Race and identity – Going a little deeper

In my 20’s, I wrote a poem about what animal I would be, I chose a bird. I went on to describe all the reasons why, which included the ability to see things from above and how that view would look different. Forty-two years into my life, in so many ways, I see two worlds that seem so far apart, but like a bird’s view, I am sure although different still look amazing from above.

Race and people groups have always been a topic I was curious about since I can remember. Recently, in my writing endeavors I searched Google for books to encourage our teens on how to struggle through the variety of disparities they see, including race and particularly bi-racial life. I think “his-story” is an excellent way to see and understand life’s issues. To my surprise, but then not really, there are very few books on the experiences of “mixed kids.” It’s these things that remind me of the disconnect in the two worlds I speak of.

How skin color has that much power to change the path of one’s life, if even for good, is still crazy to me.

James McBride, shares his story of two worlds in his book, The Color of Water, he says, “I thought it would be easier if we were just one color, black or white. I didn’t want to be white…I would have preferred that Mommy were black. Now as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds. My view of the world is not merely that of a black man but that of a black man with something of a Jewish soul.”

I relate to him, though I was “white,” among mostly “white” family members I frequently questioned why I seemed so different. Now as a grown woman, over 40, and comfortable in my skin (please allow me) I appreciate all the view points I have experienced.

I spent so many years in the “black” world, from my ex-husbands family who took me in at 15 YO to my husband’s family who is like my own, these are two of the many experiences that shade-in all the empty places I questioned growing up. I only see color when I am asked to identify myself, my children or my husband in terms of color… and unfortunately, that is asked a lot in our society. We have still deemed it important to stick people in color categories for many reasons but one that comes clear to my mind is money and that is a shame!

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Online discussions on blogs and social media about our society’s racial divide impact me… they cause me to think deeper. Suggested solutions by a few were on point for sure: racial and cultural training in police departments, politicians actually doing something, the need for racially equal people of influence to have a voice and engage with young people on solutions.

All good and for sure a place to start, I just don’t think it will truly fix the reoccurring tragedies we hear about. I don’t intend to make this post about solutions, or even police shooting young black men, nor do I say that to diminish those evils, rather, I just want to tell my story, but of course, I will add my two-cents of suggestions. But truly, I believe there is only one answer ultimately that will bring about true reconciliation and restoration and that is salvation through Jesus Christ which changes our hearts, from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

Growing up, my Grandpa, from Italy, brought to the U.S. when he was young, abandoned by his parents, raised in an orphanage, and extremely prejudice against any people group except Italians, encouraged hate, exclusion, division and fear. He encouraged me through his words and actions towards me to not like people because of where they were born or the color of their skin or the language they spoke. I am not exactly sure how I ended up where I am today, but one thing I am certain of – I decided that his beliefs were not something I was taking with me in my adult life.

Herein is my point, we each get to decide what we will take with us into our adult lives. The police officer who is fearful (different than afraid) and full of pride (yes for the most part, I think racism is rooted in fear and pride) of “black” people chooses to think that way. And even after being “trained” to not be prejudice/racist, he could still choose to not like black people. Knowledge alone, is like a Band-Aid, we don’t heal from the Band-Aid!

I am not giving a blanket, pat answer to racism, and surely this isn’t a simple matter; and my jacked up thinking can’t be only designated to racism, obviously this applies to all the issues of life! I tell my children quite often when they do something out of character, “they have lost their minds!” I completely relate to McBride’s mother when she made remarks regarding “the white devil” and “white people” as though she were not white herself.

Surely, like most, I dream of a society where all colors are equal and seen as the Creator designed it to be in the first place – ethnically different for sure because that makes it all so fun and creative, like God. And since as children we internalize what we hear, just as I did from my Grandpa, that means to not be “racist” is an individual decision that each person makes whether through omission or commission.

In my journey to share my story, and to one day write a book that my grandchildren and others can use as a compass to guide their thinking about their racial identity, I will also continue to pray for change in the hearts of not just the “white people” but black and brown and cream and caramel colored people, too!

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Struggling through race and identity

Been thinking a lot about race and identity and how to bridge the two without wounding. My children are bi-racial, I found out a couple years ago that I was bi-racial even though all of my life, as I have shared in my story, I have always felt “different” and am asked on a regular basis, “what are you” “where are you from?” Now to help my children grapple with this question in an information based, competitive society is another feat indeed. As I watch my children struggle through their experience, I am reminded of something God says in Psalm 34: “he will deliver us from all our troubles,” in the original text this isn’t exactly as us English speaking folk suspect. Rather, “deliver” in Hebrew means to prepare, equip or strengthens. When I reread the verse with that in mind, here is how it reads with the preceding verse:

“The poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and prepares, strengthens and equips them.” (italics mine)

This changes everything because in a society that is self-entitled, avoids pain at all costs, I mean come on…we have a drug for everything, a label for issues, we are impatient, we throw major temper tantrums and…leave the marriage, leave the church, leave the job, leave the friendship, the list goes on and on, we look for anyway to be “delivered” from the situation. Clearly, this isn’t how God operates.

