I don't pretend to understand. I am white - always have been. Not trying to be funny, it's just a fact that "colors" how I see life. I have not ever really known what it is to be a person of color in this nation. I remember the first time I went to school with someone a different color than me. My parents told me to be friendly, but not necessarily make friends. Seems like a contradiction, but most people will understand what that means. My parents weren't bad people, nor did they want to see harm to anyone...they just came from a different time, a time when separate bathrooms still existed and separate everything was seen as the norm. Yes, I am that old.
I remember my father telling me when I came to college here in Mississippi that I should be careful. He said something along the lines of, "I know you have black friends here, but Mississippi is different. They will shoot you for walking down the street with someone black there." I guess even to Alabama, Mississippi seemed to be a scary place when it came to race. He was wrong, by the way.
I remember being a young white woman going down into what I'd always been taught was "the hood" to pick up kids to take them to church. I was supposed to be afraid...I don't think I often was. But honestly, I had no idea what it was to be a part of that community. I was an outsider. I never let my guard down, really.
And then I became the parent of a child that was not white, and everything changed. While I still don't really understand what it is to be a person of color, I encountered real, obvious hatred for the first time based simply on the color of skin.
One of the most vivid times of awareness came many years ago when my daughter was just a baby. I walked into a drug store to buy some candy for kids church; they were having a sale and I needed a LOT! As I entered, I passed a man who looked at me and at my daughter that I held in my arms. I was used to people looking at her - she was and is beautiful. People were always commenting on how precious she was...but not this time. The sneer on the man's face and the disgust in his voice when he uttered, "Ugh" as he passed us was evident. I turned. "Excuse me? Do you have a problem with me and my child?" but he just kept walking out the door. I was literally shaking with rage.
I went on to get the candy, (I still had kid's church to prepare for after all) and the cashier, who was white I think, started to apologize that I had to encounter someone like that and what he had said. I mumbled something about it's okay and as I handed over my money I distinctly heard the Lord begin to speak to me. "Let it go. Don't hold on to that anger because if you do, you will pass it on to your child." As angry as I was, I never wanted her to feel that rage that I was feeling at the moment...not that sweet innocent child.
Over the years, I encountered some who embraced me and my family and some who judged us...people from both colors of skin, black and white. But mostly, I have found grace and love. I watched as my children tore down walls simply by being who they were created to be.
Fast forward to when my daughter started dating. One of the young men she brought home was a young black man. He would drive almost an hour at times to come and visit her and watch tv in my living room. One night, as he left to go home rather late, I felt for the first time that fear. He drove an old car and I began to worry. What if he broke down? What if no one stopped because he was black? What if those who stopped on that long stretch of road were people who might see him as an enemy and hurt him? That was the first time I realized what others might have felt.
Then my own son got old enough to drive. He is one of the "preppiest" people I have ever met! I'm still not sure how he is that way - most of our clothes are hand-me-downs or come from thrift stores! Think of Carlton from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-air" and you have my son. He is not black, but he is very dark skinned and often mistaken for black and now that he drives a long distance back and forth to school, the worry has returned. My husband sent him a video that explained how you should react if pulled over by an officer, where to keep your hands and such. My son's reaction..."but I'm not black." No, son, but you look black. The last traffic ticket you got, (yes he drives too fast sometimes) had you identified as black. It's not who you are, it's who they think you might be...
Now before I go much further, let me say I support law enforcement! I pray for them! I run races to help raise funds for the families of fallen officers. I know a LOT of officers and I am so thankful that these men and women stand in the gap for us all...but just like I felt that rage all those years ago when I held my daughter in that drug store, I feel fear for my children now. Fear because of the stress and tension that exists. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a police officer to go to work each and every day having to look over their shoulder because someone hates them because of the uniform they wear. They have to choose to protect those who sometimes hate them. That kind of constant stress can cause them to misjudge and make wrong decisions, no matter what the color of their skin.
So I'm torn. I'm white...so white I practically glow in the dark. My children are seen as black even though they are both white and black and, in the case of my son, not African American at all. I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to fear because I am white, because they are people of color, or because our police are in such danger every day. I'm torn because I understand, only a little, the point of view from both "sides." I have seen my daughter face what she sees as racism...and I understand what it is to be white and have people take something I have said to mean something entirely different than what was meant, simply because my skin is a different color than theirs. I wonder if what she sees is really there or simply being taken the wrong way, or is it a little of both. I pray daily that she would not inherit that rage I felt that day when she was just a baby. I let it go, and I pray that she never takes it up.
At one time, my daughter even wanted to become a police officer...you can imagine the can of worry worms that started!
I don't know the answer, but I do know that God calls His children to be peacemakers. That means we are problem solvers. We are to stand in the gap and not only pray but help find a way to tear down walls that divide. Jesus did it. He talked with those that were different. He ate with those He wasn't "supposed" to. He touched those rejected as unclean. He didn't walk in fear - He walked in love. Am I able to do the same?
I want to be like the little child and her mother that we encountered when my daughter was just a toddler. We were at the zoo and a little girl noticed that I wasn't the same color as my baby. She innocently asked, "Are you her mommy?" I could see her mother squirm, worried that her daughter's question might somehow offend. "Yes, I am her mommy. Are you wondering why our skin isn't the same color?" Yes, she nodded. "Well, God has a big color box and He loves making people of every color! I'm so glad, aren't you?" Yes, she nodded again and I watched the apprehension in her mother's face ease. A little child so easily accepted that God loves to make people of all colors and simply was unafraid to ask when she didn't understand.
Red, yellow, brown, black, and white...we are all precious in His sight. I may be torn about the strife that is going on right now between colors, but that love is something I can rest assured in, and I will choose to reach out and join hands with those around me...no matter what the color of their skin or the uniform they wear.
Psalm 133 (Short, but exactly what we need!) NIV