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.
The ongoing debate on Charlottesville has been heavy on my heart, and I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers, but I do hope to bring perhaps a different perspective on a couple areas : the argument regarding the appropriateness of removing Confederate statues and the Christian’s need for equality in press coverage.
There is a voice that says history is history- the Confederate statues simply reflect that there was a war against tyrannical federal government and slavery was a small part of the war- almost an afterthought. I would simply ask that one review the historical context of the Civil War. For myself, my family, and the students I work with, statues of Confederate generals do not remind us of States Rights but rather slavery.
To say that we should simply accept history, and move on, sounds logical, but isn’t. Obviously we can’t change history, but as Christians, we continually weigh if it was right or not. If we should simply accept history, then why are Christians still fighting to end abortion in this country? Roe v Wade made it part of our history, but we don’t accept that neutrally (nor should we). We also cannot deny the impact that (now) years of the sin of abortion has brought on our country from morality, to economy, to missed contributions by the millions aborted, etc.… we are living in the effects of the sin. The same is true for slavery- yes, it’s part of our past, but as Christians, we must understand the effects of that sin on our nation and that it still affects us (all of us) today.
In my experience, if a town has a stand-alone statue of a historical figure it is because they are honoring that figure. I understand that General Lee exhibited great leadership qualities, but he also led the fight for a grave sin. How are we really learning from our past if we honor the man who championed the war to continue one of America’s greatest sins? I think most conservative Christians do not support abortion nor do they want a statue of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) in their town. I know if a statue of Margaret Sanger was raised in my town, I would not go visit it as a chance to learn about history- even though she could also be considered a great leader considering what she accomplished (even if one disagrees with it). Why is it different for those who fought for slavery? Personally, I find it hard to defend one but not the other.
In my opinion, removing a statue that serves to honor a man who fought for slavery is not erasing history rather it’s acknowledging that there is a deep rooted sin of hatred and arrogance derived from slavery (also when you take into consideration many of the monuments of the Confederate Generals were erected years later as the Jim Crow era in our country was beginning). Our monuments if constructed correctly, will acknowledge the past and the sin of our past, so we can learn from it without honoring the sin.
In regards to the second issue- something my husband and I learned early on in our relationship is that a sincere apology means owning what we did wrong. It means nothing to my husband if I treated him like dirt all day, and then at the end of the day, he says to me, “I don’t appreciate how you spoke with me today” but my response is “I’m sorry you’re in a bad mood and didn’t like how I treated you. We both are at fault for today.”
Actually, no, we are not. I am, and it matters that I acknowledge that. Obviously, my right to disagree with my husband’s opinion hasn’t been taken away, but if my right is my focus, then I have failed in my relationship with my husband.
On an infinitely grander scale with grave consequences, the same is true for Christians unwillingness to admit when there’s an issue but rather to be so consumed with how our rights are being preserved. I can’t count the number of blogs, articles, and posts I have seen where the point was to discuss media bias, improper coverage, or real causes of Charlottesville rather than to simply join hands with our brothers and sisters, mourn the loss of life, the devaluing of humanity, and the open hatred for people made in the image of God. I fear we are losing a great battle to show our nation Christians care more for people than the press.
In conclusion, John 13:35 says the world will know us by our love- but can we say that is true of us in the recent past? If someone has read everything I’ve posted, heard every conversation I have had, and watched every action I’ve taken, will they walk away knowing that more than anything else I love Jesus and love people? Because, if there is any other perception, I am not living the life Jesus asks of me.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!