#ShutTheHellUp... To convey a visceral Gospel, we must sometimes use visceral language.
(This is a week old repost. If you want to stay current visit Medium.com/fuckthisshit to stay caught up with the Advent calendar.)
Contempt. Psalm 79:4.
We are objects of contempt to our neighbors, of scorn and derision around us. — Psalm 79:4
I am no stranger to contempt. In fact, my earliest memory of it takes me back to a cool and breezy day (as cool as south-central Texas can be) sometime in early 1998. I was seven. My mother needed to run into the gas station (I believe it was a Diamond Shamrock) on East Southcross Boulevard, but I didn’t want to get out of the car. She let me stay, promised not to be long, and hopped out to finish a quick errand. You could do that then without the fears so many parents have today. As I relaxed in the seat, a beaten-down four-door rolled up to the right of me.
My eyes were met by a man with his arm in a sling behind the steering wheel and a woman resting on her hip in the passenger seat. I smiled, as was customary, to signal that I had manners. The man replied, “Hey you.” I don’t think I had expected verbal communication because hello, STRANGER DANGER! I didn’t respond, but I looked at him confusingly.
As cool as the day, he said, “I hate your kind.”
The woman in the car slapped his uninjured arm and screamed, “Shut the hell up! She’s just a kid!”
I carry that memory with me every day; it is not something I can forget. Some experiences are etched into our minds by the impacts they have even before we know what those effects will be. There is no shortage of people who tell us that what a stranger thinks about us shouldn’t matter, and I agree — and yet I can recall multiple instances of scorn from people whose names I never knew.
My senior year of undergrad, I got pregnant. I was working multiple jobs, taking a full course load, and preparing to student teach in the fall. Even with the 50+ hour work weeks, I qualified for Medicaid and SNAP benefits. I was embarrassed.
The way so many people spoke about Americans who received SNAP or TANF or some other type of social welfare made me hate that I qualified for it. I wasn’t any of the terrible things people called recipients of these services, and neither were they. I’d never bought into the “Welfare Queen,” “they’re all just lazy,” “they need to pay taxes” narratives to begin with, but now I was hypersensitive and aware of it, especially from “good” people in my life who regurgitated such callous words.
Here I was, busting my ass — day in and day out — to make it out of poverty and the hole that I was born into, and people who supposedly loved me were so open about their disdain for Americans who needed assistance. I was paying taxes. I was working. I was excelling in school. I was doing all of the things they said SNAP recipients don’t do. I wasn’t the exception either. They didn’t need to know that I was one of those Americans in order to change their views. If they had ever taken a minute to shut the hell up and reflect on the rotten words spewing from their mouths and tips of their fingers, maybe they would’ve realized how hurtful their commentary was to other people.
The 79th Psalm speaks to the willful destruction of Jerusalem and God’s people at the hands of unbelievers. It reads like a prayer or petition for leniency, reconciliation, and relief. It is a cry from people experiencing decimation and relentless oppression from their fellow human beings. I’d like, though, for us to juxtapose that context with what marginalized people face at the hands of dominant groups committed to maintaining the status quo.
It’s past time for those of us — with whatever privilege we have — to be critical of our internal contempt and scorn for human beings over whom we might wield power.
No, you might not own a white hood or attend rallies, but your constant microaggressions and dismissal of non-white people’s words & experiences has to be addressed.
You might not call for the deaths of transgender people, but your commitment to disregarding their pronouns and reinforcing a binary society as the “right” way has to be addressed.
You might not picket against marriage equality, but your need to dehumanize LGBTQ people via “love the sinner hate the sin” rhetoric and the like has to be addressed.
You might not say that women are worth less than men, but your perception that women are liars or were born to serve men & birth children has to be addressed.
You might not contribute directly to stagnant wages or people’s generational poverty, but your inaccurate discourse on impoverished people’s “laziness” and self-inflicted struggle has to be addressed.
Contempt and scorn for others are seeds planted within us by anybody — stranger, family, or friend. Whether we choose to let them grow into weeds that strangle us and squeeze out our light is a matter of free will.
As we reflect on what matters this season, I pray that each of us challenges ourselves to confront the internal hell of contempt and scorn for others that we’ve comfortably conflated all these years with righteousness.
Peace to you.
About The Author
We welcome Chawanna Chambers (Twitter: @DrChaeEd) as our #ShutTheHellUp voice on this fourth day of Advent. She is mother to two and wife to one — incredible beings who teach her daily that constant self-reflection is essential to growth. When she’s not trying to change the face of American education as a curriculum & nonprofit administrator, Chawanna enjoys Netflix and Hulu binges while eating nachos & drinking Big Red.
#ShutTheHellUp is a organized by Tuhine Verma Rasche and Jason Chestnut. They rely on a collective of authors to grapple with messages of the Advent season. Find out more at Medium.com/FuckThisShit