RISK! Podcast
  • Episode:#816
  • Date:January 30, 2017
  • Run Time:1:05:01
  • Download: MP3

Southern Folk

Donna Edwards, Dave Kendall and Randall Robinson share stories of growing up down South.

Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner and John Sondericker

Song: Live from the Drawing Board by Oddisee

Live Story: Private Parts by Donna Edwards

Interstitial: Goy Beats Merle by Jeff Barr

Live Story: Burned by Dave Kendall

Song: Come Home by Chappo

Live Story: For Elisabeth by Randall Robinson

Song: Tiny Spark by Brendan Benson

 

13 Comments

  1. Another beauty.

  2. So… you let a victimized child be further victimized by a racist camp councilor (how was this person ever hired, nevermind kept on?), only to let this child perform a seemingly unrequited act of (seeming) forgiveness…so that you can feel a moment of personal faith? And you hope there are more children like her are coming your way? Children who may have a similarly traumatic experience? Symbolically, this story is beautiful. If you think about the actual human child involved, it’s horrifying. You have no idea how she felt in that moment, but I’m betting she would have felt a whole lot better WITHOUT some crazy racist harassing her in the first place. Don’t project your religious ideology onto an impressionable child.Protect her instead.

  3. I have mixed feelings towards Randall Robinson’s story; he never removed the young girl from the “White Witches” abuse, and he never pointedly told the White Witch that her behavior was amoral. Basically he did nothing to protect this horribly mistreated child from a monster. A child who loved in her monster and received nothing in return–a pattern she’d no doubt experienced countless times in her short, sad life. I don’t get how anyone could stand by like you did.

  4. Here is my understanding of what happened, based on our workshopping of the story. Mind you, it is really hard to ensure that all of the details of a story are going to come out of a person’s mouth the way it had been prepared when that person is up on stage with all that nervous energy in the room.

    Randall considered removing the child from the cabin but the child was getting along with the other kids in the cabin so well that he felt that might have punished rather than protected her. He scolded the racist lady about how she had been treating the child and had a second counselor added to oversee the cabin, specifically, one who had had training with children who were abused. He never mentioned whether he considered trying to get the woman fired, but he did make it clear it was so demoralizing to him, he planned on quitting his work as a minister because he felt he was in over his head with this sort of thing, worrying he may have failed this child. But in the end, he was amazed by the grace and compassion in the child herself and was moved that she seemed above it all on some level.

    I don’t think Randall paints himself as a hero here. I think he paints himself as someone who was trying to help, worried he might not be helping enough, considered throwing in the towel entirely, but was given the hope to keep trying to help others by seeing the child herself doing just that.

    Although I’m not a believer, the symbolism of the feet washing was very moving to me. In the Bible story, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, including Judas (who, in the story, Jesus already knows is about to betray him) in order to show that we all are equal and we should all take care of one another. The little girl seems to almost instinctually get this on a deeper level than the racist lady. So Randall ended up feeling it was she who had been a counselor to him in her actions.

    I don’t know if all of that came through in the way that you heard the story when you listened. But that was my takeaway at least.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Kevin.
    I was disturbed by his story just as the commenters above were. Bystanders are often worse for the victim than the perpetrator, and I was appalled that a man in a leadership position would allow such trauma to be exponentially heaped on this precious girl. I still have doubts about this guy since I watched many people in religious leadership over my childhood years not only be bystanders to the abuse of their colleagues, but then require the victim to apologize to the abuser. After I was sexually assaulted as an 8 year old, my Lutheran counselor’s first task for me was to write a letter of forgiveness to the man who assaulted me. I am seeing a correlation between that and the pastor who allowed Elizabeth to wash the feet of the white witch. Although she may have had forgiveness in her heart, it was his duty to protect her from that woman, and the fact that the witch never said a word after the foot washing most certainly heaped yet another trauma onto this little girl. He may have been touched by the gesture, but that’s just not a reason to have again stood by while this evil woman harmed this girl.
    I am writing this in the hopes that anyone in a leadership position who heard the story and is reading the comments don’t walk away thinking all was well.

