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A White Woman Learns to Cry 'Black Tears'

Brenda Salter McNeil tells the story of a diverse group of Christians who traveled across the United States visiting some of the places known for their racist past. McNeil writes:

One of the stops on the trip is a museum with a collection of graphic photographs documenting the horrific lynchings of black people in America … Looking at photo after photo of young black men hanging from trees, or mothers hanging with their children, with white people often looking on in celebration, was intensely disturbing for the group. Most of the members couldn't speak. They got back on the bus in complete silence. There was palpable tension. Finally, the white members broke the silence. Understandably, they were eager to defend themselves and put some distance between themselves and the immense brutality of what they had just witnessed. They hadn't committed these terrible crimes, after all, and it was all such a long time ago.
Then a black student stood up, in obvious pain and yet still calm, collected and quiet, and announced her conviction that all white people are evil. Shouting and disagreement erupted, and it was unclear how the group would be able to move forward from this experience.
Finally, a white female student stood up and said, "I don't know what to do with what I just saw. I can't fix your pain, and I can't take it away, but I can see it. And I will work the rest of my life to fight for you and for your children so they won't experience it." She started to weep, and her mascara streaked down her cheeks, leaving dark trails.
The bus was silent, and then one of the group leaders said aloud, "She's crying black tears." She was indeed crying black tears. The black students on that bus now felt that someone identified with their pain and the experience of their people, and it was a profound moment of identification for all of them.

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