Normally when I write, I poke and prod more than I rant and rave. As I write, I try to consider the person who disagrees with me because I want my words to build bridges. To help those reading figure out the next right thing.
But every once in a while, I write with a different person in mind. I write with my favorite faces in mind. I write from the deepest place of love that I can muster. Love that compels me to speak out on behalf of those I love. When I write from this place, my writing can only be composed from words of anguish. Words of urgency. Words of bold conviction.
Today, as you read my words I hope you will hear my anguish. Sense my urgency. Hear my conviction. Because for me, this article is intricately woven into the make-up of my family.
The faces that are in my mind as I write this time are my Black husband, my Black daughter, and my Biracial son.
Ms. Abby Johnson was the Republican National Convention Speaker on August 25th who spoke on the sanctity of human life. She was a former Planned Parenthood Director and has since become a Pro-Life activist. Ms. Johnson, however, posted a video on YouTube in June of 2020 that came under scrutiny. The video has since been removed, but sources state that Ms. Abby Johnson explained that the police would be “smart” to profile her biracial son (via adoption) because statistically her Brown son is more likely to commit a crime than her White son.
Ms. Johnson and I are both Pro-Life, White mothers of children of Color. But let me be perfectly clear, I completely and ardently disagree with her belief that my children should be racially profiled by police and seen as more likely to commit a crime than their White counterparts.
To have that untrue and racist stereotype, not just believed by a parent, but actually endorsed by a parent is something that I struggle to wrap my mind around.
If my daughter were blonde hair and blue-eyed, would I say that teachers are right to profile my daughter as a dumb blonde? To assume that she’s less intelligent before she has even opened her mouth? I thought everyone agreed a long time ago that “dumb blonde” jokes weren’t funny nor were they accurate. In this case, I would immediately call the school and figure out what that particular teacher has against blonde hair/ blue eyed students to say such preposterous things? So tell me why in the world would a mother play into an even greater, horrific, and tragic stereotype to assume that her Brown son is more likely to commit a crime than her White son?
Some will counter back with “well actually she said…” and try to explain away the horror of her statements. Actually she said that she assumes her Brown son is more likely to commit a crime simply because of his skin color. Ms. Johnson referenced and erroneously believes that the disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown men in the justice system are there because they are guilty. She assumes that there is no other reason for Black and Brown bodies to be oppressed and jailed than guilt.
She is ignoring major essential elements such as bias in the judicial system, bias in police officers, bias in the people on the jury. Or, even if we disregard the huge issue of individual bias, she has also ignored the systematic reasons, such as the laws that have been passed allowing greater sentences to Black and Brown individuals than White individuals for similar or identical crimes. In a quick google search, I uncovered many articles and sources stating that racial injustice in our judicial system exists. Here’s a couple of introductory headlines for you to consider. (I did a Google search for the sake of this post to show how easy it is to find credible resources.)
Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC). … A 2014 University of Michigan Law School study, for instance, found that all other factors being equal, black offenders were 75 percent more likely to face a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence than a white offender who committed the same crime.
Article linked here.
African Americans are burdened by a presumption of guilt that most defense lawyers are not prepared to overcome. As a result, African Americans make up 47% of exonerations even though they are only 13% of the population. Innocent Black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent White people, and Black people who are convicted of murder are about 50% more likely to be innocent than non-Black people convicted of murder.
This info can be found on the Equal Justice Initiative’s website, linked here.
(For further examples, articles, etc… I would encourage you to start your own Google search.)
We don’t get a “free pass” for having racist ideology as long as we acknowledge life begins in the womb. The two do not cancel each other out. When our kids disobey, we don’t let them get away with telling us, “But Bobby hit Sarah at lunch!” We all know deflection when we see it in our children. So why do we deflect as adults? Sin is sin and shouldn’t be justified, explained away, or swept under the rug because a personal viewpoint makes a different sin “bigger.” God cares about the unborn child equally as much as he cares about the born child. It’s time that Christians in America start acknowledging and acting on that truth as well.
As I read Ms. Johnson’s words, my body grew rigidly tense from the sorrow her words brought, the anger at the blatant lies and slander being promoted, and the horror in knowing those words will provide further support for authoritative systems, as well as American citizens, to continue the brutal and often deadly interactions with Black people in this country.
I know those words are genuinely believed. Not only by Ms. Johnson, but also by some men and women who live near my family. By some police officers that might one day pull my son or daughter over while they are driving. By a teacher who might be my child’s first class of the day.
Her words remind me that my children are not safe. Not in the same way that White children are.
My children will still have to be on guard. Be extra cautious. Do the extra work to disprove the stereotype to stay alive.
Beyond all my shock, grief, and anger stemming from Ms. Johnson’s words, however, I am equally, if not angrier with the leadership at the Republican National Convention.
Shame on you.
You invited a speaker, who a mere two months ago, promoted wrong, erroneous and dangerous allegations against men and women of Color and then acknowledged and stands by those words?
