I am a white momma raising five black children. Three of them are black boys. They are beautiful, bright, kind, and absolutely precious to me. They are little now and most people find them darling. (They are.) And while people think they are cute now, how will they be perceived as they grow? As they look like men?
Can you imagine how parents of little black boys must be feeling these days?
How do I simultaneously teach them that they are perfect just as God created them to be…that they are beautiful, strong, and good. That they have worth and value and should be proud of who they are….but also teach them that the world may not see them that way? That they’ll need to be “extra” respectful of authority and need to worry about how they’ll be perceived because of their skin color? How do you teach this double standard and maintain their value and integrity?
I haven’t a clue.
I don’t want to teach my children about the realities of this world, and yet somehow I must try prepare them. I must go above and beyond in teaching my babies how to interact with law enforcement…to keep their hands visible, to announce their movements before they make them, to give eye contact, not to mumble, and not to argue even if questions or accusations seem unfair.
Once upon a time I truly believed that if I taught my children to be respectful and use their manners it would all be fine. And although it hurts to write this out…that they would be protected because they are a part of our family….with white parents. I cringe because I don’t want to admit this, but my own privilege protects my kids for now. It’s yucky, isn’t it? But I know it’s true.
One day in the not distant future my precious boys will be men. They will grow and be out on their own…and people will make assumptions about them based upon their appearance. I want to go back to being a color blind child. To believing that what you looked like didn’t matter. That was naive, I know. But it was easier.
It’s complicated to teach the balance of dignity, worth, and value, with the reality that they will surely face injustice. To prepare them for reality, but to protect their hearts. To celebrate who they are, and why they are amazing just the way their Creator made them while society sometimes tells them otherwise. I don’t know how to do this, but I will continue to seek the One who does for wisdom in raising them, asking for their protection, and His grace for their understanding of their identity in Him.
Friends, things have to change. They have to change one conversation and understanding at a time. ALL are going to have to stand up and speak against injustice and discrimination. And we need to LISTEN. Whether you think there is a problem or not is irrelevant…LISTEN to one another. Our voices together have to bridge the gap in the racial divide. I believe that we can do better…and communication, understanding, and a whole lot of Jesus is the only way.
Kathy Garrison writes at KathyGarrison.net.