The events of this week in Charlottesville, Virginia have our country reeling, and have many white people struggling with how to respond to our black friends and loved ones. When I saw this post from Rachel Macy Stafford, the writer behind the Hands Free Mama, about a hard moment her white daughter shared with her black best friend, I knew I had to share. Like children often do, Stafford’s daughter showed all of us adults that responding to these hard, hurtful things is simpler than we make it out to be.
In Stafford’s post, below, she shares a photo of the two girls, and says:
I’ll never forget what my daughter said after her best friend was subjected to a racist comment on the school bus one afternoon.
“I asked her if she was okay,” my child said tearfully. “She didn’t say anything, so I just scooted closer.” Reluctantly, she admitted, “I didn’t know what to do, Mama, so I just hurt with her.”
I hurt with her.
It took me a moment to recover from that.
I filed those powerful words away and continued observing this mighty pair.
She goes on to describe the girls’ friendship, saying that they clicked instantly upon meeting and always have each others’ backs, no matter what the situation. Then, Stafford goes on to make some deep statements about what we all can learn and SHOULD learn during this divisive, hurtful week in our country, and ultimately, what we should DO:
What if we collectively remember, “I’ll hurt with you,” is something we can all do when we don’t know what to do?
What if we collectively look into the eyes of our brothers and sisters to acknowledge their story and their pain rather than closing our eyes or looking away?
What if we collectively acknowledged our privileges and blessings would be even greater if shared by our sisters and brothers?
What if we collectively agree it is not “your back” or “my back,” but “our back” if we are to create a unified and peaceful world for future generations?
I think we can all agree there is a lot on the line for our country right now. Unity, peace, progress, understanding, and love are all on the line, and it’s hard to know if they’re going to make the cut.
But then my husband sends me a photo. And this is what I see on the line at a local football game.
The goal of this mighty little team is not to win, have the most, or be the best.
The goal of this mighty little team is to love … to love each other as they want to be loved.
The goal of this team is to have “our back.”
For they know they are stronger together than they are alone.
Let us take note.
There’s so much on the line.
But love can prevail.
Friends, I’ve seen SO much compassion and outpouring for our brothers and sisters of color this week. And it’s been beautiful. But I’ve also seen lots of “I’m not going to apologize for something I didn’t do” stuff going on as well. And that, that’s just not helpful. What is helpful is acknowledging that some people have struggles that people with less pigment in their skin just don’t have. And that it exists, and that it’s not fair. Just acknowledging it is a very helpful first step in changing it.
I’m not perfect, and I am SORRY. I AM sorry for things I didn’t do. I am sorry that systemic racism exists (and I am no longer afraid to admit that it does exist.) I am sorry for every bias I’ve ever felt, because that is not of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sorry that mothers of black children have to worry about their kids being hurt physically or emotionally simply because of the the color of their skin. That is something I will not have to experience as a mom of white children. I’m sorry for all the hurt people of color experience I’ve IGNORED or looked away from because it was inconvenient and HARD for me to stare it in the face.
And though it’s hard, and it’s scary, and honestly, I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong, today I am promising to take a tip from Stafford’s little daughter. From this wise child, who, when she saw a friend targeted because of her race, decided to scoot closer and hurt with her. And be willing to BE hurt with her.
Love CAN prevail—if we let it.