Voices of Redemption
Redemption lies in the power of the spoken word!
A few years ago, one of my Sunday school students shared a story with me about a girl in her school whom all the girls hated because she was known by a certain name. She went on to share that although everyone said awful things about her, she did not know if in fact what they were saying was indeed the truth. I asked this student why, if she did not believe what was being said, did she not speak up, in defense of this young woman. Her answer to me was very telling of the silence that is very often so deafening and typical when it comes to women speaking up on matters of importance. What she said was this: “I did not think anyone would listen.”
The truth is when women speak up, the world comes to a standstill and listens to what we have to say!
Like so many people, I could not help but tune in to the on-going discussion regarding the crisis in which the queen of southern cooking, Paula Deen, has become embroiled. Unlike most people, however, I have been very slow to rush to form an opinion, especially since the story is being presented to me by someone else. The truth is, there are always three sides to every story: the sides of the two people involved and what actually happened. What you choose to believe is based upon your own perception.
First and foremost, this article is not an article about race. I do not know Ms. Deen personally, therefore, I cannot say definitively one way or the other, if she is or is not a racist. And for the point of this discussion, there is a much more important issue that needs to be raised. This discussion is about women and how critical o
ur voices are to shaping what it is we wish to see in our society.
When I watched the interview of Ms. Deen with Matt Lauer on the Today Show, what struck me most about her responses to his questions was not her defense of who she is or her history in regards to her beliefs or how she treats people of other races. What resonated with me was the part of her interview where she shared her response after having witnessed African-American employees referring to one another using the very word for which she is now being vilified. When Ms. Deen did not speak up to her employees, she missed a huge opportunity to change, at least in her part of the universe, the use of language that is under no circumstances, acceptable.
We live in a society where it is not uncommon for people to steer clear of those subjects that are unpopular or not politically correct. When presented with such situations, women in particular have a tendency to sit on the sidelines and say nothing. Language, no matter who is leading the discussion, is something that when spoken can create ripples throughout society.
It is hard for me to imagine what goes through the mind of someone who is white when they hear such references being made, one African-American to another, but as a woman the reaction always has to be the same.
As women, there is so much power that is given us that we still, in this day and age, fail to recognize how our mere words can change the fabric of society just by speaking what we desire into existence. People listen to women when we open our mouths to speak. The problem is too many of us fail to step up to the plate and say the truth. When Ms. Deen witnessed the offensive exchange of language between her employees, she missed a perfect opportunity to simply state, “not in my kitchen!” She had the authority as both their employer and as a mother to change the course of the conversation. In other words, she missed a great opportunity to lead. Today I would like to think that, in hindsight, she wishes she had.
We cannot change history, but we can change the language we choose to use today. Speaking up, whether to change the old and unacceptable ways of referencing one another, or to demand what is rightfully ours as women, is critical to shaping the way society holds its citizens accountable.
Vilifying Ms. Deen is not going to change what is the responsibility of each woman on the planet and that is to open our mouths and speak up when opportunity knocks at our door. In the end, history will judge us equally by what we say and for the words that we fail to utter. The difference is, when we fail to speak up, our silence will write its own script and very often the script will not necessarily represent what we intended to say. We have a voice, but no one hears us when our voices are silent!
Redemption comes from having been forgiven for past infractions and for the lessons learned by choosing to SPEAK UP AND LEAD!