Silence is golden—except when it’s not.
There is a problem with silence. Scripture tells us that if we don’t proclaim Christ, the rocks will cry out for Him. I was taught never to let a rock speak for me, so I must raise my voice about current tragedies and the hatred among people today—hatred based on race and nothing more.
I am not qualified to give a theological explanation or rebuttal about all that is happening. My statement is solely based on my father. Thomas Benton George, Jr., graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1950 and married my mother one week later. June 11, 2020, would have been their seventieth wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, my father died in 2009.
A few years before his death, he shared with me over lunch about one of his classmates at the Academy for the first time. He told me about being friends with Wesley Anthony Brown, the first African American to graduate from the Academy. Mr. Brown was in the class of 1949, a year ahead of my Father. Since they were both studying engineering, they had a few classes together. Though Dad didn’t give many details about their friendship, I appreciated him sharing about Mr. Brown with me that day.
Interestingly, my father never told me about Mr. Brown before then. Only late in his life, as Alzheimer’s was attacking his brain, mind, and memory, did he share this with me. I think the reason he never brought it up was because Dad never drew the spotlight to himself. He understated his impact on everything. Though he didn’t know it, learning about this friendship brought back a memory for me from 45 years earlier.
I was six or seven years old and made a derogatory comment about an African American man in the parking lot of K-Mart in Birmingham, Alabama. My father asked me to repeat my comment, which I stupidly did. When we got home, I got the worst spanking of my life! It took 45 years for that consequence to make sense and sink in.
It took a long time, even after my lunch conversation with Dad, to make the connection with the spanking I got 45 years earlier. It probably really sunk in several years later at his funeral when the pastor preaching his funeral, the pastor my dad had helped bring to their church many years before, shared that Dad continued to call on him every month just to make sure everything was going well. The pastor then mentioned that he had never known my dad had graduated from the Naval Academy. Despite my father’s love for the Academy, and despite his years of support of this pastor that he helped recruit to our church, he never shared with him that he had graduated from such a prestigious institution. That was just Dad.
My father told me just a few years before he died that others at the Academy were surprised that a young, white, male from Shubuta, Mississippi, would be friends with an African American classmate from Washington, D.C. My father’s care and regard for other people, regardless of race, was a hallmark of his. His response to my callous comment as a child was because I had failed to accurately represent my father. All his life, my father lived what he believed and never thought to tell me how incredible it was. He just lived it, and he expected me to do the same.
Today, I write my comments about the current racial climate with tears in my eyes. How I wish we all had fathers like mine who would love me enough to set a standard to live up to—one of loving others, including the color of their skin. And I write because of my Heavenly Father who loves me despite the times I have not lived up to His standards. May we all try to show the love of our Heavenly Father, especially now. As I try to process my father’s influence and what I am supposed to do now, what strikes me most is to just live out what he taught me, the way he taught me: love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly with my God.
Written by David George, president of the WMU Foundation.