After Ching-Chong


Tasha Burgoyne -After Ching-Chong3

We were walking back from our city’s Freedom Festival parade. My boys biked ahead of us with bags full of candy, while my husband followed closely on foot. I pushed my daughter in her stroller a few feet behind them. There were other families and groups of people walking home and away from the activity the parade had left behind. It all felt like a happy glimpse of our little midwestern city that I’ve come to love. Flags waving, families together, sticky fingers, and kids on bikes riding freely on the street with no cars allowed, just this once.

That’s when I saw them. They stood out as they walked toward us, weaving through the people who were leaving, laughing and talking loudly. All three of them were tall, young men on the verge of adulthood. I acknowledged them as they passed with a smile, just as I had everyone else that we passed that day. The young man closest to us looked straight into my eyes, looked down at my flag-waving daughter, and then back up at me and said, “Ching-chong.” Then all three of the men laughed loudly.

I stared back at him while my mind slowly processed the two words that had just come out of his mouth. I looked down at my baby girl who was still proudly waving her stars and stripes, too young to have noticed or understood what just happened. My boys and husband were up further ahead at this point, and I was relieved they hadn’t heard the words. I kept pushing the stroller in silence as the ugly words and uglier tone and intent hung over me.

I am not a stranger to ignorant or racist comments, but it has been a long time since someone has said something like this to my face, and this is the first time I have ever heard someone say anything like this to my daughter.

We were only one block away from our neighborhood, just a few minutes away from the place we call home. My cheeks were flushed the rest of the way, not from the summer heat, but from the heat of an inner anger and shame. As my boys and husband looked back at us with smiles, I smiled back, feeling like a liar.

Once we were home, and the kids were settled into new activities, I told my husband what had happened in a hushed tone in the kitchen. A little while later, I texted a few safe friends. Telling my husband and friends felt like picking up heavy stones and dumping them into their hands. There was a voice telling me to not say anything and to not make a big deal about it; saying it was probably my fault the words were spoken; that maybe I shouldn’t have smiled at them in the first place. Shame loves to accompany hurtful words like a coat wrapped around and fastened tight.

More than anything, I needed to let my husband and a few friends hear and carry the burden of those words. They needed to be let loose again, spoken from the hurt of my experience. My husband’s response of anger and sadness helped to remove the coat of shame. He helped lift and carry the words that I had been tempted to clutch and push further within. One of the friends I texted responded with an all caps “NO,” to affirm the wrongdoing. Another friend told me that she cried when I shared and then prayed as she had listened to “Elohim” by Hillsong Worship. Then she shared a video of the song.

Over the next few days I listened to that song on repeat. It played as I did laundry with my daughter “helping,” and as I got lunches ready and emptied the dishwasher. I cried almost every single time the song played and was reminded who God is and that He is Love. The Holy Spirit who hovered over the waters and darkness in the beginning of Creation as God created light, speaks through art created in his name. The words being sung with music ministered to me and filled our house as I prayed for the Holy Spirit to work these truths deeper into all of our hearts than any of us could on our own.

This broken place of racism and hatred is everywhere.

It’s not just black and white. We are all involved and we are all affected, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. We can turn away and let it rage on in others’ lives while we close our ears and eyes, or we can take it in and let it rage within us as we try to bury it inside. Or, we can decide to see it, share it and be the menders, the carriers, the unifiers, the hurt who need healing, and the believers who push against it with the True Light of Christ.

Two simple, ugly words take time to heal from. My husband and friends listened, and tended to the wrongdoing to help carry me back to hope and courage. It took a few weeks for me to move into specific prayer for this broken place in our world again and specifically for these young men, who–just like me–Jesus laid down his life for.

There’s a new resolution rising in me alongside of all of the passion I’ve had to see healing among the racism and hate in our world. I’ve always believed stories of racism must be told, but now, more than that, I realize how I must surrender to Love, and share my hurt in safe places while also choosing to be the same for others. Dealing with the sting of racism isn’t up to a lonely you or me. Healing in this place will take a collective, surrendered to Love, “we.”