Truth: I am a white, educated woman living in middle class America, and it was only a few years ago that I began to really grasp how privileged this makes me. Why a few years ago? Because it was then that I became the mother to a black daughter.
I am not proud to admit that it took having a black child to look through the aisles of Target with critical eyes. “Where are all of the brown skinned dolls?” I suddenly wondered. Movie characters? Protagonists in literature? And WAIT. You mean to tell me that there are no “flesh-toned” Bandaids to match the color of my black child’s gorgeous tone of flesh?
It’s just not fair, I cried out. It’s not okay.
Then, there was Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. And for once, I paid attention to their names. And faces. And families. And stories. And I mourned.
It’s just not fair. It’s not okay.
And then Charleston. More lives tragically taken in the name of racist hate. Terrorism. And black church after church burned to the ground. In 2015. 2015, people.
This is not fair. And it’s not okay.
The pit in my stomach just grows deeper when I start getting real with myself. Would I care as much about these issues- about these lives and the racial divide that still runs so deep in our nation- if I did not have a black child? Would I be as emotionally invested? Would the tears flow just as readily? Or would the privilege I enjoy as a caucasian American cause me to avert my eyes?
These are the questions that have kept me up at night. The ones that then flow into the nagging “okay, so what now?” questions. I rack my brain trying to come up with some brilliant solution to the racism and hate and injustice, and I draw blank after blank. Until I decide to use what I’ve got. To use the very thing with which I was born and over which I had no control- my skin color and the privilege that it affords me.
The same privilege that has allowed me to go through the vast majority of my days without recognizing how few black faces are represented in media, fashion, and literature. The privilege that allows me to go without sitting our son down one day to admonish him to avoid hoodies. To always keep his hands visible when confronted by law enforcement. The privilege that allows me to even write this post without being labeled an “angry black woman.”
I’m going to use my white privilege, and I’m going to use my trembling fingers and stammering lips to speak. Because I believe that black lives matter. Yes, white lives matter too. Red and yellow, black and white- they. all. matter. But in light of the long history of systematic racism in our nation and the glaring reality that this racism is certainly not dead, I just don’t see evidence in our society that we really believe and act on the truth that all men and women and children are created equal.
So, I’m going to use my privilege to call a spade a spade. To call racism racism. To hopefully help some of us- myself included- take the blinders off. In doing so, we can look to our black brothers and sisters and say, “I see you. I hear you. You are loved. And I’m standing with you. For you.”
And I’m going to pray. I’m going to pray to the God who IS love. The God of justice. Trusting that he is wholly good and can do all things. That he weeps with those who weep. And that, when I am so caught up in myself that I fail to notice those around me who may be hurting, he is El Roi, the God who sees.
When I pray the words “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” I’m going to remember what we’re told heaven actually looks like:
“…I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)
If I’m praying for THIS to be what earth is like, then things are going to change. They must. It changes what our churches look like. What our friendships look like. And, at times, it will be uncomfortable.
Just like writing about race is uncomfortable. And confessing my blindness to racism and injustice is uncomfortable. And thinking outside of ourselves and acknowledging our privilege is, yes, uncomfortable.
But, you see, sometimes stepping outside of ourselves and risking our own comfort levels is precisely what it takes for change to begin, and Lord knows, we should want things to change. I do so badly that it nearly makes my blood boil. I’m going to fumble around and royally screw up my words and ask really dumb questions along the way. I know myself well enough to expect anything different. It’s well worth the risk though. And it’s long past due.