Unsafe

June 28, 2010

“The spirit I had caught gave me insight into the sufferings of others, made me gravitate toward those whose feelings were like my own, made me sit for hours while others told me of their lives, made me strangely tender and cruel, violent and peaceful.” — Richard Wright

I was reluctant to publish my last post, “Intruder,” because of the potential controversy it would spark. But then, I think, that is our problem. We’re afraid to speak of or deal with unsafe matters or uncharted territory.

The lack of feedback “Intruder” received in relationship to the number of hits it had is astonishing. You read it, you squirmed a little, you pointed your finger at me through the screen, you nodded at me, you high-fived me, you rolled your eyes at me, you shook your head, you “unfriended” me, you befriended me. But you dare not comment. 

I don’t mind, actually. I have a fear of commitment, too. And I don’t expect you to expose your discomfort or knowledge or lack thereof on my website. Your private issues are between you and your God. But, this is my website. I’ve not assumed some pen name or Internet-friendly persona. It’s me. And I choose to divulge what I choose to divulge. And if you read my point of view, I hope you do squirm a little.

You don’t know me well enough to properly interpret what I had to say. You don’t know me well enough to understand the time I’ve invested in African American studies — and not just in books or churches. You don’t know me well enough to understand that I’m not just curious. You don’t know me well enough to know how many black churches or other organizations across the country I’ve walked into alone. You don’t know me well enough to know how many times I’ve heard: “You’re crazy, Melissa. Are you on a mission to integrate churches single-handedly?”

You don’t know me well enough to process the strange obsession I’ve had with learning this stuff. Heck, I don’t even understand it. But I do not question it. It’s been given to me. You don’t know me well enough to consider that my son is black and I have a responsibility to teach him as much as I can. You don’t know me well enough to believe that I know I cannot teach him how to be something I am not. You don’t know me well enough to trust that I do not desire to be someone I am not.

“You have no idea what it’s like to be Black, Melissa. You will never deal with what we have dealt with/deal with on a daily basis. Your little experiment is fruitless because you can never know.”

But I try, which is more than what many people do. Booker T. Washington said, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” I am me and I am casting down my bucket where I am. Though I take the steps to meet you where you are. I’m not naïve enough to think I’ll ever tell your story. But I can tell mine.

A very dear friend of mine left a comment not here but on my Facebook account where this post was listed. She felt the need to point out that what I felt that day in church is the same thing black people feel when walking into a white church. She said: “I can assure you, blacks truly relate to the stares, even though you are on the receiving end this time.” I’m not sure if she left that comment for me, or for others who’d left comments and read that page; but I heard her message. Loud and clear. And it won’t stop me. It hasn’t stopped me in the 20 years of this obsessing. It feeds me. The clearest message I hear in that is, Go deeper, Melissa.

She knows some of the journey I’ve taken and the studies in which I’ve submerged myself. I’m fearless as it concerns this matter. Relentless in my pursuit. Our tendency is to stand outside looking in, trying to change people, or, even worse, ignoring our differences altogether. Blink them away. I refuse to do it. I cannot blink you away any faster than you can blink me away. So I’ll learn you and your past and your present to the best of my ability so that your future somehow blends better with mine than is the case today.

The real matter here should not be that I’m a white girl who feels more comfortable in black communities than in “her own,” but that I’ve lost a very dear relationship with God. That is the issue that will shock my professors who stop by here occasionally. My professors from my Christian university. And the church family I used to know. The church family who used to rely on me to help usher them into the presence of God.

I don’t believe in sharing my dreams with you; my actions will suffice. But I do have a mission. Of that you can be sure.

  • Recommended read: James Baldwin’s “A Stranger in the Village,” a short story
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13 thoughts on “Unsafe

  1. Andrea Tipton-Rudolph says:

    Missy, it saddens me greatly that there are people who have “unfriended” you for your honesty. For what it’s worth, I read your last post with great admiration. No spiritual journey is easy, but to persist in taking one to which you feel called even though it is so completely different from what others expect? It requires tremendous courage. Persevere. You owe it to yourself, and to the One who calls you.

    (What a heavy topic for not having seen you in, like, 20 years! I hope you are well.)

