Sticks and Stones

We've been debating bigotry and words and context. South Park covered the same ground last night, somewhat more amusingly. And two Malcolm Gladwell blog-posts on the subject, here and here, may be of interest. A reader emailed them in. Malcolm cites a memoir by his black mother who reared him partly in England:

My parents are living outside Southampton, settled - finally - after a tumultuous first few years of marriage. It's hard to read this, I think, and not acknowledge the kind of strength and effort necessary to overcome the terrible power of name-calling:

Three months later, on a Sunday afternoon, I stood at my front door waving to Graham and the older children as they set off for a walk. I was staying behind with the baby to rest. At that moment a boy went by on a bicycle and shouted at me, "Nigger!" Quickly I glanced at Graham and the children, hoping they had not heard him, and then I turned indoors, my heart and mind in turmoil.

A poisoned arrow had found its mark, a ghost from the past had visited me, and I was unprepared and vulnerable. The picture I had built up of an accepting community vanished. Once again I lived in an insecure world where thorns were waiting to wound in unexpected places. Where was the mastery of myself I thought I had gained--the freedom from concern about color and race? I was hurt and I was angry and I had to find expression for my raging feelings. Aggressively, I came to God with more boldness than I had ever done before. I would teach that boy! I would show him that I was not to be belittled!

"Lord, let me reprove him!"

Silence.

"Lord, let me speak to him firmly and kindly and show him that I am above being made angry by his taunt."

"Lord, let me teach him that he is mistaken in his attitude to colored people."

God remained silent at each suggestion. He had no more to say to me about race and color. He had said enough. My own heart said, "In all these things you only seek revenge."

Then unaccountably I was at peace. I got up from my knees but continued listening. I used to think that when I was distressed, this was God's punishment or condemnation. I did not think so  now, but I still asked the question. "Lord what are you saying in this?" and the rejoinder came. "Will you trust Me more, walk with Me step by step?"