To expound on the honesty cleanse I’m on lately, let’s discuss race. Publishers tend to like to get through this as smoothly as possible (and if it’s good for them…), so here: I’m black. Our family is tinged with Caucasian, Native American, and possibly Portuguese, but the box I’ll check if I’m not being cagey is Black/Non-Hispanic…although I’ve always wanted to be Hispanic…rabbit trail, sorry. This identification means trillions of smiles, memories, defenses, annoyances, shocks, metaphors, loves and losses. It means confusion for others when they hear my phone voice, see my very light-hued son, find out I watch and enjoy the movie This Is Spinal Tap or navigate my list of facebook friends and preferences. It highlights joy when I listen to an MLK, Jr. speech, teach our son about half of his family, proudly salute my grandfather and other Tuskegee airmen, and cry out at the situation in Baltimore. My primary identification is as a Christian, a daughter of the true God, a disciple made to worship Jesus Christ in spirit and truth. Knowing that heaven will accomodate all races in glorious harmony, my eternal aim is to co-mix and assist in healing racial brokenness. To do this, I must acknowledge my own quirks.
Mom and Dad raised my older sister and I in the fairly well-to-do, politically-charged, mostly-black neighborhood of Marlboro Meadows in Upper Marlboro, MD. I had some of the funniest, kindest bus-stop and biking friends in the city and would have a poorer outlook on life without their love. Until eighth grade I listened exclusively to R & B, hip-hop and secretly thought all white people were scary, undercover racists. My parents always taught us to love everyone well, but I was the most comfortable with brown people. Well, except for Matthew in kindergarten. Blue eyes, blond hair, the handsome little pale guy that all girls wanted to kiss behind the coat closet. Except for him, I focused on my similar skin shades.
Dad decided after some unfortunate problems at our church to look for a new church, and he landed on a Southern Baptist one. Dad. Seriously. I don’t remember if my face was as shocked to the congregation as it was in my mind when we stood and became members. This was middle school. Cue the song, Crossroads, from Bone Thugs N Harmony. (I’m being middle school dramatic, I know what that song was really about.) I thought my social life was over, unless Matthew happened to attend the same youth group.
The beauty in this experience is that God brought me a hoard of hilarious, compassionate, peace-loving friends despite my nervousness and walls and fear. Many of them had white skin. This trend continued into our move to Tennessee, as well as my move to Greensboro.
I married a man outside of my race, but our main bond is faith. Understandably, I was nervous that his family originated in Taylorsville, NC. His parents and their extended family have been wonderful and accepting, and with the exception of a few distant relatives and peering citizens, our visits have been open and cheerful. The various prisms that pour into Ian fulfill one of my wildest dreams: to have a family that is different and loving in spite of that.
In light of recent events and when one of those friend’s sister posted a moving article on white privilege, I have revisited my adventure in color. From feeling disrespected and not valued by both races (hello, human nature), I’ve also been reawakened to the fact that my struggle has not been the struggle of kids abused or too poor to afford lunch or any of those things. Baring the soul, I’m at times more comfortable now with white people or other “white-black” people who share all of these newfound interests. I don’t seek out folks of all kind, I stick with what’s safe.
While it’s not safe to loot or destroy property, it’s not safe to blindly accept that everyone should have access to the same thoughts about the situation. It’s not safe to bypass a magazine because you’re so busy trying not to seem overly committed to one culture, that you ignore what is going on in that culture. It’s not safe to ignore well-meaning, potential friendships because you feel they’re “trying to pass.” It’s never been safe to follow Christ into attempting to bridge these gaps. That’s why the media continues to exploit the black-white rivalry and not reveal more loving stories. It’s why it can be really awkward to be the only “white-black” girl at your family’s function and attempt to change your language tone to fit in better. It’s why explaining to friends why you need an extra four hours to wash and blow dry your hair at the beach can get exhausting.
Christ walked into many awkward situations, and His will was done because of that. I believe His will is for Christians to find common ground within all races, to appreciate and enjoy one another, and to let His loving sacrifice flood the hardship with blood and grace.