The past couple weeks have been brutal in our country, in my family, and in my heart. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philander Castille, and 5 Dallas police officers (Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith) were tragic. They've felt like the straw that's broken the camels' back. A compounding of injustice and illuminating deep pain across our country. The subsequent pain, anger, violence, and protests have marked me in a powerful way.
As a white woman from a middle class Midwestern family, I've been on a journey for the past 15 years to discover the complexities of interracial marriage and understanding cultural differences. For the past 12 years I jumped into the deep end and became a racial, ethnic, and socio-economic minority. I could write a book on what I learned about white privilege, immigration, American history through the lens of a minority, and the incredible gifts of connecting cross-culturally. The past 5 years as a mother to black children, I've learned about more about racism, more about white privilege, and the challenges and gifts of being a multiethnic family. The first half of my life, cultural, ethnic, racial, and socio-economic barely played a role in my everyday awareness and thinking. I was among the majority so, unfortunately, these issues didn't cross my mind. For this last half of my life (and for my life moving forward), it's played a central and very important role to my identity, development, and spiritual formation.
I have been listening, reading, asking questions, and praying so much over these tenuous last couple of weeks. In the words of my black friends, I've been 'woke'. And I'm committed to STAY WOKE from this point forward because too much is at stake. For the sake of my humanity, for the sake of my discipleship as a follower of Jesus Christ, for the sake of my friends of color (black, Asian, and Hispanic), and especially for the sake of my two black children. I cannot pretend these issues, barely hidden under the surface, do not exist or do not apply to me.
Below are some of the resources I've been digging into over the past couple of weeks. It's far from an exhaustive list, but it gives education, perspective, spiritual insight, and language to some of what's happening in our country, our homes, and our hearts. I hope these are as helpful of a guide for you as they have been to me.
- What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum.
- The Problem with Saying 'All Lives Matter' article from Relevant Magazine
- The Liturgist Podcast (Episode 34) on Black and White: Racism in America (1 hour 40 minutes)
- Royce Mann's, 14 years old, "White Boy Privilege" Slam Poetry (heads up: he uses some language to make a point)
- Video interview between Michael Stewart and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah on "Why We Should Stop Using the Term 'White Guilt'" (11 minutes)
- Video interview between Michael Stewart and Propaganda on "Understanding the Problem" (10 minutes)
- "Dear Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie: Black Lives Matter to Us, Too" video and transcript from Asian-Americans in Letters for Black Lives
- A Lament blog post by Ruth Haley Barton
- Is America Repeating the Mistakes of 1968? article from The Atlantic
- "Race and the Kingdom (Interview with Derwin Gray)" by Scot McKnight
- "I Want to be White" blog post
- "White Moms Need to Care about Murdered Black Children" blog post
In the wake of all this tragedy, we celebrated our first born's 8th birthday. It was his golden birthday - 8 years old on the 8th of July. All of those events culminating was too much - but exactly enough! - for my momma's heart. I wrote this on my Facebook:
Today, our firstborn turned 8 years old. This past year he's shown us what a hard worker and overcomer he is. He's looked at massive challenges and leaped over those hurdles.
In light of this week's tragedies, I'm also painfully cognizant that as he ages, his place in our country will get increasingly complicated and painful. As his parents, we are intensely committed to use our privilege, power and voice to create a new reality for him and all people of color! This is the reconciling work of the Gospel of Jesus.
Happy birthday, Judah Abebayehu. We are so grateful God found us you!!!
For the past couple weeks, I have been mulling over, listening to God and other voices I respect about how all of this impacts our family. At some point much sooner than I'd hope or pray, Judah will go from a beautiful little boy, who so many 'awwwww' at, to a young man who will become suspicious and dangerous because of the color of his skin. People will begin overlooking his big gorgeous eyes and concerned about the color of his skin. They'll dismiss his winsome smile and characterize him based on prejudices and stereotypes. It's not okay to me that he will be judged by too many by the color of his skin over the content of his character. My momma's heart beats fast when I think about how he will need to learn about how to position and protect himself because he has more melanin in his skin than his dad and brother do. I'm aware that we'll need to teach Judah that he'll need to be aware and respond differently than Asher when interacting with law enforcement and in certain situations. I'm angry when I think about the differences in how my boys will be treated...just because ones is lighter skinned than the other.
So, I'm WOKE. I'm listening. I'm asking questions. I'm crying and praying. I'm lamenting that this is not as it should be and committed to acting for the sake of justice. I will not be silent or passive or wishfully thinking that my kid's future will be fair just because.
This movement matters to me because it's personal. This movement matters because I have far too many friends who speak of injustice, prejudice, and racism.