It grieves me to say this, but I guess I should have known in light of this season of unveilings; my beloved TCU is woefully whitewashed. Of course, I know white people are very much in the majority on campus, but it did not occur to me that this place I love dearly could be drenched in racism and poor treatment of black individuals, specifically. The lawsuit against the university that was just filed describes evidences I do not wish to repeat but must be acknowledged. Not only acknowledged but genuinely repented of again and again, with no expectation of forgiveness. Thus, here is my confession.
How did we get here? How did we let this happen? One of our own left questioning her very worth and value, her humanity, because of us. I completed six years of school with you, an undergraduate and a graduate degree. I attended sporting events and Christmas tree lightings and concerts on campus year after year. I spent an incredible amount of time and energy as a student athlete hoping to represent my team and school the best I could. The jersey truly never came off. The colors actually ran through my veins. Bleed purple. Frog for life. Rif Ram Bah Zoo Give’em Hell TCU. All of it inscribed on my heart like the law. As a white female athlete, I have no complaints whatsoever about my experience on campus. Couldn’t even dream up anything negative to say. I reflect on those six years and see hardships and struggles, the loss of my father; it was not all good times, but I can still see the joy and growth that those hardships fostered. I just recently spoke to a young girl who is beginning the process of looking at schools to play soccer about my TCU experience. I used to do individual sessions with her. We met up, and I lavished, truthfully, about everything TCU, not just the soccer program. If I was selling TCU, the deal was a wrap. However, I was selling the white female athlete and white student experience. This now seems hopelessly incomplete, deceptively tainted. I feel like I need to wash my mouth out with soap. I cannot help combing through my memories, closely analyzing them for any hint of racially offensive occurrences or behaviors. In six years, I am left frightfully empty outside of just a few. I guess this is the aim of white fragility, pulling the puppet strings to keep two drastically different realities hidden from each other.
I was meeting with my friend and mentor, a big black man with an even bigger heart. I have mentioned him often as I could dedicate a whole letter to how loving and fatherly this man is. He is who I turn to for not only profound wisdom and transparency but for the most reassuring of hugs and gentlest of kisses on my forehead. In the absence of my biological father, he has taken me in as his own.
We were meeting Wednesday morning at the student union as we did weekly. There was another event going on in the ballrooms across the hall from where we were sitting. People walked by occasionally, but one white woman, in particular, walked by us multiple times. Walking down the hallway in one direction led to a dead end and the other back to the main stairs of the union. Outside of the ballrooms, there was nothing to be going to and from. I didn’t even think twice about why she would be walking back and forth. As we got up to leave, my friend explained she was surveying the situation, checking on a young white girl with a big black man. In all honesty, I didn’t believe him at first. This was outside of any seemingly reasonable explanation to me. He was right, though, I just lacked the eyes to see it.
How can I ever look at you the same TCU? How can I ever again step on campus as a proud alum?
While reading the article and lawsuit document itself, a battle raged in my mind, and I heard two voices from my heart. One manifested from the most evil depths of my sinful being, of which I own completely and do not excuse whatsoever.
“No, it cannot be true. This is an exaggeration and a money grab. This couldn’t happen at TCU, let alone in 2020. Jane Doe is being sensitive. There is no way all of these events are true. TCU isn’t like this. Maybe, maybe this could happen other places but not at TCU.”
Alternatively, only by grace…
“You know people are capable of this kind of treatment, especially from a white person to a black person. We carry the entirety of white history with us, whether we realize it or not. We wear white privilege like shoes, walking around and never touching the ground with our feet. Never confronting the blood-soaked and sweat-stained earth our black brothers and sisters labored over by the whip in our hands. No one is exempt. Pull up a chair to the table.”
No one is exempt. That includes me. I am complicit. I cannot wash my hands of the sin as Pilate did of the crucifixion of Jesus. No matter Pilate was not the one shouting, “crucify Him, crucify Him.” His inaction makes him an accomplice. He is just as guilty as Judas, betraying Jesus, and the Pharisees, condemning Jesus in their hearts.
