Sorry there were no blog posts last week. I traveled from one side of the country to the other (literally!) and was swamped with work and other very important things. The regular posting schedule resumes this week.
For Parker, the day ended up taking a different path. Hours before Heyer’s death, he and his group of neo-Nazis headed back to the parking garage to regroup after the rally was declared an unlawful assembly. There, he met a filmmaker, Deeyah Khan, who was filming the event for a documentary on hate groups called “White Right: Meeting the Enemy.” He recalls Khan’s kindness in a moment of his weakness.
“I pretty much had heat exhaustion after the rally because we like to wear our black uniforms, and I drank a big Red Bull before the event. And I was hurting and she was trying to make sure I was OK,” Parker says.
In the film, Parker is still unabashedly racist, vehemently stating his hatred for Jews and gay people. But as he interacted with Khan more, his proclamations became less certain. Then, over the next few months, he started having doubts. “She was completely respectful to me and my fiancée the whole time,” he says of Khan. “And so that kind of got me thinking: She’s a really nice lady. Just because she’s got darker skin and believes in a different god than the god I believe in, why am I hating these people?”
It is more and more tempting in our day to dismiss the power of love and kindness or to rush past it in our desire to ensure that structures and systems are reformed for the sake of racial justice and equity. I understand this impulse; a great deal of it, I think, is frustration with complacency and using the idea of individual change as the norm for renouncing hate and white supremacy akin to the frustration that Dr. Martin Luther King expressed in the Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
And while we absolutely must never stop pushing for the structural reforms necessary for justice, we can never discount the necessity of love (another very important theme in King’s work!) and the value of loving others and even showing them unmerited kindness as Jesus did. Some racists may buckle under a firm public rebuke, others will wither away if they are ignored, and still others may need a simple act of kindness in a moment of vulnerability of kickstart them on their journey to redemption. It is not always possible for us to know who is who. (I wrote more about different strategies for racial justice here.) I think this story is important for us to think about because it doesn’t obviate the importance of a public rebuke or a cold shoulder, but it does demonstrate how powerful love and kindness (shared by non-Christians and Christians!) can be.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org