I don’t like to watch the news.
Honestly, most of what I know about current events comes from people posting their outrage and ignorance on social media about situations they don’t even understand nor have an invested interest in. People just want interaction and pageviews.
White people use hashtags like #AllLivesMatter and even #BlueLiveMatter but they don’t want to share a meal with Black people. They cross the street so as to not walk by Black people. They grip their purses a little tighter when they see Black people.
The real issue is intolerance.
My heart hurts.
I’m embarrassed to be an American these days.
I think we understand even more what should mean to be American now that we live in a foreign country.
We watch how the world reacts to the hate spewed by Donald Trump and his supporters. We see the reports of Black kids and men being gunned down in the streets, in front of their families.
Some of my Black friends share articles about how “White People Have No Place in Black Liberation.”
I see their point, but I’m torn.
We are not going to pray racism away.
We are not going to hug racism away.
We are not going to vote racism away.
How can I teach my children a better way than our history?
I grew up in a suburb south of Atlanta. I’m White. Most of our neighbors were White until I reached my teens. By the time I was sixteen, most of our neighbors were Black.
The schools I attended had a vast mix of White, Black, Mexican, Latino, Asian, Indian, Pakistani, everything. It was very diverse.
Lunchtime showed segregated tables – Blacks sat together; the Latinos sat together; the Asians sat together…some kids on the fringes of skintones or culture or whatever had nowhere to fit in so they gravitated towards the shade and attitude they blended best with.
This would have been an interesting read for me then and it sure is now:
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
One friend of mine had a Black father and a Korean mother. I only saw him at school. We had an art class together one semester.
My father didn’t like me socializing with anyone browner in skintone than I was.
I didn’t have many friends.
My biggest thought about that is if he were so concerned about racial mixing, why didn’t he make sure I lived in some exclusive gated community like some country club Rapunzel?
My parents have moved twice in the last 12 years or so and still complain they have some Black neighbors. My parents still exhibit their prejudice with ignorant comments and labels that I struggle to ignore. It angers me when they say things in front of my kids.
Some of my classmates (both Black and White ones) who had moved down South from up North didn’t understand the racial tension. They said the discrimination ideas were a Southern mentality. They didn’t see color like Southerners had been to trained to do.
My high school had violent gangs – The Rock Boys were a neo-Nazi White gang and there were Asian and Black gangs. I was mostly oblivious to this; I was too busy studying for biology and algebra.
There were also great class differences in my town. Rich and poor and most in-between. I grew up with my family and friends labeling some people “White trash” for various reasons.
Children are a product of their environment.
They believe what their parents tell them, up to a certain point.
I had students who believed they were less than because they had no money and an absent father.
I had students whose families were immigrants and were disadvantaged due to a language barrier. Her parents worked as janitors in the school but had been professionals in their country. Their credentials didn’t transfer over. It saddened me.
I had students who persevered and refused to settle and have become amazing, successful, hard-working, productive adults, despite-all-odds.
I had students who had every advantage – supportive parents, wealth, beauty, you-name-it…and threw it away for sex or drugs.
You might be surprised which students were which races because many of us still have preconceived notions despite trying to be unbiased.
Unfortunately, we’re not so far removed from the hatred of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Their memories of segregation, Jim Crow laws, the fight for Civil Rights have tainted too many aspects of our society.
This is where Christians need to lead the way in love.
We need to show the world what love is. Too many Christians look the other way, throughout history, not getting their hands dirty, not helping or offering an opinion.
How are we going to make history?
Remaining silent in the face of injustice is the same as supporting it.
My young son played catch with an older boy at the park. He mentioned it the other day when we were in the car, remembering that he had played with a boy who had darker skin than he does. He didn’t catch the boy’s name and we haven’t seen him since. We remember his kindness. He made my son’s day when he asked him to play catch. I didn’t fear my son playing with a Black boy. He didn’t notice anything other than joy of playing with a new friend.
But I know some parents who would discourage that interaction.
My teen daughter has a Black male friend and they communicate on Facebook because his family PCS’ed. But, he created a secret account to hide his friendship from his mother. Racial tension goes both ways. I don’t fear this friendship. But his evangelical Black mother fears for her son on multiple levels.
We can learn from each other’s differences. We need more kindness. We need to be more approachable. We need to make someone’s day.
Jesus doesn’t notice skin color. I train my children to see people. But I also teach them about racism so we can actively combat racism.
My kids see skin color the same way they notice someone’s hair color or texture, the color of their eyes, or how tall they are.
Attitudes are so different in other parts of the world. Travel and teaching about diversity is important. Teaching about BIPOC during Black history month shouldn’t be isolated to just thirty days a year.
White parents need to begin by educating ourselves.
I found these books rather tone deaf:
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
- White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
- Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby and also video study
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
- White Savior: Racism In The American Church video
- Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
- Want To Have Better Conversations About Racism With Your Parents? Here’s How
- Raising Antiracist Kids by Local Passport Family
Hi Jennifer! I came across your blog as I was searching for something meaningful to do with my 5th grade students in honor of Black History Month. “Our Souls are the Same Color” just jumped out at me, and a poem began to formulate in my mind. It’s not finished, but I think it will be a thought provoking piece for our Black History assembly. Thank you for the inspiration, and I’ll share if you want when I’m finished…
Jennifer Lambert says
I would love to hear it!