Last week without provocation a woman in the check-out line at the local Target told the person who had just let her in line ahead of her that “I wish they didn’t let you in the country!” In the exchange that was recorded on a camera phone, the lady to whom the remark was directed explained that she was “born in the USA.”
I realize that there are more people than I would like to acknowledge that have strong prejudices against others because of their race, religion, ethnicity or whatever. It continues to shock me when I see the ugliness of the expression of such prejudices as the recording of the event provided. As the lady to whom the remarks were directed responded, “There must be something wrong with you” for starting a conversation like that with someone you do not know. There really is something wrong with people who are so blinded by their prejudices that they cannot move beyond them. The comment reflects a deep seated hatred that comes out for reasons only a mental health expert could help discover. As is so typical with people like her, she had to slam former President Obama: “Obama’s not in office anymore; you don’t have a Muslim in there anymore. He’s gone—he may be in jail in the future.” Unfortunately she can turn on talk radio, social media and some cable news shows and get affirmation of her twisted views of the world.
“The situation reminds us that building community is not a one-time occurrence, a workshop, or a feel-good session. Building a community of respect and love is an ongoing process that we work at a little every day.”
In addition to the repulsiveness I feel about the hateful comments, I was also saddened that social media and news accounts described the scene as a Target store in Reston, Virginia. There is nothing improper about what they did, but I know from a lot of personal experience the amount of effort that so many people have made over the years to ensure that Reston is an open, welcoming and inclusive community. While I rationally understand why they did not, I would have felt better if there had been a disclaimer: The woman speaking does not represent the views of the people of Reston.
The situation reminds us that building community is not a one-time occurrence, a workshop, or a feel-good session. Building a community of respect and love is an ongoing process that we work at a little every day. We greet everyone; we hug each other; we attend each other’s houses of worship; we show respect to others; we speak out against hate and prejudices; we listen to each other.
A display of hateful and ugly prejudice as we have just witnessed must bring us together in mutual support and respect as we want Reston and every other community to display.