Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Talking To Your White Kids About Race and Privilege In America

I've been super hesitant to write about this topic for a number of reasons.  I'm white. I live in suburban America.  In this blog, I've loved talking about marriage and raising kids...but race conversations are difficult,  I wonder often if I have any real ability to add anything helpful to the conversation...because of my aforementioned biological and demographic disposition.  But as my Facebook feed is blowing up on this topic from friends of mine on all sides...a few things just continue to grieve me;

1. I am the father of 4 little kids, who right now, love everyone and everything...they have no fear of others with regard to race, ethnicity, social status or other...and their only opinion right now on race relations is that not everyone has the same skin color. They will most likely grow up where the majority of their relationships are with other white kids...their social interactions will be predominately with other white kids and they, like me and their mom...will have little to no understanding of what white privilege in America is really like, because we are subjective white suburbans...and we don't even realize such a thing exists.  And this is part of the problem...we don't get it.  We don't face the same trials that our American brothers and sisters of color face on a daily basis.  There is a great article that highlights this disparity.  Here is the link if you are interested...

Two lines stood out to me...

"Clearly white Americans see the broader significance of Michael Brown’s death through radically different lenses than black Americans. There are myriad reasons for this divergence, from political ideologies—which, for example, place different emphases on law and order versus citizens’ rights—to fears based in racist stereotypes of young black men. But the chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people."

The other brings me to tears as I think of what it would be like to parent my children in these ways...

"Jonathan Capehart’s Washington Post column after the Brown shooting contained a personal and poignant account of his mother’s lessons to him as a young black man:

How I shouldn’t run in public, lest I arouse undue suspicion. How I most definitely should not run with anything in my hands, lest anyone think I stole something. The lesson included not talking back to the police, lest you give them a reason to take you to jail—or worse. And I was taught to never, ever leave home without identification."

2. It's easy to look at the "facts of case", as people are saying...and make statements around why this is just another example of "a man" who attacked a police officer, who wouldn't surrender, who was a violent criminal, who got shot by a police officer who was fighting for his life...here are some of those "facts" as noted by the Washington Post;

It's easy to talk about other cases of inequalities for whites.  It's easy to use examples of blacks killing white's.  It's easy to make these comments about this being nothing about race...it's easy...especially if you are white.  This again, is part of the problem...we (forgive me for speaking in general on behalf of white Americans), are not listening.  The Ferguson protests, riots, looting and more are the collective voice of tired souls crying..."Mercy! When will it end?"  Ferguson highlights once again the continue distrust between police and minorities...and a cry from many asking, "Will anyone do anything about it?"

So what will we do?  

  • I hope we will work on listening...I want to hear more about what it means to be a "person of color" in America and how that shapes ones daily interactions in life.  I want to know what I can do to help...because I know that I have a lot to learn.
  • I want to talk to my kids all the time about how their worldviews shape the way they care for others regardless of their race/ethnicity/other.  Maybe in the generations to come (praying it will come sooner)...we'll see the mercy that Ferguson is calling for. 

  • I also want us to work hard at not growing calloused toward one another. I have shared this before, as a status post on my FB profile but I think it's worth saying again...When my dad was murdered, I thanked God for the hard work and perseverance of the officers who investigated and solved the case...and I am still grateful today, more than they know. I am praying for police officers around the country, for tirelessly providing safety, security and peace, so I can sit at my computer and post things on Facebook, while they literally put their life on the line every day for me and my family...and I'm praying for those police officers who have become calloused because of a broken and brutal world...may they care again. Thank you, to all who serve.
This Youtube video link is worth the 3 minute perspective on how hard it must be to serve in situations I'll never understand.  "That is why I love them, that is why I grieve them."...

Lord in your mercy...hear our prayers! 

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