A few weeks ago, I picked up an African American gentleman while I was driving for Uber here in Lancaster. I don’t initiate conversations with passengers – I always find that to be super-annoying as a passenger, when a driver won’t shut up. So I normally say a sentence or two and if they take it from there, then we’ll talk, and if they don’t, well, who doesn’t enjoy a quiet car ride? The sound of music? The rush of the road under the car and the intermittent flash of street lights as you drive along?
We started chatting, and he was soft-spoken and kind, but we had a fifteen-minute ride, so halfway through our conversation dwindled and he turned his attention to his phone. We were a few minutes from his destination when we passed one of the Republican headquarters here in the city. Now, the last thing I want to do is bring up politics with riders. Seems like a pretty fast way to get a 1-star rating. But before I knew what was happening, I asked him a simple question.
“How are you doing since the election?”
We were at a light, and I looked over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t going to punch the back of my head. The expression on his face was heavy. He looked as if we had only just then actually seen each other for the first time. All before had been viewed through masks.
“It’s been tough,” he said, shrugging, as if he had only then decided to be open with me. He cleared his throat. “My girlfriend is white, and we’re planning on getting married. She woke me up at 2:34am and told me Trump won Pennsylvania. She was crying.”
“Sorry, man,” I said. We were almost at his house, but I felt like we had only hit the tip of the iceberg.
“She asked me if a Trump presidency would mean we couldn’t marry each other. I told her of course it didn’t mean that. I didn’t tell her it did mean things might get a whole lot harder for us as an interracial couple. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again. I pulled to a stop in front of his house.
“Thanks, man,” he said, with genuine appreciation in his voice. He paused, then reached up into the front to shake my hand. “Thank you.”
I had done nothing but ask a question and listen.
* * * * *
It would be easy for me, for any of us, to tell this young man that his worries are silly. Of course Trump isn’t going to outlaw interracial marriage. Right? Of course they can get married. Stop being so paranoid.
It would be easy for me to ignore any concern that my friends who are Muslim refugees have, that they will now not be joined by their families waiting in refugee camps or war-torn countries. It would be easy for me to brush their concern aside and offer up a platitude, reminding them that God is in control. What will be, will be. It will all work out.
These are real worries people have. It doesn’t help for any of us to negate each others’ concerns, to say, “Well, I was worried eight years ago when Obama got elected so get over it.” I think now would be a good time for us to consider Psalm 147, to focus more on binding up people’s wounds instead of trying to convince them their wounds don’t exist or are superficial or are the same wounds we had once upon a time.
Can we start asking questions and listening to each other? Really listening? And then walking away without protesting or offering easy answers?
9 Replies to “An African American Man, Donald Trump, and Listening #UberChronicles”
I truly try to be a listener — someone who doesn’t go to either extreme when it comes to these heavy issues, but you are clearly one-sided. Why don’t you talk to someone in law enforcement or the military?
Is the right guilty of wounds? Absolutely. But so is the left. I’m afraid your prejudice is a huge part of our problem. You don’t come across as a caring, healing soul, but someone inflicting further damage.
You can acknowledge people’s wounds and fears without going to extremes– without demonizing half the population, can’t you? It’s emotional manipulation. No thanks.
People who voted for Trump have legitimate concerns and fears too ya know. If you’re trying to tune us out, it worked.
What did I say that demonized half the population? I’m sorry you felt I was trying to tune you out. I would hope that both sides would listen to each other, which was more the point I was trying to make. I’ve only been driving for Uber for one week, and this was the story that came to mind in regards to listening. I’m sure I’ll be sharing stories from both sides as my customer base expands.
Get a grip Jamie. Sounds like you’ve tuned yourself out.
I’m trying to listen more, too. And it can be hard when I just want to fix All the Things and have everyone happy and getting along. But life isn’t always so tidy, is it? It’s messy work. But good work, I think.
Believing in the Sovereign nature of our God is never easy. But obeying His command to love all is necessary and easy to understand. Living in His grace allows us to live lovingly and loved. Rhetoric aside we are ALL His children. Man chooses division, God desires unity. Much easier to be loving no matter our thoughts and choices than to live hatefully adding to divisiveness. I love people not necessarily their choices. That includes my own family.
And how do we calm the fears of the Iraqi woman who is a citizen, but her spouse can’t travel because he isn’t? Or the Congalize refugee whose upset because the Immagration people forgot to notify her of her final interview ( we fixed that one with a letter and a phone call). Or my GBLTQ friends who are as afraid as they were 25 years ago? Or My own half joking barbs at moving to Canada, cause as a 60 year old disabled retired minister with neurological issues and SSDI I ‘m in the “Paul Ryan Obamacare Lite with the 2K deductable” crosshairs and we are receiving food stamps.
But what scares/bothers/angers me most is that horrible piece of video toasting the Trump victory with the “Nazi salute”
You got it right, Shawn. Listening without interjecting our own story or opinion is so important in making one feel heard. It’s not easy. Sounds to me like you did a great job of it. I applaud your efforts and hope others (starting with myself) will follow your example.
As a married lesbian, mother of an adopted foster child, I thank YOU Shawn, for this post, and for your actions. I also woke up at 2:43 am that morning with a sick feeling. I live in VA, but grew up in Lancaster County. While our community is diverse, we are really on the frontier with the western part of NOVA, and confederate flags fly freely just down the road. My coworkers, who are good people, and some of whom served with me in the military, cannot imagine at all why on earth someone like me would have been upset or physically ill. But imagining the world as described by Drumpf in his campaign is scary. I lived in secrecy for so long and finally am able to be myself, but not if he and Pence have their way. Your actions in listening to this man are exactly what was called for. Sometimes we have to find someone to tell who will not judge, or offer advice, only a kind word and a pair of ears. Thank you.
Thank you for this post, Shawn. What you had to say about Psalm 147 and binding up others wounds, spoke to me greatly. For me, it was a word from the Lord. I am coming from that place you described so well, of trying to convince and ignoring their heart concerns. I woke up to realize I was that clanging cymbal that had no love in my message. (1 Corinthians)
But, there is hope. When I confess the mistakes I make before God, and He forgives me, my mistakes are good fertilizer for the good to come. Now is not the time for sides, it is a time for listening and understanding.
About the paranoia …It’s been my observation that often these conclusions are based strictly on that person’s frame of reference. Their frame of reference is one of fear, not fact. I find it interesting that many have concluded about what Trump’s going to do beforehand. I believe Trump’s actions and fearful speculation will be different. I pray it be positive.
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