Recently, following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, it feels like a real turning point in our country when it comes to racial reconciliation.
We have seen protests. Riots. Speeches. Sermons. Conversations. Free movies on Amazon Prime. Books on this topic by black authors on best seller lists.
And what I’ve learned is simply that I have a lot to learn. And I think that my being intentional about learning is really, really important. Not only for me, but for the children I am raising. Because goodness knows, we need them to do better than we have when they are adults.
So what have I learned?
First, I’ve learned that it matters to take the simple step of reaching out to my black friends to let them know that I care about them. The first text I sent was after Amaud Arbury was murdered. I couldn’t stop thinking about a law school classmate of mine. Finally, my excuses of “I don’t know what to say” just seemed stupid and I nervously typed a text that started with, “I really hope me texting you about this isn’t offensive but if it is, I’m going to trust that you know my heart and that’s not my intent.” Of course, he wasn’t offended. Since that time, I have made it a point to reach out to other friends because I just can’t imagine the pain they must feel and how tired they must be. I know in the scheme of things, this barely registers as doing something, but I think that it matters to the people in my life and I know it matters to me.
Second, I’ve learned there is so much about history that I flat do not know. Most of it was awful. How did I go through 20 years of schooling and never one time hear about Emmett Till? Until this year, I had no idea what Juneteenth was. I’d never read a word about the Tulsa Race Massacre. This is insane. It is unacceptable. And it is something that I have the power to remedy. I will be studying and reading and learning more about black history and racial reconciliation. I am starting with LaTasha Morrison’s book, Be the Bridge.
Third, I’ve started to have conversations about race with my kids. I’ve hesitated before, worried that because they do not seem to notice differences in race, me pointing them out would be showing them that people are different. News flash: People are different! Studies show kids as young as three understand differences in races. (If you want a broken heart, read up on the children’s study using black and white dolls and what the black children said about the black dolls.) And even if my kids don’t know it now, someone will sure tell them one day, and I would rather them learn and talk with me then some little jerk kid at school one day. And I want them to know and see and celebrate every human as being made in the image of God. One way we have done this is with Matthew Paul Turner’s book called “When God Made You” and that has been a good conversation starter.
Finally, I’ve learned to listen and to people of color and to believe what they say. I have never lived in their shoes. I don’t know what it’s like to worry about dying when I am pulled over by a cop or being scared to wear a hoodie or run in my own neighborhood. So when I ask a person of color how something makes them feel—like the confederate flag or seeing a video or the existence of a statue—I’m committed to believing them. I may not agree or understand, but I will respect them enough to believe what they tell me. So I am asking my personal friends and I’m listening to famous voices I respect like LaTasha Morrison, Jo Saxton, Carlos Whitaker and Mike Kelsey.
I’ve got a long way to go. I’ve got a lot to learn. But I feel like learning that was the first step. I pray that as I learn, I can do my best to support people of color and to raise children who will live in a world that knows a lot more than me.