A couple of years ago, my daughter came out of her bedroom with a perplexed look on her face. “Mommy, this atlas says that the population of the United States is 72.4 percent white and only 12.6 percent African American.” (based on December 2011 information)
“How is that even possible?” she asked, trying to figure it out. Something wasn’t adding up in her young mind. Her astonishment at the numbers wasn’t surprising. Her experience did not equal what the data told her.
Throughout her school years, except second grade, she has been the only white girl in her class, though sometimes a white boy or two will show up in the mix. It’s about the same for our younger daughter who has been the only white child in her class for the past couple of years.
I’ll be honest enough to admit I had to make a mental adjustment simply because it is much different than when I was a kid. No biggie, just that the difference can make for interesting moments of can she say that? Like, when the younger one said her legs were ashy, that was cute. However, when she said her hair was nappy, I knew I couldn’t let her continue to say that lest someone take offense. She didn’t know. It is, after all, what her friends at school say.
We don’t live in a “black” neighborhood, but we don’t live in a “white” one either. The ratio on our street is about 50-50. Which is likely the approximate breakdown for the immediate area surrounding us—with small numbers of other racial groups. To the west of our town, the area is predominantly more African American and to our east, definitely more white. Here we are, in the middle, sharing space.
I can’t talk as a person with darker skin tones. I can’t walk in those shoes and I honestly don’t understand some of what I hear. If you want to talk about organ transplants or chronic illness, I’m right there. Army Brat? Talk to me. Preacher’s kid? Let’s grab a couple of pints. Can’t gain weight? Yep. Can’t lose weight? Don’t I know it. Can’t get pregnant? Hellloooo. If you grew up a semi-attractive gal in a world where some men cannot keep their hands or thoughts to themselves, oh.my.gosh.
Talk about race? Wellll, that can get a bit tricky. Even with the best of intentions and no malice, it’s a touchy subject.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
I’ve read over and over that only white people can be racist. Ok, but would you be willing to agree that skin color hatred and prejudices know no bounds? And all forms of it are destructive?
Despite this, or maybe because of this, can I urge us all to not believe the worst at any given moment? It is human nature to pick sides and the worst may in fact be what is happening, but what if it’s not? What if the one we may naturally gravitate toward is in the wrong? What if the one we may not naturally side with is in the right? What if both are screw ups? What kind of damage happens when we aren’t dealing truthfully with the real problem?
Is it possible that your child is not doing well in school because she just isn’t and not because the teacher has a different shade of melanin? Is it possible that someone doesn’t have a decent job, not because he’s lazy, but because he simply cannot get a foot in the door? or move up when he does? Is it possible that I lock my doors just because it’s time to lock my doors and I’m not paying attention to who is around? Is it possible that things are getting better than they were before? Is it possible that we still have a long way to go? Is it possible that our experiences don’t give us all the facts? Is it possible that our perceptions are distorted?
I think most of us would prefer to just go about living our lives and not think about any of it, but fuel keeps being added to the unquenchable fire. Unfortunately, too many on all sides are all too willing to keep it burning. It’s exhausting and almost not worth the effort to even attempt to put it out. To allow our mindsets to change. To give one more person a chance. What’s the use?
Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. Hebrews 11:33 (MSG)
One starting point to combat this problem is in hearts that are willing to stand at the foot of the cross. How much agony and how many drops of blood were for this sin alone? Why do we keep adding to it? Why does the body of believers who claims to follow this man who hung on the cross still allow such a great divide in its own places of worship?
I confess I don’t always look at life through the lens of the cross, but if we encourage each other to walk that way together, we might just see some amazing things happen. Through faith, person by person, kingdoms of hate can be toppled. Justice can do its work. In faith, grab hold of God’s promises and don’t let go.