In Jonesboro, Arkansas on April 29 a man asked, “Why aren’t there any white kids here?”
He was gesturing to the table I stood behind, covered in child sponsorship packets. On the front of every packet is the photo of a real child born into a family that earns less than $2 a day — children from across Asia, Central America, South America, and Africa.
“Excuse me?” I asked, certain that I must have misheard.
“Why aren’t there any white kids?”
“Compassion is currently serving children in 25 of the world’s poorest open countries and–”
“And why do you think those aren’t white countries?”
With that he walked away and out the doors of the church.
I have been speaking on behalf of children born into poverty for thirteen years now. More than 50,000 people have responded by sponsoring a child. Many thousands more have responded in other generous ways. They’ve gotten involved in local ministries that serve children and those living in poverty. They’ve fostered children, adopted children, committed to regularly giving time and money to their church or other non-profits. THEIRS is the normal response. This man’s is not.
He does not represent the normal Christian, Southerner, white man, evangelical, or American. Don’t use this outlier’s bad behavior as a stone to throw at any group of people. He is not the norm. But he didn’t even exist two years ago.
Oh, there have always been xenophobic, racist, rude, mean people. But they didn’t talk to me this way — in public, face to face, not hiding behind a keyboard or a white hood. That’s new.
In Iowa (lest anyone think this is a Southern phenomenon) three weeks ago, a man stood up in the middle of my Compassion presentation, yelled “F— this!”, and stormed out of the church’s sanctuary. I didn’t deviate at all from the presentation I’ve been giving for years. What emboldened him to speak out — shout out — now?
Something’s changed. The xenophobic, racist, rude, mean people are coming out of the closet now. They’re not the norm – and never will be – but they’re not silent anymore either.