Thursday, February 7, 2008

Black or White

This is an unusually serious post for me but I feel like it needs to be written.

Tim and I were talking last night about our neighborhood and the perception we had of it before we lived here; before we knew the names that go with the faces; before it was our 'hood. We were disappointed with what we had to admit about ourselves. You see, Tim and I try not to boast in many things (apart from Christ). We know what losers we are and don't mind telling all of you what losers we are. But if there was one thing we had confidence in, I would say it was our indiscriminate love of people. And yet...

Tim was remarking on how he remembers in years past driving down our very street and having a sense of uneasiness; being more on alert than he would be in a typical suburban community. Passing kids on the street and wondering what they were up to. I started laughing. It seemed like such an irony considering that 15 minutes earlier (about 9:30 pm) we pulled in from church and without any hesitation Tim (along with three of our four children) walked straight over to two black gentlemen standing on the corner opposite our house to give them left over bread from visitation. He never stopped to wonder if they were in a gang or if it was a drug deal going down. Never thought about it.

Then the reality of it set in and it wasn't that funny anymore. I mean, if we were guilty of such a stupid mindset at one time, what were people thinking about our kids when they drive by? How many times do white people pass my house and see my kids or others from the area and write them off as "thugs in training?" ugh.

You see, there are different types of racism. There's the racism that exist by default based on a history of privilege defined by color. It's the fact that if I, being white, and a another woman (being black or even hispanic) enter a store at the same time there is the potential that I will be acknowleged or served first and differently just because I am white. I am not actively pursuing a position of privilege but it has been given to me by the lines of history. And unless I (we, you) am keenly aware of such situations and intentionally offer preferential treatment to someone else it continues unchecked. You may think this doesn't happen so much today. It does.

Then we have racism that is deliberate. It is the determined choice to belittle, demean, avoid, ridicule, injure, humiliate, etc. based on your opinion and dislike of another's race. It is the kind of racism that drug a man to his death in 1998, and motivated teenagers to hang a noose on school property in Louisiana just last year.

And the category I think (hope) most of us fall into is racism based on assumption. It's when we assume something about another person based on stereotype or sometimes personal (though usually isolated) experience. It doesn't come from a decided hatred but from an unfair presumption. But it can be just as damaging. Maybe more so because it's too easily overlooked.

We just figured that if we who tend (some would say) to overthink racial issues were surprised by the ugliness we found inside then, what blind spots do others who've rarely ponder it have? Do you ever think about it?

I must think about these things because my children's lives have been and will always be impacted by them. If I cannot admit my own shortcomings how will I ever find a way to graciously confront the idiot (er, I mean person ;-)) who intentionally or inadvertently treats my kids unjustly? I have to prepare for the fact that their may be those in my own church family who have loved and doted on my kids for years who will suddenly have a change of heart when my cute black boys become handsome black teenagers interested in their fair skinned beauties.

It's all very heavy and I'm sorry if you are disappointed in the lack of humor today. I'll try to get something light-hearted for you later. I gave you a list of movies and kids books the other day but here are a few great books for adults if you are interested in learning more about developing relationships and crossing racial barriers to reach out to others.

Grace Matters by Chris Rice
Gracism by David A. Anderson
Reconciliation Blues by Edward Gilbreath
It's the Little Things by Lena Williams
Divided by Faith by Micheal O. Emerson and Christian Smith

(btw, the spell check feature has been shot for a while now so please ignore any horrible spelling.)


Troy & Tara Livesay Family said...

Boo for serious.

And, yes ... I have all sorts of preconceived notions about people of color ... especially the ones that are not my kids. Sad and true and something to think about.

Love you!

Heather said...

Well said Amie. I do find those pockets of undisturbed racism in myself every now and then (often in the Wal Mart parking lot- does that sound awful?? Oh well we're being honest). It's not pretty, but it is better to acknowledge it and try to get rid of it than to ignore it. Thanks for the reminder.

nancy said...

Well said Amie. If only we all were color blind like God is. Since we all came from one man we all have the same blood.
I was riding my bike in your "hood" one day and some man asked me if I was in the "wrong" neighborhood. I said, " I didn't think there was a right or wrong neighborhood. I thought we all belonged here."
I pray that someday that will be the case that we all belong living next to each other and overlooking the outside and concentrating on what's inside. That can be way scarier sometimes than what's on the outside.

Bobbey said...

Amie, well said. Well, you do know how to get a girl thinking don't you?