We know that the speakers are heavily vetted. We know that the RNC was well aware of her video. We understand that your decision to invite her to speak, knowing her beliefs on racial profiling and therefore racist stereotypes, was - by all ways that matter- an endorsement of her beliefs systems. At National Party Conventions, you don’t put anyone on a national stage and expect people to only listen to and believe the words they are speaking in their few minutes of air time.
Shame on you for brazenly endorsing the belief system that it’s ok to judge someone merely by the color of their skin before interacting with them.
Shame on you for boldly declaring racism via racial profiling is justified.
Shame on you for hosting a pro-life speaker who does not understand that her racial beliefs contribute to the culture that allows the innocent and unjust killings of life outside the womb.
Republican National Convention, shame on you.
My 3-year old son was attacked by a dog a couple of weeks ago. It was a friend’s dog who we had been around before, but for whatever reason when the dog came to greet us at the front door, he greeted me and my daughter with excitement and saw my son and simply saw him as a threat and attacked. It was a traumatizing moment for all of us, including the dog owner. Thankfully Luke was okay, and I think without the owner’s very quick reaction, we would have had a drastically different outcome. But obviously, this was a very scary moment for him.
It took us a long time to calm him down, and in the days since, he still is processing it. Facing other dogs has been scary for him, and even though he has been potty trained for months, he has started having accidents again. He is latched to my side, is whinier than normal and extra sensitive. As a mom, I have a choice. I could tell him to get over it. That not all dogs are bad and most are good, so stop whining. I could tell him that it only happened once and how many times has he been around a dog and that HASN'T happened? I could tell him that it was weeks ago and it's time to move on.
Or I can choose to comfort him. To gently remind him that I am here. I can hold him when he needs me. I can be heartbroken to see him so scared and anxious and be the strength he needs until he doesnt feel afraid anymore. I can choose compassion.
I am half Guatemalan and half Mexican. I am married to a white man. We are an interracial couple. As a latina woman, I have been called a spic, illegal, a wetback. I have been asked COUNTLESS times “where are you from?” and when I respond “I was born and raised in the Tulsa area,” I get the reply “No...where are you REALLLY from.” I have been treated differently on multiple occasions just because of the color of my skin. And the worst of all and more often than the rest, I have experienced tokenism. Tokenism is defined as the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a group of people. So that is me. Your token hispanic girl. Right along with your token black and asian people to make a certain group appear to be “diverse” and feel good about it.
Can I be honest with you? This is something that is not fun to type, and I know it won’t be fun to read. During this movement for racial equality over the past few months, it has not been the conversations with our black friends that have been difficult. The most difficult conversations by far have been with my white, Christian friends. They choose to see this as something political rather than a human rights issue. They choose to call the Black Lives Matter movement anti-Christian and anti-life rather than to take a moment to pause and try to understand the hurt that is being shared by the black population. I try to explain to them that my experiences pale in comparison to the experiences of my black friends, but I can understand their pain on a small level because I have experienced prejudice and racism multiple times in my life. Sadly, many of my white, Christian friends don’t want to hear my stories. They try to justify my pain and make excuses for people they've never even met. Or they simply tell me I could be exaggerating because I was so young. They try to comfort me by telling me “they see me as white.” Comfort is not you giving me a pass into your group of people. I am proud of my culture, my people, my heritage. I love that I am hispanic. These are only a few of many examples of racism that can hide in the hearts of those submersed in white culture without even realizing it.
So instead of making excuses, instead of dismissing my pain, and instead of crowning me as an honorary white person, could we instead try to have a bit more compassion? In our current climate, we could certainly afford to have it. In Mark 8, Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they had been with Him 3 days and had nothing to eat. He fed them. In Matthew 9, Jesus went through all the cities and villages, teaching in synagogues, sharing the gospel and healing the sick. And when he saw crowds, it says he had compassion for them “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (verse 36). In Luke 7, Jesus had compassion on a widow who had just lost her only son and comforted her before raising him from the dead. Compassion is a GOOD thing!
We have all heard the greatest commandment. “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 22: 37-40. I genuinely believe that all the people I have had hurtful conversations with would say that they are against racism. I believe they would be shaken to their core if they saw a blatant act of racism happen right in front of them or to a friend of theirs that was a person of color. But they fail to open their eyes to all the ways that racism has been established in our minds, culture, society, etc. Systemic racism TODAY in school funding practices, employment opportunities, housing opportunities, nutrition, and the list goes on and on. JUST as I am writing this, my neighbor two doors down who is Native American had a woman roll down her window as she was driving by his home. She asked him who lives there (he was sitting out on his driveway watching his daughter play). When he responded cheerfully, “I do,” she replied “Really?” and drove off shaking her head. She ASSUMED that he did not belong by the color of his skin. It’s one thing to think it, but another to have the audacity to stop and ask. I have had this happen to a couple of friends, sadly, and in different areas of the country. Racism does exist, and whether you agree or not with the organization itself of “Black Lives Matter,” all believers should be able to biblically see example after example of Christ having compassion on the outcast, having compassion on the hurting and loving ALL people, regardless of the color of the skin or their heritage.