  6. Lex and Shelly and Laura, I apologize if the story offended you. And thanks, Kevin for the clarification. The story was only intended to offer something beautiful at a time when there is so much hate and hurt (and particularly a rise in racism) in the world. I thought Elisabeth’s actions were profound and inspiring. I really do want to reassure others who listen and might have the same concerns. Forgive the long response, but I take your concerns to heart and they are very serious to me. By your comments I can tell you intelligently perceive the problem with my story! Thanks for naming the issues that I was dealing with and which make the story a RISK! to share. A child like Elisabeth is dropped into your care, and there are many special problems with offering 24/7 supervision. The racial and victimization issues are not easy to work out. There is no option to send her away or isolate her. I assure you, Elisabeth was not revictimized. We also did not treat her like a victim. Instead, we surrounded her with everything she needed to realize her own self-worth and to become part of a loving community. When she wanted to step into the role of washing feet—a role only for adults, and most of those clergy—we let her. It was a choice of allowing her to self-empower and we correctly assessed in the moment, there was absolutely no risk of victimization.

    Here are some backstory details—which would have made the story way too long—that you and others who listen might find helpful: WW did not abuse E in anyway. She was rude and hateful and her attitude was offensive to just about everyone around her, an attitude which I read as racist. Other kids and counselors were also offended by her. Do I wish she had not been assigned to my camp? Of course! All of WW’s racist comments came out in the several confrontations I had with her, not all these conversations concerned E, and E never heard racist remarks directed at her. WW is a volunteer who provides adult supervision so the 5 day program can exist. We do not turn away volunteers who are trained and screened and certified. (And there is not a checkbox for racist/non-racist on the application form.) If I had sent her home, I would have had to send 5 campers home to maintain supervisory ratios.

    Interpersonal, relational dynamics of victims is a tricky thing to understand. You see, I am a victim survivor as well. Victims tend to “draw fire” because we present ourselves as victims, as vulnerable—we act out and are usually very socially inept. (The abuse scripts our behavior to seek further victimization, which then re-enforces our self-blame and self-loathing.) Elisabeth was no exception. She was often defiant, disruptive, or disrespectful when participating in activities. I believe E hated me most of all. All adults were suspect, but I was the ultimate authority figure in the situation. I was the one causing her the most torment, in her mind, not WW. Elisabeth came to camp with a close friend, a white girl with serious mental health issues, who was also from the foster care system. We at first tried to reassign them both to another group–because their behavior was problematic and WW did not seem equipped to handle it–but they both were very upset at the notion of leaving the group they had bonded with on the first day. We decided it would be best to leave them there, and add support counselors. So we rearranged things so a counselor with special training in nurturing at-risk children could have direct one-on-one supervision of Elisabeth and her friend. So with two other adults besides WW in this mix of supervision around E, she was quite safe.

    You should know that Elisabeth has come back to camp every year. She has been permanently placed with a loving family and I always go say hello to her in the other age level camps. She is a happy, thriving young woman who loves coming each year to a place that nurtures and affirms her. And also, I want to point out that this story was not a story about forgiveness. It is about being loving and gracious, even to those who we perceive are our tormentors. A child as broken as Elisabeth can show us how to do this. So, yeah, I want to be there to help–to empower–other Elisabeths to overcome what has been done to them. We cannot shield them from mean/rude/racist people, even at church camp. Such people are everywhere. If Elisabeth is able to deal graciously with such people, surely there is hope for the rest of us. The water of grace puts out the flames of all kinds of fear and hatred. WW has not come back again to serve at camp. I took administrative action to make sure of it.

    I sincerely apologize for a story that left out details that might have answered some of your concerns. I assure you again, Elisabeth was not harmed. Peace.

    Randall

  7. I just checked back here because I am obsessing a bit about the negativity. I read Laura’s comment again. I must not have read it correctly the first time. So if I understand you, you were required to write a letter of forgiveness to your abuser? My story aside, I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you endured that great evil. The original assault and the re-abuse by your clergyman having you write that letter. I have never heard of nor would I ever suggest such therapies for victim survivors. I am so sorry. Peace.

  8. Randall, your story was beautiful and touching. Thank you for sharing it and thank you so much for clarifying the situation. I wish the best for you and all Elisabeths. I also want to thank you for mentioning how survivors can draw fire. It explained a lot in my life. Remember- Aslan vanquished the WW much like you did. Much love to you and yours.

