My grandfather passed away in the middle of the night on Christmas many years ago. When I woke up that morning, my parents broke the news. We had said our goodbyes the night before, but hearing he was gone brought a fresh wave of pain that early Christmas morning. As the day continued, I remember I started receiving Merry Christmas texts from friends who knew that I was in Iowa because my grandfather had been on his deathbed. In that moment, those Merry Christmas texts only served to deepen the pain because my sorrow had been met with silence from my friends; my painful reality was ignored for a more lighthearted one.
Many Black, Brown and interracial families have felt the exact same way in churches across our nation. The painful reality of the racial prejudice in our country has been ignored only for the Church to continue on with “status quo” conversations, sermon series, and ministries. Apart from our church that we attended while we lived in Waco, I can count on one hand the number of times I remember racial prejudice being specifically discussed in a Sunday sermon in a predominantly white congregation.
Even as I write that, I had to stop and let that sink in for myself. I’ve heard sermons on abortion. I’ve heard sermons on respecting authority. I’ve heard sermons on the need to evangelize lost communities in and out of our country. I’ve heard sermons reminding Christians to be involved in politics so Christian politicians “can fight for the Judeo- Christian rights that our country was founded on.” But a sermon or even a significant part of a sermon that calls the church members to repent of pride and bias in our own hearts and repent and seek forgiveness for the sins of slavery, oppression, and injustice? That topic is scarce on Sunday mornings.
I once would have said that race related issues are not universally affecting every church member and would be better served in private conversations. Yet, as I look throughout Scripture, I find the opposite to be true. In 1 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 6, Titus 1, Colossians 4 (and the list could continue), Paul writes to specific Believers or specific groups of Believers dealing with a specific topic. To argue that the church should only discuss things that are relatable to every member is not realistic.
Consequently, then we must ask ourselves, why as a Church are we primarily ignoring the subjects that affect our Members of Color more frequently? I know that the reasons for this will vary far and wide, yet the impact of silence is the same. The Church’s silence leaves our Believers of Color to conclude that their pain is not important enough, not valuable enough, or not realistic enough to be shared.
Your silence is deafening.
I’ll never forget holding Eliza in my lap one night reading her books with a singing competition on tv in the background. As a Black female contestant started to sing, Eliza paused what she was doing and sat entranced. I watched Eliza staring at the young woman, and the same thought kept coming to mind, “It’s true. Representation matters.”
I am only three years deep in this journey of finding role models who look like my children for my children. As I mentioned before, Eliza notices every single time there is a little girl who shares her skin tone and her beautiful curly hair. This past week, we were reading a book and she innocently asked me, “Where’s me?” In this particular book, there wasn’t a girl who mirrored Eliza’s reflection. It hit me in my gut. Every book we read, she is looking for herself.
Isn’t that what we all do? I loved to read as a kid and teenager. In every single book I read, I always pictured myself as one of the characters. We all want to be the heroin. The kid who makes good decisions. The kid who goes on the adventure. The kid who saves the day.
Yet for my beautiful Black daughter, she is already realizing that often the world won’t give her the heroine role. All too often, the world doesn’t give little Black girls and boys roles at all. My son and my daughter will have to forge their own roles in the stories they read and play.
Before we ever had kids, I remember my husband and I starting to talk about the truth that representation matters. We had moved from a predominantly diverse area of Houston, to an area of Texas that had an obvious majority of white people living and attending the school we were at. Sadly, it took me until that point in my life to start to recognize what People of Color have been stating for years. Representation matters.
Representation matters. But here’s the lesson that I took way too long to realize through all this. Not only does it matter for POC, but it also matters for white America.
Here are some action steps that Aaron and I have taken in the past and are continuing to take now to better ensure that our children are raised with the understanding and the focus that representation matters.
1. We started becoming deliberate in bringing diversity into our collection of books, tv shows movies, toys etc... do we see POC represented as the primary lead? Are those characters portrayed in a positive light?
2. We are extremely purposeful with who we follow on social media and the podcasts/sermons we listen to. (This has been especially huge for me personally.) I’ve started following a lot of pastors and authors of Color. I have learned tremendously just by seeing what they post, what they recommend, what they perceive. This has helped me recognize systematic racism and prejudice in our everyday life. Brian Lorritts, Jackie Hill Perry, Preston Perry, Eugene Cho, Dr. Tony Evans, Latasha Morrison, and Jemar Tisby are a few of the individuals I would recommend following.
3. We are purposeful with having a diverse friend and acquaintance group. Obviously, we all have our friends that we’ve known forever, but moving forward are we getting to know people who look different than us? We’ve been reminded how huge this is- especially for our kids to see us being friends with different ethnicities and races. This will help them separate the stereotypes that they mostly see on tv with real people they have laughed with, seen their parents go deep with, and have had in their home. This will help children and parents alike to believe the stories of POC and hear the daily occurrences of racism that still happens.
Let’s push towards the world that our children’s aptitudes are not determined by their race. Let’s push toward the world where success is not an expectation of the privileged and a surprise for those who aren’t. When representation matters, each child meets an older version of themselves which gives life to dreams beyond what they have seen.
Representation matters. In our society. In our churches. In our homes. Let’s write stories for our sons and daughters where each and every child has an important role. Let’s move to the world that reflects the story of equality that God wrote for each of us.
These are resources that Aaron and I have listened to, watched, or read, or they are resources suggested by people we respect. Keep in mind, these will not all reflect the same sides of political beliefs, but they all hold truth and challenges that should be considered. By no means is this an exhaustive list.
Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
Insider Outsider by Bryan Loritts
White Awake by Daniel Hill
The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson
I'm Still Here, Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson
Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum
Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack- Peggy McIntosh (you can google this)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Books For Children:
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner
When God Made the World by Matthew Paul Turner
God's Very Good Idea by Trellia Newbell
ColorFull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us by Dorena Williamson
The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Unity in Diversity
That Sounds Fun Podcast with Mike Kelsey
Happy Hour Podcast with Latasha Morrison
Be the Bridge
I Can't Breathe- sermon by Charlie Dates
When They See Us- Netflix
13th- Netflix Documentary
12 Years a Slave
4 Little Girls - Hulu
How to Recognize your White Privilege- Peggy McIntosh Ted Talk
Shows for Children:
Doc McStuffins - Disney
Motown Magic - Netflix
Mira, Royal Detective - Disney
Daniel Tiger - PBS and Prime
People to follow on Social Media:
Latasha Morrison, Founder and Author of Be the Bridge
Mike Kelsey, pastor at McClean Bible Church
Dr. Bryan Loritts, Pastor and Author
Jackie Hill Perry, Author and Speaker
Preston Perry, Apologist and Speaker
Ben Watson, former NFL player
Eugene Cho, president-elect Bread for the World
Jemar Tisby, Author and Speaker
Be the Bridge Facebook Group
Conscious Kid Instagram Account
We Welcome Refugees Instagram Account
Women of Welcome Instagram Account
And Campaign - Instagram and Facebook Account
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!