Before You See Black Panther, Read This (Spoiler-free Review by Jake VanKersen)

I asked my friend, Jake, movie buff and comic book and Star Wars expert, to share his intitial thoughts after seeing the much-anticipated Black Panther film. This article is helpful pre-viewing preparation for people like me who know very little about comic books or superheroes, but still enjoy a good superhero film (though I’d argue this is more than “just a superhero film”).

A review of Black Panther

By Jake VanKersen

On every level Black Panther is completely unapologetic about what it is and what it is trying to do. Yes, it is a Marvel movie and it unapologetically embraces every bit of that successful brand (it is the 18th film in the series). Yes, it is a superhero movie so it unapologetically gives us well-crafted action scenes. At the same time given that Black Panther, aka T’Challa, is the king of a fictional African country called Wakanda, it fully embraces African imagery and customs. In the hands of director Ryan Coogler, Black Panther also unapologetically touches upon race relations in the United States.

Black Panther opens with T’Challa preparing to take the role of King of Wakanda following the death of his father T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War. Wakanda was never colonized by the Europeans. They built their country on a precious resource called verbranium which has allowed them to become an advanced technological state. While Wakanda has never been touched by the European Slave Trade, the effects of it are felt all around them. Wakanda’s decision to remain isolated from the rest of the world and ignore the problems around them are now starting to reach their borders.

It is under these circumstances that T’Challa begins his reign as king. While heavy is the head that wears the crown, he is anything but alone. He has the help of his sister Shuri, a technological genius that equips her brother with all his gadgets and upgrades his Black Panther armor. He is protected by warrior women known as the Dora Milaje that serve as royal bodyguards. The chief of the Dora Milaje, Okoye, is one of his closest confidants. He also recruits Wakandan spy and former girlfriend, Nakia, to help him.

The egalitarian role of men and women in Black Panther is another profound and effortless statement made by the film.

The cast is an obvious strength. As T’Challa/Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman is a strong and empathetic king. Boseman plays the character as a man who simultaneously feels the weight of his country on his shoulders, but has the resolve to hold it. Michael B. Jordan is the villain, Erik Killmonger, and plays him as a man consumed by rage but with a discipline to focus it on achieving his objective. I simultaneously empathized with why he was so angry and yet was shocked by his wickedness. As T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, Letitia Wright tells us everything we need to know about both her character and the great relationship she has with her brother from her very first scene.

Look, the bench is deep with this cast. You have Lupito Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Sterling K. Brown, Martin Freeman, and current Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (the lead from Get Out). Frankly, I could spend time going through the entire cast and pointing out the strengths of each performance, so let me just say that the charisma and talent of this cast is stunning.

Of course, it is impossible to miss the statement this film is making with its cast and director. This is a major Hollywood Disney movie written and directed by an African American filmmaker, starring an African American actor, and featuring a cast of African descent.

Director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler
Director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler

Making a statement is nothing new for comic books. The early comic book creators had strong social justice points of view. Comic books came of age as Hitler unleashed fascism and anti-semitism on the world and comic book creators responded by having their characters take him on. The very first issue of Captain America featured the character punching Hitler in the face on the cover.

It is from this tradition of social justice that Black Panther was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966. The legendary comic book duo intentionally wanted to make a statement by not only creating the first mainstream black superhero, but by also making him, strong, smart, wealthy, and the king of a country.

A day after watching Black Panther I was still unpacking the layers of social and political commentary. The film does not hit you over the head with these themes, but it also doesn’t flinch from them either. In Ryan Coogler’s hands all these threads are effortlessly woven together for a deeply entertaining and exceptional film.

About Jake:

Jake VanKersenJake VanKersen is a Chicago-based Video Producer and graduate of Columbia College Chicago. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of movie, Star Wars, and comic book trivia. Visit him at www.jakevankersen.com.

 

Sign up for my newsletter by February 28th and be entered to win a copy of Beyond Colorblind! (U.S. residents only)

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How is God calling you to enter the race conversation? 

This month we’re discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?

I’ll go first.

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.

If you’re a white person who’s new to all of this, I compiled some resources to start you on your journey (because I’m not much farther ahead):

70+ Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White people

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

My Take on Race: From a White Girl in a Multicolored Family {Guest Post}

By Jodie Pine | blog

I was blessed to grow up in a multi-colored family. My “twin” is my biracial brother, younger than me by two months. I have another brother, adopted from Brazil, who is a month older than my biological sister. And she is just 1 ½ years younger than me. My parents had their hands full.