It is beyond hurtful when a white friend reaches out and asks my thoughts, only to be slammed back with their racial opinions and ignorance in general. So here is your call to action….PLEASE have the decency to read ONE book, watch A documentary and have A conversation with a person of color about their experiences. Be open with what is going on in the world with your children and include them as much as you can. Diversify your children’s lives by diversifying YOUR life. Have an open mind, be empathetic to the experiences you can't relate to and DON’T dismiss them.
This may be an intellectual conversation for you, but for them it is an emotional and vulnerable thing to reveal their pain. To dismiss them is to dismiss their experience and their humanity.
In case you haven't already found a list of resources, here are a few to get started with:
Shows and Documentaries:
I once heard a white mom of biracial children and wife of a Black man say that it is as if she lives between two worlds. She no longer lives in the world she grew up in because she has started on the journey of learning about white privilege, racial injustice, and many of the issues being talked about so much in our nation today.
Yet, as a white mom, she will never live in the world that her Black husband and her biracial kids will. She will never fully understand what it means to be Black in this country.
Her reality is between the two worlds of white privilege and Black pain.
Her heartache could be felt in each syllable that she uttered. I clung on every word she spoke because for the first time I heard someone explain what I had been trying to articulate for myself.
This was over three years and yet I find myself clinging to that truth each month. Sometimes each day. Sometimes each hour.
These past weeks as I have held my son a few extra minutes each night, most of the minutes are spent begging the Lord for his safe-keeping until he is an old man. As I’ve scratched my daughter’s back when she lays her head on my lap, I plead that the Lord shows her from a young age that her beauty and worth are immeasurable knowing the world will try to force her to believe the opposite.
Like so many white Christians, I’ve been wrestling with a lot of questions the past couple of weeks. Aaron and I have talked a lot about what is our next step as an interracial family. We like many of you, want to be able to tell our kids as they grow older the ways that we changed the world for the better. We’ve also been asked by numerous friends for suggestions on what white friends can do moving forward.
I keep going back to the journey that has led me out of the predominantly white suburb that I grew up in, to the journey of learning that I’m now on. I’ve written out some actions that have been transformative in my own journey of learning to be an antiracist. I have not arrived, and I don’t think we should ever believe that we will. Until my dying day, I will want to be known as someone who is still trying to love others better than I did the day before. I hope these actions will be helpful for you on your journey as well. Although it seems to go without saying, I must mention that as a white person, I am unable to understand the stress and pain that Black individuals are experiencing- not just in this heightened season of awareness but every day of their lives.
A few days ago, Ayana Lage on her Instagram feed said, “I saw a comment last night that made my heart sink- someone thanking a white influencer for sharing something not about racism. “It’s a breath of fresh air to see something lighthearted,” they said. I am profoundly jealous of you if you found out about systematic racism in the last two weeks. It’s a privilege to learn about it instead of living it, and it baffles me that some white people are already tired.”
I’m honored that some of my lessons that I’ve learned might be helpful to you in your journey, but I also encourage and plead with you to seek out Black voices for your primary source of information, insight, and ways forward.
Here are some questions that I ask myself on this journey regarding how I support Black friends and their families:
1. Do I recognize there are real and heartbreaking issues that Black people endure? How am I acknowledging those issues (and those biases) privately in my own life and publicly in my areas of influence?
2. Have I started my own education initiative that isn’t based solely on my friends of Color to teach me? Am I aware that it is not the responsibility of my Black neighbor to enlighten me on how I have missed systematic racism in our country?
3. Do I believe the stories of racism and prejudice that POC share? When they say someone responded to them with prejudice, do I try to think of reasons beyond prejudice that could explain that white person’s behavior? . Do I continually try to give the benefit of the doubt to the stranger in their stories?
4. Do I show support without expectations? When I text my Black friends support or encouragement, do I expect them to respond with thanks and praise?
5. Am I using my voice? Silence both privately and publicly from white friends is hurtful. When Aaron and I see friends who are recognizing the injustice and then calling it out by name- that has been like balm to a wound. To know that white friends and families care for the injustice that POC have been facing for years is a necessary part of deepening our friendship. We each have platforms and areas of influence that we can use individually to a) raise awareness b) share that platform with POC (those who would like to) so they can speak/share with a group they may not normally interact with.
In the upcoming days and weeks, I’ll continue this blog series and share some practical action steps that Aaron and I have implemented in our home to increase diversity and knowledge in our everyday life.
If you would like a list of resources to grow in this area, please click here. I’ll keep adding to the list but will repost the link when I’ve added additional materials.
Come with me on this journey. I still have a long ways to go, but I know with every fiber of my being that I would rather be walking towards the People of Color in my life than standing still.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!