Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Racism, the Confederate Flag, and Facebook

Sometimes when I'm on facebook, it feels like a whole bunch of people are yelling at each other or me. I try to remind myself that no one else's facebook feed looks exactly like mine (because each of us has different facebook friends); that, in most cases, my facebook friends aren't friends with one another and, therefore, not really yelling at one another; that, in most cases, my facebook friends aren't yelling at me, personally; and that I'm blessed to have a diverse group of facebook friends.

I have facebook friends from the states in which I've lived: Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, Texas, and Virginia. That breaks down even more, of course. I have facebook friends from working as a server, bartender, educator, and registrar; from earning two degrees over the course of more than six years; from attending many different churches; from, for example, singing in a black gospel choir out of Tennessee and living among the non-heterosexual in Dallas. I have facebook friends from the blogosphere, and I mean no disrespect, but they can be a particularly mouthy bunch. 

So who am I? Well, here's the thing (And thank you, Therapy!): I'm none of my facebook friends. 

Furthermore, it isn't in my best interest to take personally anything my facebook friends say (or don't)...even on the off chance that they intend for me to take it personally.

Watch me breathe. I am Brandee Shafer and no one else. I don't have to take on the causes of others. Nor do I have to take on the thoughts or feelings of others...including about me. In fact, I'm choosing to end conversations with people who seem uninterested in calm and kind discussion...or motivated to label, pressure, or shame me. 

I find it easier to breathe when I remember that I'm free. Even...I'm an agent of Christ only insomuch as I choose to be. I experience a little thrill, writing that, especially when I consider: Christ Himself has given me both choice and will. 

So what do I think? So much, all the time. My heart hurts over the massacre in Charleston. I have personally been taken in by the black church over and over (and over!). God has used African Americans to help and heal me. I feel particularly sorrowful over the loss of reverends, but every victim of racism matters. I wish there were no racism in this country, but there is. I care about that. I'm earnestly thinking and praying about what I can and should do.

I don't have a particular attachment to the Confederate battle flag. It's never been displayed in or flown over my home. Having grown up watching The Dukes of Hazzard, though, I did cringe when I read about the removal of the Confederate flag from the roof of the General Lee. I wasn't hating on African Americans while watching the Duke boys. I wasn't thinking about African Americans at all, and therein lies my guilt and privilege, I'm sure.

I'm not attached to any other Confederate symbols, either, despite having lived in the South most all my life. I was reading today that, here in Richmond, Virginia, a local group wants Governor McAuliffe to remove Monument Avenue from the bike route for the UCI Road World Championships. That seems a bit over the top to me, but either way, no skin off my nose.

In all things--and you can choose to receive my words or not!--I encourage you to try to figure out what you think and feel, and why. This shouldn't be an easy process. Are your thoughts and feelings based upon facts? Ignorance isn't an attractive excuse for any of us. It's so important to learn, and learning requires more than willingness; it requires pursuit. It requires effort. I have so much to learn. I'm embarrassed to admit that my eyes very often glazed over in history class. I experienced my lack of knowledge at Appomattox less than two weeks ago. I experienced it in the kitchen with my husband, today. 

I encourage you to consider to what extent your thoughts and feelings have been influenced by others (and especially loved ones) over time, also to what extent your thoughts and feelings are being influenced by others right this minute. Empathy can be good. It can also be destructive. I'm learning to establish and maintain boundaries. That's challenging for me as a mercy-gifted person, but you are you; I am me; and we are not the same. We were not designed to be the same, and we are not expected to be the same.

We do need to work together. That's what I want. Is that what you want, too? Can we have calm and kind discussions on such important (critical!) topics as race and culture?

Hi, I'm Brandee. I'm a complex individual. I'm not able to tell you exactly who I am in the space of a blog post. But my heart is open, and it hurts. Is that a good place to start?


  1. I am so with you on this. I'm sure we disagree on things, but for heavens sake, two thinking people should. I'm just tired of being told what to think, what to say, what I should or shouldn't write. I want to be true to my own convictions, and be able to stand for those convictions in a God-honoring, loving way.

  2. Yes, that is a GREAT place to start! Love this, Brandee!

  3. SO GOOD! It is time we all take a minute and examine our hearts and recognize that Jesus is the answer to it all, pray for the Lord to reveal something in our own selves before opening up our mouths and speaking that which we do not know. Thank God He sees our hearts!

  4. As to Facebook, I simply hide the offensive posts. If a particular friend seems to only post offensive material, I can always unfriend him/her. When they ask why, I tell them. "You offend me with your posts". I look at Facebook as sort of the family's and friends' dining room table, where manners should count, and the conversation unoffensive and fun. That being said, others want to use it as a sounding board, a soap box, a place to make their opinion and feelings known on a variety of subjects, and to do that loudly. I think what bothers me most is that so much of the time, that takes its form in blatantly false statements that are overly broad and offensively written, as though that is the way to make a point amongst intelligent people. I had a very smart friend of mine continuously posting derogatory posts about Caitlyn Jenner, clearly showing he has NO understanding of transgender people and the struggles they go through every day. I finally called him on it, and low and behold, the posts stopped. I don't know if he listened to me, or the shine wore off insulting people who struggle every day to just make it one more day.

    The hype over Charleston and other tragedies of its type is amazing. I wish everyone (Obama included) had just stayed quiet for a while, let the worst of the angry people cool off a bit, and then started their rhetoric. I think there is a huge difference between the appropriation of the Confederate Battle Flag by racist groups, and individuals who claim no racism, but certainly act like they are bigots, and things like the Monument Ave. statues.

    I personally will not get involved in all that nonsense. I have friends of all races, orientations, etc. etc. etc. I'd rather just be friendly than take stands on things that in my life, as you note, mean little.

    God didn't plan for us to be this way, but free will shows that some people simply twist God's words into their own brand of salaciousness. That's too bad.

    An insightful post, Brandee. Thank you.

    Peace <3

  5. The perfect place to start. Thank you.

  6. ha! don't know what happened to my comment but I did comment.... similar sentiments to Jay ^^^^ you are too good to be friends with ANYONE (family, friend or foe) on facebook or likewise that dulls your sparkle and makes angst like you have in your life ...due to a silly computer love you much