Living in Arkansas in the 1970’s, our unique family experienced misunderstandings and discrimination. Because we were not all welcome at the city park designated for whites, we frequented the “black park.” The local Boy Scouts chapter refused to let my brother join. And I can still remember the fear I felt as we witnessed a KKK cross burning in a friend’s yard. What’s the big deal about skin color, I wondered? Why do some people think whites are superior?

I can recall how proud my sister and I were in the blazing hot summer of 1979. All four of us kids were on an outdoor swim team and, to our great delight, our skin turned the same beautiful shade as our brothers. No longer that sickly pale color. We could actually be called brown. And brown was good in our eyes. We wanted to be like our brothers, not different from them.

Then we moved from Arkansas to a North Carolina mountain town, which was predominately white. It didn’t affect my sister and me much, because we looked just like everyone else, but I’m sure–looking back now–that my brothers were constantly aware of being the minority.

During my freshman year of college at UNC-Chapel Hill, I lived in a randomly assigned suite with eight girls. Seven were black and then there was me. I learned so much during that transformative year from my roommate Sheletha. And even though it was uncomfortable at times to be the only white girl, I’m so thankful God gave me an opportunity that many white people are not privileged to get: to experience being the minority.

After college, God gave me another opportunity to be a white minority by living in the beautiful homogenous land of China. Involved in education, my husband and I raised our three biological children there, who can identify with the image of an egg: white on the outside and yellow on the inside. We adopted our two Chinese boys in 2013 and moved back to the US after 20 years in East Asia.

Last year a Chinese American friend asked me how our boys were doing in American public school, dealing with race issues. I responded that I didn’t think it was a big deal for them and we hadn’t really talked about it much. My flippant comment later made me realize how much I still live in my white privileged world. Another Asian friend at that time encouraged me to join a transracial adoption group to learn more about how race issues affect my children every day.

She wrote, “Society will tell them they’re not white. Society will treat them differently. Don’t be afraid to talk about race and racism. It will benefit them more than you know it. And it will let them know you are not there for the whole ‘I don’t see color’ ideology, because that just means you don’t value where they come from and who they are.”

Growing up as a white girl with brothers of color, and now mothering two sons of color, I am saddened to realize that I still can be sheltered under my white privilege umbrella. I’m therefore incredibly thankful for friends who have challenged me, with their probing questions, to step out from under this umbrella into the world that people of color live in. I have come to see that attempting to better understand the effects of racism on my family and friends will be a lifelong choice.

When we step into someone else’s shoes we gain a different perspective. A better understanding. While will never be able to fully enter into another’s life experience, we can move a step closer.

And we can grow deeper in our conviction that all people are wonderfully and fearfully made, handcrafted by God. Intentionally passing that belief on to the next generation, we never lose hope that–united across the racial divide–we can make a difference in this world.

Martin Luther King Jr. beautifully expressed this view:

“The whole concept of the imago dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: There are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man. That is why we must fight segregation with all of our nonviolent might.”

The reality is that people born into a life of white privilege will never experience the kind of fear and anger and discrimination directed toward those born with black, brown, or yellow skin. And even though it would be easy to do, I strongly believe that privileged white people cannot shut the door, turn the other way, and ignore what is happening right now all around us. We must join together to fight against injustice. Fight for those who face mistreatment every single day of their lives. Mistreatment simply because of the color of their skin.

Even if it’s not our personal battle, it must become our battle. The people suffering from injustice are our brothers and sisters. Our sons and daughters.

Surrounded by different skin colors…

So much beauty in the color. If we choose to see.

So much racism. If we choose to label.

Injustice seems to be growing in our world today.

How do we fight it?

How can we celebrate the diversity of colors and see past the skin to what is in the heart?

So that we can discover the unity in our humanity.

And realize that we are all people wonderfully and fearfully made,

handcrafted by God.

So much alike underneath our different colored skin.

With human hurts and human dreams.

***

About Jodie:

As a mom, I juggle two different kinds of parenting — long-distance to our 3 adult kids (who are white on the outside but very Chinese on the inside) and our two adopted Chinese boys at home who have special needs. Since being back in the US, my husband has taken up cooking Chinese food, with a specialty of Lanzhou beef noodles (where we used to live and where our boys are from), giving us a taste of “home.” You can follow our story on my blog. I am also on Instagram and Facebook.

Sign up for my newsletter by February 28th and be entered to win a copy of Beyond Colorblind! (U.S. residents only)

Sign up for my Mid-month Digest and Secret Newsletter Here:

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation? 

This month we’ll be discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?

I’ll go first.

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.

