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:
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.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!