Back Channels of My Mind
By Ed Chasteen
I have spent most of my life so far trying in my own person to overcome the racist messages I absorbed from those dear folk I grew up among. I long ago came to understand that I loved them but did not like them. They were good to me when I was small. But as I grew and moved about, I came to see how small they were in mind and heart. More than half a century has passed since I was a boy among my extended family, and those racist tapes still come uncalled to my mind. I can usually over ride them. But I cannot erase them. Several times in my adult life I have been embarrassed when some spontaneous remark I make exposes a racist tape that runs on a back channel of my mind, outside my conscious ability to govern it. To have fewer such tapes haunting my children and my students, I have devoted my life to overcoming hate and teaching people how to like each other.
My mother took me to the Baptist church when I was still a baby. Every Sunday. Moses, Sampson, and David became my heroes. I learned that God loves me. I learned to love my neighbor as myself. I also learned to distrust and dislike Jews and Catholics. I learned that other Christian denominations had misread the scripture and were teaching false doctrine. These tapes, too, still play in my mind.
The church I have attended (Second Baptist in Liberty, Missouri) for the past 30 years appointed me 25 years ago as Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith. Over these years I have taken folks from my church to visit other communities of faith and have brought members of other faith communities to visit my church. Our understanding has been that we do not come to change or join, but to build bridges so that when tensions arise between faiths, we will know someone personally to whom we may go for guidance and understanding.
I was teaching Race Relations at William Jewell College in 1988 when a Klansman in Louisiana won election to their state legislate. My students and I started HateBusters. The Governor of Louisiana invited us to come to Louisiana. We went. Then we began to be invited by other governors, mayors, universities, colleges, communities and individuals. I left full time teaching in 1995 and HateBusters became a 501 C-3 non-profit. We help those who have been hurt because someone hates them.
Our focus now is on religious hatred. My longtime friend, Imam Yahya Furqan, and I have started a group we simply call Friends. We are composed of folks of different races and religions. We want to visit in small groups with churches, masjids, synagogues and other faith communities. We want to have conversations about our families, our parents, our brothers and sisters; where we grew up, what we like to eat, our hobbies, our hopes and dreams.
Who is right is the wrong question until we get to know one another. Will Rogers is famous for saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I’ve always wondered if he might have said, “I never liked a man I didn’t meet.” I have made it a purpose of my life to meet every person I can and expect to like every person I meet.
To help others who have unwelcome tapes playing on back channels of their mind, I started HateBusters, became an Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith and wrote a book called, How To Like People Who Are not Like You.
The book is available on line to anyone who makes a donation to HateBusters. We never ask those who need our help for money. We never say no when asked for help. Good-hearted folks who like what we do give us the money to do it. In return for a donation, every donor gets an on-line copy of How To Like People Who Are not Like You. To donate go to www.hatebusters.com and click on Donate. I will get an Email from PayPal that a donation was made, and I will email the book to you.
Red and Yellow, Black, Brown and White
Christian, Buddhist and Jew
Hindu, Baha’i and Muslim, too
All are precious in our sight
Until we get to know each other who’s right is the wrong question