If you’re a white person who’s new to all of this, I compiled some resources to start you on your journey (because I’m not much farther ahead):

70+ Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White people

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

Interview with On Ramp Hosts Shane Blackshear & Kerri Fisher (+BOOKS!)

A few years ago I started listening to a podcast called Seminary Dropout. The host was thoughtful and the guests were usually influential authors and interesting voices in Christian circles. Shane Blackshear and Kerri Fisher started up a spin-off podcast back in 2016 called On Ramp that’s meant to be a starting point (an “on ramp”) for those just entering the race conversation. Season 2 was released in December of 2017. As I’ve really benefitted from the podcast, I reached out to them and Shane and Kerri agreed to answer a few questions for me. I’m excited to share this interview with you!

1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourselves? Where do you live? What’s your day job? Who are your people?

Kerri: Well, my name is Kerri Fisher. I live in Waco, Texas. I work at Baylor University as a full-time lecturer in the school of social work. My people? Hmmmm, members of the Branch Church in Abilene and Doxology Church in Austin (both now defunct in the literal sense but alive in the supernatural sense).  Also, I suppose, my people are writers, readers, comedians & other creatives/contemplators as well as my literal family The Charles Fishers and all my chosen family accumulated over the years. That’s as brief as I can be if I am to be accurate and appropriately inclusive.

Shane: I’m Shane Blackshear. I live in Austin, Texas. I host a podcast called Seminary Dropout in addition to On Ramp with Kerri, and I work in real estate. My people are my wife Kate, my two kids Margot and Amos, and my church family of Austin Mustard Seed.

2. How do you two know each other and how did you decide to start this podcast?

Shane: We met and became good friends in college, and have been ever since. Through my other podcast, Seminary Dropout I had some eye opening conversations with people who are, in my opinion, some of the greatest thinkers in the area of race and racial justice. Meanwhile I think Kerri had also been working through some issues on race through her own family history and her career in social work. We’d talk about this stuff when we saw each other here and there. At some point the idea popped into my head and I asked Kerri if she would do a podcast with me on race through the lens of our Christian faith. The rest is history.

Kerri: Yes, Shane has relayed this accurately.

Shane Blackshear and Kerri Fisher, the hosts of On Ramp

3. For those of us who have no idea what goes into producing a podcast, what is the process involved in creating it?

Kerri: It is hilarious for me to answer this question first. I want to say, “I have no idea?” For my part the process is thinking and talking with Shane about what we want to communicate, then going to Shane’s house to record and then sending academic or other research support for any claims I have made during the recording. Shane can now explain everything cool and technological that I actively avoid learning.

Shane: Kerri’s downplaying her role. The planning part is one of the most important steps. Also On Ramp couldn’t exist without the academic and other research, and Kerri with her academic background is much better at that part that I am. We’re big on truth at On Ramp, so obtaining reliable information is everything. Beyond that, the technological stuff is pretty boring, but basically I set up the mics, mixer, and recorder, do some sound editing, write show notes, and upload the audio file. I should probably do more promotion afterwards, but by the time I get to that part I’m exhausted (Please tell your friends about this show).

4. Do you have a favorite episode? Why?

Shane: It’s hard to pick, partly because they all kind of blend together and partly because I’m proud of them all. Actually the first one stands out to me. That’s where we got to really lay out our vision and heart for On Ramp and what we wanted it to be.

Kerri: In general my honest answer is that I always get a kick out of the ones where we get a little giggly, it reminds me of our college glory days and its sweet to have that recorded. As for a specific favorite, I agree they all blend together a bit, but I remember really liking our first episode of season two more than I thought I would because we got “Jesusy” and I am always nervous to suggest  or have the appearance of suggesting that I have a better idea than anyone else who Jesus is,  or how to be a Christian,  or how to navigate this human experience, but as I re-listened to that episode I must say, I felt touched at what we stumbled on together about the holiness—the otherworldliness of laying down privilege. It made me feel warm. And I hope it did for others too.

5. What was the hardest episode to record? Why?

Kerri: I would say for me generally the hardest episodes are when I am sharing personal things about what it means to be a person of color rather than academic considerations. My childhood self is very shocked and appalled at how frequently I am telling the truth about the challenges of oppression and privilege—she was very happy to ignore race and its consequences, so sometimes that still creeps up in episodes like the one from season two about being a black woman in white evangelical spaces. In the moment of the actual recording though, the hardest episode for me was the final episode in season 1 where Shane and I processed our own relational and podcast related hiccups related to our own identity-related behaviors. Even though those hiccups were very minor, I still felt shaky as we discussed the impacts of privilege and oppression in our own very real relationship. I think that’s crazy because Shane and I have been extremely close friends for over 15 years and there are still ways that talking about race can feel awkward even for the two of us.

