Byron looked at me intently, and his were not the only eyes on me. The entire room was watching, waiting for what was going to come next.

 

My wife, Amanda, sat in a nearby chair. Byron and two students helping direct the action stood at the front of the classroom, acting as our audience. About ten students, most of whom I had just met, were sitting or kneeling on the floor. That made sense because they were acting as if they were picking cotton on a Southern plantation. One stood up and approached me, and recited her line.

 

“May I have some water?”

 

Her line had momentarily drawn the attention off of the only White male in the room. But the respite was short lived. Byron looked back and me and said in a quiet but stern voice, “You know what your line is, Drew.”

 

I bowed my head to collect myself, then bellowed a word I had never spoken before as I pushed her to the ground. The word started with the letter N.

 

Let me give you a little background. A few weeks ago, I was attending the Black Students Association (BSA) chapel on campus. I’ve been a regular there most Thursdays for more than two years, save for the times I visit the Hispanos Unidos chapel. A BSA leader announced that they were bringing back an important part of ACU tradition by performing a Black History Production, and they needed volunteers. I signed up immediately, and convinced Amanda to come to the try-outs.

 

As soon as I got the lines I was supposed to read for the audition, I felt apprehension. The piece I was to read was clearly from the perspective of a Black student. I practiced it a pretty good deal, but worried how it would come across, especially the parts that particularly pertained to the character having difficulties with White students.

 

The audition came and went, and it was fairly uneventful. I read decently, but definitely did not excel. The panel listening to me tried their best to get me to add anger into my reading, but they soon came to realize the vocally emoting my anger just isn’t a strength of mine. Eventually, they were able to coax it out by making me transport myself into the character of a Roman soldier from the crucifixion, a part I have played many times. My audition was satisfactory, and the next week, I was part of the BHP.

 

We had a meeting with the entire cast to talk through the meaning of the production and read through the script. Twenty-five or so people showed up, and Amanda and I were two of three White people. As the only White male, I had a sneaking suspicion that my part would not be a fun or happy one.

 

I was right.

 

And so I found myself, a self-proclaimed “racial reconciler,” spewing a venomous word stained with the hatred and derision of hundreds of years of subjugation, the very opposite of what I stand for. It felt so very wrong. My prayer is that I continue to feel that wrong every time I have to say it. Because I do believe in the cause of racial reconciliation, and believe that a key part of it is education. The BHP is a powerful tool to teach the community about itself, because as Byron said the day he announced in chapel, Black History is not just about Black people. Our lives are woven together more closely than we can imagine. And for every story of discrimination, bigotry, and hatred that makes us pray, “Lord, may this evil pass from the world forever,” there is another story of overcoming through determination, courage, and love.

 

These stories belong to us all. On March 3rd and 4th, our cast will put on a production to remind us all of that truth.