God’s peaceful embrace. I still feel it now. As I hugged my daughter, I could feel God hugging us both. When Chase finally went to sleep that night, I asked God to show me how to minister to her when she awakened in the morning so that her spirit would not be permanently crippled by this sadistic episode that is unfortunately all too common in this “post-racial” society.

The tragic irony is that young white men listening to rap music produced by young black men that is proliferated with the word “nigger” would scream out of their window, calling my daughter a nigger. The sin of racism has perplexed America from its beginnings and it still does to this day because we have never repented of it as a nation. Sadly, I also know that this will probably not be the last time my daughter will be called “nigger” by representatives from either people group.

Let me digress further for a moment. Too often, the typical posture by many of my white friends in response to events like this is to downplay and minimize them. Sometimes whites will jump too quickly to the boat of individualism by recalling when they were called derogatory names as kids and somehow they came out all right. They say this in hopes of softening the blow, but respectfully, it’s not the same. Others, thank God, will mourn with you, embrace you with God’s loving embrace, apologize for something they didn’t do, and even curse those who cursed you.


The Need for Empathy and Compassion

Regrettably, what I have seen in nearly thirty years of multiracial ministry and close-knit interaction with white Christians on every level is a lack of genuine empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share in the feelings of others. Like sugar is to Kool-Aid, empathy is a key ingredient for racial healing. Without empathy, there will not be any sweetness in race relations. But whenever we do get to taste a scoop of sincere empathy, it is always a good and pleasant experience.

Empathy contributes to the cause of unity because it validates the experiences of others even if they are not our own personal experiences. In addition to empathy, we can’t forget its cousin named “compassion.” If you recall, compassion is the heartfelt emotion that moved Jesus to action when He observed hurting people and the conditions that contributed to their social demise. Knowing that empathy leads to feelings, compassion is what leads to action. When empathy and compassion come together, all of us have what it takes to come together.


Thank God for the Local Church!

Although I did not know what to do or what to say to my daughter I took solace in the fact that church was coming in the morning. I am thankful for our church because I knew it would assist me in ministering to Chase’s wounded soul. I am grateful for a church that has chosen to intentionally come together across racial lines for the past twenty years! I am thankful for our southern, white family members who will help my family bear this burden, and who will caress and comfort my daughter simply because they love her.

Even without mentioning what had happened, I knew the atmosphere would be positive and reinforcing for Chase. Where she was afflicted on Saturday night, I knew she would be affirmed on Sunday morning. Saturday night’s hatred would be swallowed up by Sunday morning’s mercies from Jesus’ people. That’s the power of love and the unique capability of Strong Tower Bible Church. Even though a group of cowardly white men spoke ignorantly and harshly to my daughter, she was raised around so many great white men that she never once entertained the thought of indicting the whole because of a few.

Before service started I told a few of the men on our security team about what had happened, and each of them sought Chase out and did what I knew they would do. Each of them hugged her, looked her in her eyes and affirmed who she was in the Lord. This racially diverse group of men also wanted to go back to the fair and somehow find the men who verbally antagonized Chase so that they could “minister to them” with the laying on of hands! I truly love these guys.


No Weapon

While driving home from church we were all filled with the joy of the Lord. We talked about the powerful worship, my sermon about Jesus healing a crippled man, and the people we got to spend time with. We also began to talk once again about the events that transpired a few hours prior in that dark parking lot of the city fair. It was at this time that God finally gave me a word to give to my daughter. I looked at her through the rearview mirror and said, “Chase, God allowed this to happen to you because He knew you were strong enough to handle it. I see courage in your eyes, and I am proud for how you responded in that moment.”

I praise God for being a fence around my children, and I apply to my 15-year-old daughter what He said to Israel in Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me.”

Yes, God. We condemn that devilish tongue that sought to condemn my daughter. We rebuke that nonsense in the name of Jesus. I thank You for protecting my daughter and for hugging both of us with your Spirit. We pray for our enemies and we forgive them as we have been forgiven. I thank you for loving Chase through Your church, and for making her strong enough to endure affliction. And finally, I thank You for giving me a word from Your word that covers her in power, in peace, and in confidence.

Until the next time…

 

POSTED: August 11, 2015