Let’s change this together

Solo licks don’t come often for a guitarist playing with a 17-piece aggregation like The Ambassadors Big Band, but when they show up in the music, David Mateo makes the most of the opportunities. Last Monday night, he shone, performing expertly, with a big smile on his face. The band was playing on a Monday night at the Pittsboro Roadhouse. Live bands take the stage at this place every Friday, Saturday and Monday nights in the “Garage,” a huge room that once housed an automobile repair shop, now transformed into a performance venue and dining room with a dance floor, bar, and an outdoor patio.

Mondays typically aren’t when most people think of going out for an evening of dinner and dancing, but on this particular Monday, the place was alive. Members of a swing dance club filled the booths and tables on this night, and they kept the dance floor jumping for the entire evening.

Band musicians love it when folks dance to their music, clearly loving the big band sounds. Everyone felt good about this evening. For David Mateo, it offered a pleasant change from an encounter that he experienced earlier in the day in this town 15 miles south of Chapel Hill. Here is his account of it on social media:

“Today, while I was crossing a street in the town of Pittsboro, NC, from the window of his old red car, a white man shouted at me, “Return to your country mother fuc…”
So, it seems that more and more people are inspired by this “accident of history” to openly show that this type of behavior is something they should be proud of. Although it is not the first time that I have received this type of racist insults, I realize that, with more reason, I must appreciate the love, solidarity, support, and care, from many, many white and other people of color in this country, who have nothing to do with this, and other ignorant citizens like him. And by the way, being a brown skin person, feels so good.”

David (pronounced Dah-VEED) is much more than an excellent guitarist. He is an associate pastor on the staff of my church, in Chapel Hill, a congregation of 900 in the United Church of Christ. In addition to his multiple church-wide duties, he leads La Mesa, a bilingual congregational ministry whose weekly worship services are growing in size and popularity.

This was not the first time David, who was born in Honduras, has been subjected to such treatment. A few months ago, he was speaking with a parishioner in Spanish on his cell phone in an upscale Chapel Hill shopping mall. A passerby came up to him and loudly berated him for not speaking English.

Why do people feel that it’s acceptable to behave in such a hateful way? One theory holds that our current political environment influences our social mores, in effect giving us permission to vent deep-seated anxieties and convert them into speech that can hurt others. The more we see this behavior, the more it seems to grow.

I believe that we can change this. It’s time we did.

 

 

 

 

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