Last night we started watching Hidden Figures with the kids. It wasn’t intentionally to launch black history month. It just felt like the right time.
Yesterday, when I dropped Asher off at middle school, we saw a situation between a white boy and a black boy. It felt like it was escalating to a fight, but honestly at that age, it is hard to tell if it’s besties being rowdy or anger, unless you’re close enough to hear the words. As I drove away, I saw it. The white kid was following behind the black kid just yelling. I realized it wasn’t a friendly encounter when the black kid turned back around. I saw his eyes. He didn’t know what to do. I saw the tenderness of a little boy scared of the kid yelling at him, mixed with the pre-teen need to feel like a man. In the brief moment as I was forced to move on in line, the understanding of what was happening slowly illuminated in my mind.
I left the school but finally turned around to go back and—do what? I wasn’t sure. But I knew that if they had actually wound up fighting, I wanted to stand as a witness for what I had seen.
One of the most wonderful spaces in our lives is our church. When it was founded, our pastor prayed for the blessing of diversity. The Lord was generous in answering that prayer. As a benefactor of this wise request, I have learned a lot from people who look different from me. Most of my life I learned it through defensive encounters, which didn’t really fully explain things or enlighten me. But as a brother and sister in Christ, growing together under the intentional pursuit not of tolerance, but unity only a common bond of Jesus can build, I have really started to learn.
As a mama to white kids I don’t have to teach Asher some of the things I now see my friends teach their boys. I knew that at school yesterday, if the black kid threw a punch, no matter how much the other kid seemed to deserve it, he would still have been wrong. But now I see that the potential trajectory for a black kid who gets expelled for fighting shoots different than it would for a white kid—at least a white kid in a middle income family.
If reading this causes you to bristle, stop and pray for God to give you a tender heart. If racial discussions automatically make you defensive, that is a big red flag that it’s a piece of you that the Lord wants to soften. No matter the color of your skin. Defensiveness flows both ways.
Here’s my challenge: it’s one that I was given as an assignment in grad school. I was in a cultural diversity class working on my counseling degree. Our professor had us keep a journal that semester. We were required to put ourselves in a situation each week where we were the minority, and write our feelings and experiences. It was a beautiful mess. I got creative. I didn’t limit it to race. I looked for times where I was significantly the youngest, the only one without children, I put myself in a room with people who had lots of money, people who live in poverty. Etc. It softened my heart to so many people groups. It’s something I still try to be intentional about doing
Maybe you’re like me, and your year didn’t start off in a way that you could launch all those big changes the new year usually inspires. I’m launching some today. February 1 is my New Year do-over. You’re welcome to try my diversity challenge! I would love for you to share your experiences!
As we watched the movie, we paused it several times to explain. I’m really glad a lot of the issues we had to teach our kids about are super foreign to them.