I have been extremely vocal on my personal social media regarding the current events in our country. I also realize I stand in a unique position as a white woman because I am, in fact, the mother of five black children. Each of them have different shades of brown skin, different curl patterns to their hair, and different experiences. As an adoptive mom, though, I am very careful not to share details about my kids here because I believe their stories belong to them, not to me. That being said, without going into too much detail, I feel I need to help you understand what is going on in our world through my eyes. A mother’s eyes. I didn’t grow up understanding these things. I had to learn very hard lessons as God built our family, and boy have I learned more than I bargained for.
And let me just say, I am eternally grateful for what I know. I am a richer person for it.
One thing I have noticed among those who question the narrative we are hearing today is they love to post the occasional rant by a person of color who says racism isn’t really that big of a deal any more and that we as a nation are overreacting. Honestly, having grown up in an all-white small town I had the same view they had for a very long time. Racism was an issue “out there.” It didn’t affect me. It was a cultural issue, and it was mostly the fault of their culture. (insert all the stereotypes here) But now I know better so I have tried to inject truth, to help them see what I now know to be fact. Unfortunately, I have been extremely frustrated by these refusals to recognize the systemic racism that infects our entire country because they hold tight to the testimonies and limited experiences of a few who “haven’t had it so bad.” No one likes to admit they are wrong. I get that. We would all love to believe mostly everyone gets along just fine and things aren’t any harder for people because they have darker skin. I would personally love to believe in Santa Claus and that every child in the world gets a present under the tree Christmas morning. It’s just not reality.
So, I am here to give a bit of perspective.
As I stated earlier, I have five children, ranging in color tones from latte to espresso. Four of my five have faced racism or racist comments head-on. One has not. Of my five, the three with the most consistent racist confrontations are the three that look the most…
My darkest skinned child is regularly followed in convenience stores until I, his white mother, cover him with my white umbrella by putting my arm around his shoulders and glaring at the employee who suddenly pretends they were adjusting a display of potato chips.
When we were new in town, our white neighbor blatantly ignored my then four-year-old daughter who was trying to say “hi” and introduce herself. She was literally dancing and spinning within two feet of the woman’s face as she was crouched down, working in the flower bed between our yards (with no fence). We later found out they had made the “there goes the neighborhood” comment when we moved in.
My son has been chased down an interstate by a white racist who threatened his life, accusing him of being a drug dealer, because my son drives a newer model car. He had to break every traffic law to escape this violent, hate-spewing man…with his little brother crying and afraid in the back seat.
My vivacious, beautiful daughter has been cornered in a parking lot by a white woman who screamed racist names at her until another white woman intervened and helped her, courageously confronting the angry woman and telling her to leave.
Another child has been told by a classmate that the Confederates weren’t in the wrong and that slavery wasn’t really that bad. At least they became Christians, right? (It was dealt with. Trust me.)
A grandmother, whose daughter was battling infertility, told me she encouraged her to adopt from China because it would be easier on them then dealing with the issues of parenting a black child. “You know what I mean,” she said with a smile and nod of assent. Oh, believe me. I know what you mean. She definitely should not adopt a black child.
Our fifth child has somehow escaped these things, probably due to the fact that she is quiet and keeps to herself, but I know the day will come. Once my kids are driving and out from under my umbrella of protection it always does.
I tell you this because I want you to understand very clearly that I am a witness to the ugly reality of racism as a white woman. I have held my children as they wept, weary from the struggle and the constant assault on their mental health and sense of safety. I can testify to the fact that the sin of racism is a cancer that infects every facet of society and I refuse to sit back and allow you to convince yourself things “aren’t that bad.”
They are. They are that bad.
My black friends tell me stories every day. They are judged more harshly. The behaviors of black kids are punished more swiftly and definitively than the same behaviors of their white classmates. They have to work TWICE as hard as you and me to get ahead. They have to fight for every award, every advancement in their career, every contract, and every promotion.
And fight, they do.
My black friends have taught me what perseverance looks like, and they have taught me what FAITH looks like. I see them worship beside me at church, on their knees, unashamedly loud, hands lifted and tears of adoration pouring down their faces. They recognize their need for God. They know this world is not their home because they are cruelly reminded of it over and over again.
I’ll never forget telling a black friend what had happened to one of my kids. They had cried for hours after being called a n****r for the first time and I poured my heart out to her. She told me something that stuck with me.
“They will never forget that day, Jeanine. We never do.”
We never do.
I looked at her, this young beautiful woman who mentors countless teenage girls and teaches them to love Jesus with all that is in them. I thought about my elderly black friends who lived throught the race riots in the 1960’s and who have been persecuted, sometimes nearly killed for the color of their skin. Who would dare call them that vile word? These precious women of God? Today, in their seventies, they love with a fierce and loyal love. And they love ME. A white woman. They love and accept me because the love of Christ has overcome the bitterness that could have overtaken them. They love hard and they love sacrificially and I pray I can be half the example of Jesus that they are.
You need to know this. You need to understand the “why” of all the anger we see today. Because there is not one Black American who has not been looked down upon and cursed in one way or another by those who think their white skin makes them superior. Do some experience racism more than others? Sure. But the problem is widespread and has left a festering wound in the souls of our Black brothers and sisters in every neighborhood…including the affluent ones. Of course there is no excuse for violence, but there is a reason for it. We must not rest until things change, and it is going to take us, as white people, willingly handing over the extras that White Privilege has gained us…power, money, position…in order to even things out and give those who want a better life an equal opportunity to have what we have.
They are just as smart and able as we are, friends. They just need someone to come alongside them, pull down the barriers we have allowed to be erected and refuse to stand by and allow anyone to hold them back. I could write for days on this topic but the facts have already been well-documented. If you want to learn why things are the way they are now, you can begin by educating yourself. You’ll be shocked by what you were not taught in your History class. Trust me. Read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts. There are suggested lists floating all over the internet these days. If you want to learn and engage, to be part of the solution, you have no excuse. The information is easily accessible and often free. (And please, leave politics out of it. You don’t have to agree with someone politically to learn from them.)
The pendulum is swinging. We have an incredible opportunity, as the people of God, to make sure it lands where HE wants it to land…in the middle. But that means it may swing away from us at first. But isn’t that the way of Christ? I become less so HE can become more? Jesus made himself nothing so that we could have life and have it abundantly. We have freely talked about loving like Jesus when it comes to pro-life issues, adoption, the orphan crisis, and poverty. Well, this issue is about as pro-life as it gets.
Today, our black brothers and sisters need to see us fight alongside them. We must lift up their arms because they are weary, friends. We need to build close, trust-filled relationships with as many members of the Black Community as we can. Know them. Listen to their stories. Believe them. They need to know we’ve got their back and will run after them to pull them out of harm’s way.
Just as Jesus left the ninety-nine to go after the one.
Because that life mattered.
Black lives matter.