    Andrea

    Like

    • melissajdixon says:

      Hi Andrea!
      Whoa, it has been that long, hasn’t it? Yikes! It’s funny to see “Missy” written here. 😀

      I appreciate your comment. Thank you.

      Hope you’re enjoying your journey.

      –Melissa

      Like

  2. Autumn says:

    I think that we should all just love on another. At the end of the day… white, black, indian, asian… we all have things that we have to deal with that others my not be able to relate to, but that does not mean that we should shun one another or make others feel bad. I don’t know, that is just me though. 🙂

    Like

    • melissajdixon says:

      Hi Twitter friend!
      Nice seeing you here.

      You are correct in your words. Unfortunately, I think my intended tone did not come through my words very well.

      No one made me feel bad. No one shunned me. It’s always more of an elephant-in-the-room type of thing. It’s natural. The issues run much deeper than that.

      Btw: I’ve added your site to my blogroll. 😉

      Like

  3. Deb says:

    Missy- I loved it! I remembered when you first introduced me to Tony and I thought Gosh…I hope they work..Knowing full well Issues may arise…we joked a little on how my husband looks like a bunch of ethnic groups..people think he is african american, hawaiian, mexican, etc…because he is so DARK….he is lebanese and as BIG as Tony! I saw the love and JOY you had together and was so happy to hear of your marriage and cute baby who is now OLD! I will most likely read your selection because I am curious to stretch m,y way of thinking….I just had a best friend from kindergarten divorce her husband with 3 kids and is now gay and getting married to her girlfriend…so I was a tad shocked but I am fine….I think my past experiences from the playhouse made me more OPEn there. Keep the blogs coming. All the best!

    Like

    • melissajdixon says:

      Hi Deb!
      Another “Missy” call-out. That is so funny to me! You guys (from E.P.) are the only ones who have ever in my life called me that. And “Tony.” Also funny.

      Thank you for leaving your comment here. You’ve been such a faithful reader, I feel like I owe you some money or something. <–Please don't get any ideas. 😉

      Stretching our way of thinking, huh? I like that. We should all be so brave.

      Love,
      M.

      Like

  4. Gloria Rich says:

    Melissa these are NOT new issues and so not, uncharted territory. It’s actually very old and will forever be an issue. My comment was was not intended to stop you, yeah, you mis-read that too. I have no need to attempt or even think about stopping you, For what! I do get that you are attempting to understand or judge something that you will NEVER be able to, you can analyse and make judgement based on Melissa’s perspective only!. This is your voice and as you said, your “web site”; certainly I am allowed and will continue to comment, if I feel the need to.. Be Free in your writing and allow others to be free with thier comments or lack their of. There’s really nothing new to comment about race issues, it’s on-going everywhere; (not just church) the only difference is we get to read Melissa’s story, from her point of view. Believe it or not I’m very proud of you; your writing is brilliant! Do your thang, whatever it takes, by any means necessary, Keep going Melissa, Just “Get Down”! It’s not that serious, It’s life! “Full Circle”!

    Your Friend,
    a black girl’s( golden brown) point of few

    Like

    • melissajdixon says:

      Hi Glo,
      I’ve been waiting for you … 😉

      Of course these aren’t new issues. They’ve been too long in existence. People today gloat and parade as if we’ve come so far, but have we? You say it’s not uncharted; I disagree. Some have trudged the trenches; most ignore it, Glo. Out of sight, out of mind. You know how selfish we are. If something doesn’t directly affect us, we just don’t care. Even if only a handful of people read my perspective, I hope it causes that handful to think or pay attention even just a little bit.

      I am free in my writing, and I’ve allowed you and everyone else to be free as well. I hope you continue to comment (or not), as I will continue to be free.

      I’m just honored anyone would take the time to read what I’ve written. And I’m honored that you have and forever will challenge me. I’m honored you’re my friend. Yes, I said THAT word. I’m honored you love me with all my flaws.

      Love you.
      –Lil’ Bit

      Like

  5. jim says:

    fear is such a powerful thing. it stifles individualism and promotes groupthink. i love it when someone makes me squirm or re-examine my beliefs. that’s the only way we can grow as individuals and a people. continue to do what you do.

    Like

  6. school grants says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

    Like

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