There is a passage in the Gospels when Jesus is invited over to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. A woman finds out Jesus is there and comes with “an alabaster vial of perfume.” She is crying at the feet of Jesus and uses her hair to wipe the tears from His feet. She is kissing them and anointing them with the perfume. The Pharisee sees the woman and says to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
Jesus tells Simon, the Pharisee, a parable about two debtors who both owe sums of money, one very large and one relatively small. They are unable to pay, and the moneylender forgives them their debts. Jesus then asks Simon which one of the debtors will love the moneylender more. He rightly responds the one who owes more money. Jesus gestures to the woman, saying to Simon…
“I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little,”
He who is forgiven little, loves little.
It wasn’t until the racial reconciliation series in FCA my junior year that the scales on my eyes started to shed. Not only was the reality I grew up in whitewashed, I was now in the college bubble, paying little attention to the things happening in the world that may have told me of the racism hiding deep within me. I had racial assumptions and racially offensive thought patterns that I didn’t name as such. Seemingly normal to me, just the way things were. Wrong. Which is worse, outwardly belittling and treating another human being as an animal because of the color of his or her skin or inwardly harboring self-righteousness for not doing so, and at the same time, just masking the same prejudice differently. I didn’t seek out relationships with people of color. I felt no loss without those relationships. I avoided places I would be the minority in. The handful of black people I was close with gave me absolution. I didn’t need to do anything else. My part is done. Wrong again.
Let us confess, TCU, you and I both, that there is a bounty of wounds in our name. I am a graduate, a member of the forever student body. Thus, Jane Doe’s wounds belong to me just as they belong to you. I acted as Pilate, turning a blind eye, even after I started to see more clearly. We must acknowledge our immense errors as they are and feel the weight of all we must repent of. It is only in repenting and being truly sorry for our actions and inactions that we will fall to our knees in tears, begging for forgiveness but not expecting it. Knowing we are not worthy of it, knowing we do not deserve it. Only in owning up and repenting can we move on to love. Love is the only healing to wounds inflicting the core of our very beings. Love is the only way to right how we see one another. It deconstructs and reconstructs who we call neighbor, brother and sister, and how we serve them well. We have so much to ask forgiveness for, TCU, more than we know and more than even the lawsuit covers. There are always deeper and darker places of our souls that must be continuously searched out and brought into the light. We are never finished.
I do not want to look at you the same as I did, TCU. Doing so would be looking at a front, the edited social media version. Just as I want to know the dark corners of my own soul, I want to know yours as well. Not to excuse but rather to squash. To acknowledge the evil that has been rampant, bear the weight of it, then genuinely repent to allow love to fill the hole hate has carved. Let us look at each other wholly. Not forever condemning ourselves and also celebrating the times we allow grace to work within us. Let us embody both justice and grace.
The lawsuit document contains an example of unfair treatment of foreign players on the TCU soccer team. I do not remember what year or who the head coach was whom, as the lawsuit describes, intentionally did not tell four foreign players about a practice. It was American players only. Regardless, this hit home, even more so than the other examples. How redeeming it is that the head coach is now a black man and has turned the program completely around, leading the team to new and greater successes each year he has been at the helm. This does not make what happened in the past okay, rather it gives hope that grace is at work.
Jane Doe, I am so sorry. Brothers and sisters of color, former and current students of TCU, I am truly sorry. I do not know what it is like to be made to feel less than human, to feel as though my life doesn’t matter or people would prefer I didn’t exist. It disgusts me but does not shock me that we have the capacity to prefer this and think it is right or how things should be. Getting up close to my own humanity has revealed to me the presence of this evil. Confronting this depravity, I can only plead for forgiveness knowing I am not worthy of it. Without knowing my depravity, I superficially ask for forgiveness and return to my vomit. Treating grace cheaply. This is not the posture I desire. I want to know the character of all my transgressions intimately, constantly searching them out in their manifold masks and subtleties. To always be reminded how desperate for forgiveness I am, so I may love as the woman at the feet of Jesus.
As a deacon I heard once preached, “We can only love God as much as those we love least.”
He who is forgiven much, loves much.