  9. Hi Randall,
    Thank you for your detailed response. I suppose the only real way to know if the WW affected Elizabeth would be to ask her someday. It’s impossible to know what any of us internalize without talking about it.

    As for me, yes, the damage had further been done by that counselor. The letter was meant to be an exercise rather than to actually send it, but I was unable to do such a thing at that time. I only went to her a couple of times, then told my folks about what was going on and they pulled me out. The sad thing is that my response afterward was to not talk about the assault anymore. I bottled it up because I thought another therapist might do the same thing to me, so for years I dealt with horrible shame. I got into situations that you mentioned above that further deepened my sense of shame. It wasn’t until after a particularly empowering therapist that I was able to divorce an abusive spouse and have real healing in my life.

    Back to Elizabeth, I am hoping that her returning to camp each year is her choice, and if it is, that it is hopefully a good thing for her rather than a returning self sabotage of some sort.

    I am also happy that you took the steps to remove the WW from returning. I understand that we cannot shield our children from everything; I have an 8 year old son of my own and teach him what racism and abuse sounds and looks like and how to respond to it for himself and others. I do know that when I was shattered at his age, I internalized every little thing including non verbal abuse from authorities such as the feeling in the room of any hostility or shame.

    I also understand that as an adult, sometimes situations happen that we don’t know how to deal with in the moment and only in hindsight do we see what could have been done. I certainly don’t wish to heap any kind of shame onto. You clearly deeply care about Elizabeth and the other children at camp. I presume the experience equipped you with a way to deal with such a thing again in a rapid response.

    Thank you for the courage in sharing your story. I would be happy to converse on this further if you want.

  10. Randall,

    I found your story incredibly touching and powerful–one of my most favorite stories on risk in YEARS (which is saying a lot)! I could tell from your sensitivity, experience, and consideration that you would take care not to re-victimize E. Thank you for sharing. I found the end especially powerful; sometimes events in our lives just galvanize, make it clear what our path is.

  11. This is part of a blog post. I listened to this show while producing a graphic poem, and wrote “show notes.” The poem can be found at https://chamblee54.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/dangerous-people/.
    RISK is a story telling show, usually with 3-4 tellers. The first performer in today’s show is Donna Edwards. Her father said she was a late bloomer. She thought this meant her penis would arrive soon. One day at school, her first period came. Fortunately, her church happy grandmother told her the truth about being a woman.
    Dave Kendall is the second storyteller. He was burned badly as a child, and had a long stay in the hospital. Eventually, he got to go home, and was sort of normal. The third story has a lot of comments. It must be controversial. PG thinks it best to listen first, and then see what other people want him to think. Thinking for yourself can be a luxury.
    Randall Robinson was the counselor in a church camp. There was a young girl, with a troubled past, named Elisabeth. There was a volunteer, nicknamed the white witch, who did not get along with African American Elisabeth. One night, there was a foot washing. Elisabeth asked to help, which children did not usually do. One set of feet, that Elisabeth washed, belonged to the white witch.
    Some of the commenters were disturbed by the apparent racism of ww. Mr. Robinson wrote a lengthy clarification, where he talked about some of the subtle issues involved. There are usually details that cannot be included in a spoken word story. Some of these details have an impact on the story. If you have the time, listen to the story, starting at 42 minutes. The comments are in the linked page. It is best to listen to the story first.
    You take your own memories into a story like this. Many people who know PG probably know what is next. There was an African American co-worker, who alienated PG from Jesus. After a while, PG sincerely believed that Jesus hates him. Fast forward to the story about Elisabeth. A part of the foot washing is to say Jesus loves you. This cliche is a staple of Jesus worship, and PG has come to see it as a lie. Jesus hates him. To have a young black girl, wash the feet of her white tormentor, and say Jesus loves you…. Everyone hears with a different set of ears.

  12. I also thought Randall’s story was one of the best I’ve ever heard on Risk! It brought me to tears and gave me hope. Thanks for sharing, Randall.

  13. Loved Donna Edwards’s story, thank you for sharing <3

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