People do not normally find it very comfortable to deliberately put themselves into situations that cause difficulty, troubles, anxiety, or adversity. But sometimes it happens. How can a person ever become used to vicious, or inadvertent remarks, which lead to a reevaluation of decisions of character in the first place? Thinking about a defining moment when my character was tested really made me drink in what it means to be human. I was born in Florida, in the South and I suppose a product of the culture to a degree. As a gangly kid, quite tall and skinny while I was growing up, I found myself the brunt of the usual comments about my physical height. High-schoolers can be full of jokes at others expense. My character and integrity did not suffer too badly. I usually let it roll of my back like a duck, coming to grips with the idea that my motives would not center on what others had to say.
I always figured that religion existed to guide people to do, and say, the right thing but knowing we humans are imperfect I just believed my talents of courage and determination would get me through most of my tough periods. Living in Florida, my status as a young White middle class man in American society certainly gave me some advantages, I suppose. A person never really thinks about this sort of thing until being exposed to a wider range of idea, but my ability to stay true to my own personal integrity was tested with my first girlfriend. She was Black. Despite the fact that we really enjoyed each other’s company, and had a great deal of genuine affection for one another, it sparked an awareness in me – on a very deeply personal level. I knew, being from the South, that I being White and my girlfriend being Black would not be a smooth road. Adversity came alive for me at that moment, like a harbinger forcing me to come to grips with the larger adult world.
Even though growing up in America where it is constantly drummed into people’s minds about being free and liberated, some things were still taboo. Especially in the South, as this difficult experience challenged me not to purely react to my emotions, by contributing to my personal growth to call upon more maturity and calmness. Comments and whispers behind my back did not help the situation. White people who I thought were my true friends had mean, or snide things to say about my love relationship with her. The whole development of this process helped me to call upon courage I never knew I had, and forced me to think about humanity, the soul, the spirit, and the place and purpose of religion in the world. Was God a racist? In one article I researched for this reflection paper, Zack Beauchamp (2013) said “The South is best understood as an exceptional region inside the United States, with a unique political and cultural milieu birthed by the intersection of slavery and deep religiosity” (“Yes, the South Really is Different”). My experience of disapproval for having a Black girlfriend, did not match what religion is supposed to instill in folks – like treating everybody with respect, no matter the color. As my eyes opened, even after she was no longer my girlfriend I noticed that the Bible said “For there is no respect of persons with God,” yet the South was more divided and color-conscious than anywhere (Rom. 2:11 King James Version). One thing I learned.
Everybody is different and a unique spiritual being, and creation. Throughout this experience one strength I gained was an understanding that I need to think for myself, and not follow the wrong attitudes of others simply because it makes me feel more comfortable – or that I fit in. Another strength I think I embraced because of my experience, is that I can be free to explore ideas on my own and not just accept the status quo. If the soul is the most important part of a human, when why was skin color or ethnicity such an issue? I figured the best way to conduct my life from that time forward, was to know that my actions in life will always grab the attention of people who don’t approve. But people will always disagree about something or another. The only thing I would approach differently today, I guess, would be to reinforce my own mental shield and not let what other people say or think affect me like it did from that defining moment of adversity.
Beauchamp, Z. (2013, October 18). Yes, the South really is different – and it’s because of race. Think Progress. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/18/2786841/yes-south-different-race/