I have been hesitant to write. So much has been said already, thousands of article written, millions of memes and status updates shared that I really didn’t know if I had anything new to add to the discussion. But over and over words keep forming. Tears spring to my eyes and my heart aches as I watch this world spin and falter.
But, before I move on, I would like to give you some background:
I grew up in a very small, mostly-white town. The only non-white residents were Hispanic. I also grew up hearing and, unfortunately, laughing at racial jokes. I bought into the stereotypes sold to me by my ignorant little town. Slurs were common and I knew nothing different. It was the norm and no one ever challenged it. But when I was a sophomore in High School the first black family in my lifetime moved to our community.
Their oldest daughter was a grade behind me, so I didn’t share classes with her. But she was nice, smart, and very, very popular. As the only black kid in the entire school, she was fascinating. Everyone wanted to be her friend. But I remember the whispers of the adults around town…you know, the “there goes the neighborhood” discussion. I wonder if she knew. I liked her and would have loved to be her friend. But I was not remotely popular, so that pretty much knocked me out:)
Back then, nearly thirty years ago, if you had told me what kind of life I would be living now I would have thought you were nuts. I was going to have 3, maybe 4 biological kids. My wedding would take place under an arch of pink and teal balloons (It WAS the eighties!) and my husband would probably be someone I grew up with, work in our little town and I’d be a teacher.
So here is my reality. I have five beautiful children, none of whom came from my womb. I married a handsome son of a Colonel who whisked me a good thirteen hour car ride from my hometown and I love it here. I homeschool four of our children. We live in a community that is beautifully adoption-friendly. Trans-racial adoptive families are incredibly common. Interracial marriages barely turn heads. Show Hope and 147 Million Orphans are just around the corner and even the local coffee shops support adoption and orphan care. I go to a church that is not as diverse as I’d like, but we are working on it. (If you are reading this and are looking for a church home, please message me! We need you!) Our church family loves my kids and my kids have a great variety of friends from every race and socio-economic background. We have dear friends on the police force and in the Black community…some of them are members of both. God has blessed us.
So when the horrible events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas took place this past week my stomach knotted up and has stayed that way ever since. The “either-or” camp keeps yelling but a few of us are trying to overcome with our “both-and” perspective.
What am I talking about?
As the white mother of five children of color, I feel like I have a unique perspective. Though I never experienced racism or the fear resulting from being targeted for my skin color, I have had to learn to navigate this issue for the sake of my children. I have had to have the same talks with my 16 year old son who just got his driver’s license as every black parent out there has had. I have had to pray harder while my son drives his brother to basketball practice…praying he doesn’t break any traffic laws or get stopped by the “wrong officer.”
You see, I have had to face the hard, sickening reality that racism is not dead in our country. As a family, we have witnessed very little of it in our community but we have had a few incidents. But now, as my kids near adulthood and are not always with me…don’t always have my “whiteness” to act as a buffer…I have to prepare them, educate them, yet not instill fear. My goodness, that is so hard.
I have spent their entire lives teaching them about how police officers are their friend.
Which they are.
I have taken my beautiful ebony boys and walked up to the police officer in the bank or at a restaurant just to say hello and shake their hand. I have worked hard to teach them that police officers are trustworthy and here to help us and protect us.
Which they are.
But what is making me sick these days is that there are a few that are not. 99.9% of them are wonderful people, but all it takes is one with evil intent to ruin or even end someone’s life.
But isn’t this the flaw in all of society? In any institution there is the potential for corruption. Most teachers are wonderful people, but there are those who have sex with their students. Most truck drivers are good family men working hard to provide for their families, but there are a few who participate in human trafficking for their own sick pleasure. Most people sitting in our church pews are there to learn, to have questions answered, and to serve God. But not all pew-sitters are Christians, much less mature ones. As a pastor I once knew used to say, “Sitting in church does not make you a Christian any more than walking into a gym makes you an athlete.” Our churches have hidden snakes, pedophiles, porn addicts, etc, which is why we have to have background checks on the nursery workers and safety plans in place to protect our children.
The same goes with our police force. Racism exists, even there. It lurks, even there. I have to teach my children that, yes, you must always be respectful to the police. You do exactly what they say and always answer “yes sir” and keep your hands on the steering wheel. I teach them the names of our friends who are in the police department. Why? Because, though, 99.9% of our bravest men in blue are wonderful, selfless protectors of society, we have absolutely no way of knowing which ones are not. So am I teaching my kids to assume the worst? I hope not. But maybe, just maybe, that is what it boils down to when my firstborn son gets pulled over for a busted tail-light or going 5 over the speed limit.
Launching black children into the world is terrifying. If not for the promises of God and the words spoken over their lives from the time He brought them into our family, fear might just take hold of me. But it will not. I trust God. I trust Him with them. I trust that He does, in fact, have plans for good and not harm. And I trust that any suffering they may endure is filtered through His loving fingers, serving to chip away anything that does not look like Jesus in order to conform them into his image.
And one more thing:
To my precious, priceless black friends…
I need you now more than ever. I need your wisdom, your experiences, your stories. I need you to tell me what to do, how to say what needs to be said, and pray for my kids as I pray for yours. The house of the black community is on fire, and I want to join in the crowd of friends running with buckets of water…running into the fire, pulling out the survivors, comforting those who grieve. I want to hold your hand and kiss your babies and see our kids figure out who they are and what is their role in this diverse community that is comprised of every nation, tribe and tongue. I don’t want to see the news and think “how sad that this is happening to them.” I choose to believe this is happening to “US.” Because in Christ we are one family. Your house is right next door to mine and if yours is burning I will not sit and watch through my window. I will pray for and demand justice. I will speak out in defense of those who are unfairly targeted and, though I cannot understand from the perspective of experience, I will listen and learn and try my very best to pass on to my black children what you are teaching me.