I find this truth to be hard when I am personally facing troubles but also extremely hard when I think of my children and their troubles which is why I am always blown away that we are called God’s children. When our children are struggling we only taste a small sliver of his pain he feels when we are troubled. If only I could make everything right when they are struggling especially when their troubles are a trace of my past sin, or when they have no control over the situation – like the color of their skin. Then there are the adult children…they sure know how to remind you of how jacked up of a parent you were and are. The struggle is real for sure with them but let us not forget the cute little stubborn, strong willed children who insist on their way.

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The Psalmist goes on to say, “those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing.” At first glance, we think wow, I seek the Lord, and surely there are good things in my life but what I am going through right now is NOT good and it says, “we will lack NO good thing.” Digging a little deeper, this is about the result of seeking the Lord, not our circumstances, possessions or our narcissistic selves feeling good. When we seek the Lord, we will only find good, there will be no lack of good as we are seeking the Lord in the struggle.

Yeah, I know it stinks that it doesn’t mean what we thought, right! But check this out, this Psalm may have been written over some time (not exactly sure of time frame), and I am not a theologian but think about it, we know that David suffered many injustices, but we also know he suffered at the hand of his own choices. When you get to v. 19 the tone changes.

He declares, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” This is a major declaration the Psalmist makes, yet, if only it really meant that we could avoid pain and suffering but again, deliverance here is – stay in the struggle and I will prepare you, strengthen you and/or equip you. This fits right in line with other scriptures that tell us about suffering – you are going to suffer, but this does not change who God is and how our struggles fit into the story of God that we play a part in.

But hold on, be encouraged, there is actual deliverance in the way we prefer – look at v. 4, “I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” This deliverance means: snatch away, save, take out! How beautiful, remember perfect love casts out all fear and that God is love, and fear brings torment, torment is not what God uses to shape and conform us, rather troubles, suffering, hardship. I would say they really are different.

This looks completely different from the “troubles” that come when you love the unlovable, choose forgiveness for someone who has hurt you deeply, or in humility speak gently to the teenager who regularly rolls her eyes in rebellion. Surely, I want to be “delivered” (snatched up) from that child, or should I say, I want to snatch up that child, but these are the things that the Lord prepares, strengthens and equips us for, they can move us to seek him, and when we do, we lack no good thing!

As I work these truths, I am digging dipper into what this looks like for my “bi-racial” children and how the Lord intends to prepare them for their place in history (His story). Or maybe deeper how can we as a generation reconcile the racial constraints put on another and often by the hands of those that are the “same color” as us. Meanwhile, I will stick to what I do have control over and grapple with my children in the day to day questions they now get to answer for themselves, and hopefully in light of Gods truths and not the worlds.

Dear White People, Before You Post Dr. King Quotes To Make Yourself Feel Good…

No need to say a thing!

WriteSomeShit

Monday, January 15, 2018, marks the birthdate and a day that many in the nation will observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the dedication and sacrifices he made as a civil rights activist. I will not use this blog to detail the important and honorable aspects of Dr. King’s life as countless details are readily available in books, online articles, magazines, videos, documentaries, and museums. I recall as a young girl being taught about Martin Luther King Jr. marching, preaching, and pushing a nation towards freedom. Dr. King is often cast as docile, peaceful and in contrast to a what some considered a more radical activist during his time, Malcolm X.

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Mary, Mary

Note: this post originated March 5th and sat as a draft. Now is the time to post for various reasons and more to come on this. Last week marked 26 years since I last saw your sweet face. Of course, then, it was pure and free of the cares of this world. By now, twenty six years has likely worn on you. I wonder almost everyday if you woke up this morning and put on makeup, or where you went to work. I wonder what kind of car you drive and if you speed like me. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like to have a 26 year old daughter when I am still parenting a 12 year old daughter. Whatever your path, I wonder.

I imagine your life is busy, I wonder if you are married yet, or if you’ve found the man of your dreams and is awaiting “the question”, or are you single and seeing the world. I think I ask these questions every year…or similar ones.  I think about the imagined sound of your voice and the shape of your eyes. Are your fingers long and slender like your father’s or are they short and stout like mine.

These are the little things I learned about myself when I reunited with my father seven years ago. I discovered that I like my iced tea half sweet and half unsweetened and so does he. I also realized that my short, stout fingers came from him, along with my long skinny legs that I always disliked about myself. I wonder what you dislike about yourself. I wonder if you wonder about where the personal quirks come from.

I hope by now you know about your biological parents and have learned to accept and embrace the beauty of your life and what was decided for you. Certainly, we meant no harm and only intended good for you. I wonder how your parents loved you. Mary, I know they loved you the best they knew how, like all parents do.

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The last picture I received of Mary, my daughter I placed for adoption.

Maybe one day we will meet. Maybe one day I will get caught up on all the details of your life. Until that hopeful day, I pray you are well. I pray you are healthy. I pray you have faithful friends. I pray you have a job that utilizes your talent, skills and gifts to the world. I pray for you Mary until we cross paths again.