I have a hard time appreciating just how incredible the American Civil Rights movement was. I just watched this video, how to defeat the KKK, and then did minimal research on Wade Watts and read this story about his interactions with former KKK leader Johnny Lee Clary. Watts was one of many heroes in this movement, a man I’d never heard of before. I love this story:
When Oklahoma State Sen. Gene Stipe and civil rights activist Wade Watts walked into a restaurant in the late 1950s, a waitress confronted them at the door and told Watts, an African American, that the restaurant did not serve Negroes.
With a smile, Watts replied, “I don’t eat Negroes. I just came to get some ham and eggs.”
And that’s tame compared to Watts’ reactions to Clary as detailed in the video. That’s incredible love in the face of overwhelming and completely overt hatred.
When it seems completely impossible to defeat hatred in places like the Middle East or Sudan or whereever, remember how much was challenged and changed in America.
I think what amazes me most is that in the face of such life-threatening hatred Watts could still be so loving. Often it feels like those are the moments when we decide this is something we can’t forgive, or this is someone we can’t love, or this is such a horrible moment that we can’t be expected to love. It’s easy to love when it doesn’t challenge your or change you or threaten you. But when it can cost you everything, that’s real love. That’s the kind of love that changes the world.
I don’t know if I can love like that. The rare times I’m called to do it my first response is to protect, not love.