My Family, In Black and White
I live in Mississippi. This is a place where, with frightening shades of Trayvon Martin, a nearby neighborhood's Facebook page gives detailed descriptions of each black man whom residents have seen walking through the area. It's a place that has made some progress, but race is undoubtedly an issue here.
But it's not just an issue in the South. Ligtvoet lives in New York City, and even he writes, "Raising kids of color by white parents is not just a matter of love; it requires a racial consciousness that is common in families of color, but rarely developed in white families."
I'm not happy about the people who stop me in the grocery store to question my fitness to be a mother to my kids. Not happy about the double- and triple-takes everywhere. But, as a parent, I've learned to be almost thankful for it. This scrutiny enables me to enter into my kids' experience of a racially conscious world and to set for them an example of how to navigate it.
Someday (sooner than I'd like to imagine), my kids won't be with me every time they go out in public. People's nosy questions and unfriendly looks right now are the best chance I have to sympathize with my kids' minority experience, the best chance I have to model for them how to act in the face of prejudice or false assumptions.
By the time they are older, it will be too late. By then, my lectures will sound hollow unless I've done these things, unless I've lived faithfully in my moments as a minority.
I want to demonstrate that I am not ashamed of who I am. I am proud to be my children's mother. I am the white mother of black children. This is a beautiful thing.
I hope, by watching me interact with skeptical dog-walkers and store clerks, my children learn to be proud of who they are, too. After the trial of George Zimmerman, Thabiti Anyabwile wrote these words: "To be 'Black'... is to be beautiful. It is to be as God designed us... We ought not to diminish or change that for one moment—much less when we're teaching our boys how to navigate the world." It is this unashamed before God and the world that I want to model for my kids. Whatever we are, it is good.
I want my children to learn to be hopeful. I want them to assume that, by God's grace, people can change their negative attitudes. In his book, Bloodlines, John Piper writes about racial generalizations and prejudice. He concludes that one indication of a "good heart" is someone who is "willing to take risks to act against negative expectations and belittling stereotypes when dealing with a person. Paul said, 'Love. . .believes all things, hopes all things' (1 Cor. 13:7). I think he meant that love strives to believe and hope for the best, not the worst."
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