REPOST: This is a repost from about 5 years ago, and it is telling that times are worse than when I wrote this. Yet someone recently told me they do not believe in race. Dear God, please make this stop!
For those of you who feel the same, I believe that race was never intended for the purposes that exist today. At least not in the mind of a creator God who creatively created humans uniquely. Instead, race has been used to oppress and perpetuate systems of oppression that leave room for the abuse of power. This is what we are seeing in action today.
In my 20’s, I wrote a poem about what animal I would be, I chose a bird. I went on to describe all the reasons why, which included the ability to see things from above and how that view would look different. Forty-two years into my life (as it were), in so many ways, I see two worlds that seem so far apart. Yet it is in the aerial view that things look quite different I think – certain things just don’t matter, many matters matter not! I prefer this viewpoint!
Look at how life looks from this view. (Ok, snap, snap, back to the real story.)
Race and people groups have always been a topic I was curious about since I can remember. Recently, in my writing endeavors, I searched Google for books on how to struggle through the variety of disparities they see, including race and particularly bi-racial life. I think “his-story” or as we know it, history is an excellent way to see and understand life’s current issues. To my surprise, but then not really, there are very few books on the experiences of “mixed kids.” It’s these things that remind me of the disconnect between the two worlds I speak of. So to remove some of this dichotomy I speak of, some of my next few posts are going to be on race topics. Identity. and Familiarity.
By these talks and parts of my story, I hope to be a peacemaker as I tell my story.
How skin color has that much power to change the path of one’s life, if even for good, is still crazy to me. James McBride shares his story of two worlds in his book, The Color of Water, he writes,
I thought it would be easier if we were just one color, black or white. I didn’t want to be white…I would have preferred that Mommy were black. Now as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds. My view of the world is not merely that of a black man but that of a black man with something of a Jewish soul.James McBride
I relate to him and I relate to his mother, though I was “white,” among mostly “white” family members I frequently questioned why I looked so different but wanted nothing to do with those who thought their whiteness was better. I am now more comfortable in my skin (please allow me), I appreciate all the viewpoints I have experienced in this skin.
I spent so many years in the “black” world, from my ex-husband’s family who took me in at 15 YOA to my experiences with my bi-racial children, they shade in all the empty places I questioned growing up. I see color when I am asked to identify myself or my children, in terms of color… and unfortunately, that is asked a lot in American society. Race still remains a line item we use to categorize, rate, and sometimes even determine what will be, though most would not admit or acknowledge this. It is strange to me why we dislike this discussion. I will admit my racism. It is the white (pun intended) elephant in the room that I refuse to ignore. I am racist against certain societal behaviors of certain people groups. My racism is towards a person’s color but not because of the skin color in and of itself, but how that people group acts in general. And I am not talking about stereotypes. I am talking about the real and the raw that I see every day.
Online discussions on blogs and social media about our society’s racial divide impact me… they cause me to think deeper. Suggested solutions by a few were on point for sure: racial and cultural training in police departments, politicians, or people in power, actually doing something, and the need for racially equal people of influence to have a voice and engage with young people on solutions.
All of these solutions are good and for sure a place to start, I just don’t think it will truly fix the reoccurring tragedies we hear about. I don’t intend to make this post about solutions, or even police shooting young black men, nor do I say that to minimize those evils, rather, I am writing to blog my story. I believe there is only one answer ultimately that will bring about true reconciliation and restoration and that is salvation through Jesus Christ which changes our hearts, from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Only a heart of stone could murder a person because they are black.
Yet I digress!
Growing up, my Grandpa, who was from Italy, and brought to the U.S. when he was young, abandoned by his parents, and raised in an orphanage was extremely prejudice against any people group except Italians. He, unfortunately fostered an environment of hate, exclusion, division and fear. He encouraged me through his words and actions towards me to not like people because of where they were born, the color of their skin or the language they spoke. I am not exactly sure how I ended up where I am today, but one thing I am certain of – I decided that his beliefs were not something I was taking with me in my adult life.
Herein is my point, we each have the power to decide what we will take with us into our adult lives. The fearful police officer (different than afraid) who feels uncertain or is conditioned to be uncertain of someone who has darker skin or is “black” chooses to think that way. Without warrant this is considered irrational fear. And even after being “trained” to not be prejudice/racist, he could still choose to not like black people and likely never admit it. Knowledge alone, is like a Band-Aid, we don’t heal from the Band-Aid!
I am not giving a blanket, pat answer to racism, and surely this isn’t a simple matter; and my jacked up thinking can’t be only designated to racism, obviously this applies to all the issues of life! We need our minds to be right in order to be and do right!
I tell my children quite often when they do something out of character, “they have lost their minds!” I completely relate to McBride’s mother when she made remarks regarding “the white devil” and “white people” as though she were not white herself. I am racist against people groups who are unfair and oppressive – and these people come in all colors! But I feel the same way about white people’s children as they have been oppressors historically and still are today, therefore my views, as McBride’s views are not irrational, but rather quite logical.
Surely, I dream of a society where all colors are truly equal (like the late Martin Luther King, respectively) and seen as the Creator designed it to be in the first place – ethnically different for sure because that makes it all so fun and creative, like God, yet indeed equal. And since as children, we internalize what we hear in our childhood and from those who raise us, just as I did from my Grandpa, that means to not be “racist” is an individual decision that each person makes whether through omission or commission.
In my journey to share my story, I would be remised to leave out the hard parts of my story. As I write my book in this blog, it is my hope that my writing serves as a guide to my grandchildren and others, it is my hope that conversations about difficult topics, like race, will serve as a compass to guide their thinking about their racial identity, I will also continue to pray for change in the hearts of not just the “white people” but black and brown and cream and caramel colored people, too! Because in Jamaican, racism exists too. So we pray! And we tell our story. It is her-story or his-story that has the power to change the way we view ourselves and consequently, others.
What say you?