SAEs at OU, Racism, Shame, Forgiveness and Love

promo250297999It’s taken me a long time to be able to admit this: I am racist.

It’s something tough to say about myself. I’m not sure I totally understand it. A part of why I don’t like to talk about it is because I don’t think it’s very true. At least not comparatively. And that’s my out – comparatively.

I love comparatively. I’m not that bad. I wouldn’t say that.

And it’s true to some respect. Perhaps even to a large respect. But just like Jesus teaches me to say that I am a murderer because I hate and that I’m an adulterer because I lust, I think I have to say that I’m a racist because I judge people based on the color of their skin. I don’t know why I do. I don’t think I was explicitly taught this way. But I was taught it. And I do think it. I also think other things. That I’m better than fast food workers or welfare beneficiaries or people in certain neighborhoods. These things are wrong too.

I ministered to college students at OU for 10 years. I received a masters degree there, so I’m a graduate myself. I love Norman. I love OU. I spent a ton of time in fraternities and sororities. And the dorms and union and coffee shops and sports fields and all over town.

I’m not shocked at all to hear racist chants come out of the mouths of presumably drunk 20 year olds. That’s not because I know that SAEs are like that. Or because I think Tri Delts are like that. Or anyone. It’s because there is a culture that promotes it. We’re not past it. We’re not over it. We’re not smarter than that. We see it and injest it and sometimes it has to come out of our mouths for us to see that that’s what we think and feel and believe, however it got in there. Hopefully that doesn’t happen in the media and hopefully you don’t get expelled from college.

But sometimes you do. We have a society and we have rules that say that certain things are wrong. I think we should all be vigilant to stop that hate speech no matter when we hear it – in music, at the gym, in our homes, and everywhere. I appreciate and commend President David Boren’s stand to say that this is not acceptable behavior at OU. That’s true. I also appreciate that he said that he doesn’t think it’s an isolated incident. That’s also true.

But I do take issue with one sentence. President Boren said, “You disgust me.”

I understand why he said it. It is disgusting. He’s mad as he should be. There is and should be anger. But I’d much rather he said, “What you did is disgusting.”

To me that’s different. Perhaps I’m just covering semantics, but I don’t think so. I think what these young men did and said was shameful and there is and should be shame and guilt. But I don’t think they are shameful entities, as if they are no unworthy of any sort of forgiveness and or redemption. They were speaking out shame and hatred. Shall we now give them shame and hatred?

I think that is too easy. We can hate the haters, but then aren’t we also haters? It can feel good to hate. We can get inside a different hate club and then comparatively feel much better because our hate is justified and justifiable.

Thats what I do. I’m not talking about giving them a pass. I’m not talking about okaying all free speech and just saying ah they’ll grow out of it.

I’m saying that what they said and did disgusts me too. And that I see that very thing inside of me. And when I get inside of a group that reinforces that hate, it comes out quite naturally and if it were filmed I’d be in big big trouble.

I see it in Ferguson. I see it in Selma. I see it at OU. I see it in Oklahoma City. I see it in the hearts of men and women. I see it in myself.

I long for repentance, change, hope and a true freedom found as we deal with the real hope that there is no condemnation for those found in Christ Jesus and that all of the walls are taken down and we can truly walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ, fighting for each other and the true dignity of all people created in the image of God, which is everyone everywhere. I need that hope. I’m on that bus. I need change. I need forgiveness. I need true friendship. I need my shame to be transformed to love. Let’s admit it. Let’s work to change it. Let’s get involved and talk about it. Let’s see it and ask for help. Let’s cry out. Let’s weep. Let’s walk together in tough conversations. Let’s forgive. Let’s hope for more and different and deeper and better. What’s the way forward?Headshot 2 Nicole Hager