Shane: The episodes that require the most vulnerability are always hard. I see my role in this podcast as one that is first one of a listening posture. As a biracial woman, Kerri has the lived experience of having racism directed at her as all people of color do. As a white guy, my lived experience is one of privilege. So my hope is that I model a listening posture, and a willingness to lay down my privilege as much as I can and be a champion of Kerri’s words and experience. That’s not easy, so while I can’t nail it down to a specific episode, the times when I’ve needed to be quiet and acknowledge & lay down my privilege are not comfortable.

6. What are your favorite/go-to books about race?

Shane: I love this question. I always love recommending books because they say it so much better than I ever could. For me these books make up my required reading list when it comes to matters of race in no particular order:

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

The Myth of Equality, Ken Wytsma

Let Justice Roll Down, John Perkins

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, Drew Hart

Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland

Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White—Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight?, Leroy Barber

 

Kerri: Oh boy. Yes to lots of Shane’s suggestions. I also really have been touched by at least portions of each of the following:

The Souls of Black Folks, W.E.B. Dubois

Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama

The Hidden Wound, Wendall Berry

The Color of Water, James McBride

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, Toure

The Devil’s Highway, Luis Alberto Urrea

Negroland: A Memoir, Margo Jefferson

I am eager to read:

The Potlicker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, John T. Edge

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir, Amy Tan

The Warmth of Other Sons, Isabel Wilkerson

7. Have you gotten any push-back or criticism from listeners? What kinds of things?

Kerri: I have been really surprised, relieved and grateful for how kind and supportive our listeners have been to us. I think we’ve had a few people who wanted to hear more theology or more or different content on a certain race-related concept but that is to be expected and as long as it is delivered in a gracious manner it is encouraged. We are very interested in what our listeners are interested in.

Shane: Like Kerri I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the lack of criticism, especially harsh criticism. Unlike a written blog post, you can’t skim a podcast. I think people who would be harsh critics just don’t take the time to listen. The criticism we have received has been scattered. Someone took issues because we “changed the definition of racism”, but the definition we used, “prejudice plus power”, is the definition that relevant professionals have used for a long time. Someone else gently asked why we haven’t talked about oppression towards women, which is a subject I think we both care about deeply, but we can’t say all truths in the world at the same time. On Ramp is specifically about race through the lens of Christianity so we focus on that. So the criticism has been light and for the most part respectful. I assume that if On Ramp picks up steam the longer it’s out there, we’ll start to receive heavier push back.

8. As this interview is published, the much-anticipated Black Panther film is about to come out. In your opinion, what is all the buzz about? 

Shane: There’s another podcast that’s great (and I have to admit more popular that either of my podcasts), called “Truth’s Table” hosted by three black Christian women. It’s fantastic! In the first episode I happened to listen to the women just talked about how excited they were for Black Panther. The trailer had just come out and they were dissecting every frame. Their excitement was contagious.

There have been over 55 feature length Marvel & DC movies made since the year 2000 and none of them have featured a black main character. Even Ghost Rider got 2 movies in that time, and Ghost Rider is terrible.

People of color are not only under-represented in super hero movies, but in all media, and when they are represented it’s done poorly. Too often people of color are represented as criminals or people with low morals, or they’re the black best friend stereotype existing for the white leading characters benefit. The general story of Black Panther is an empowering story of a man and a society who don’t need help from white people. The characters are extremely intelligent and their society is advanced.

Kerri: Well, I know literally nothing about Black Panther and had little interest in seeing it, but Shane has now convinced me. I am certainly interested in supporting films that represent the complexity of black people and blackness because that has been a lifetime longing of mine that has rarely been offered or available to me. Fingers crossed for Black Panther and more and more good storytelling to come.

9. Will there be a season 3 of On Ramp? If so, what are some of the topics you still hope to discuss in future episodes?

Kerri: Well, as of this writing Shane and I haven’t discussed season 3 very much but I guess I would say I would love to do a third season if we have evidence that people are listening to it and find it useful. I’m not sure what topics we would discuss next—I loved hearing listener questions and interests at the end of season 1 so hopefully that would give us some ideas. We both love discussing entertainment and politics, so I could see us finding news and entertainment stories and applying some of the concepts from seasons 1 & 2? I don’t know though. I’ll eagerly await Shane’s answer.

Shane: Like Kerri eluded, I think it depends on the feedback. It is a considerable amount of work, and although we like to do it, if people aren’t connecting to it, or if there are more affective resources out there, then we have no problem ending On Ramp at season 2 and being proud of the work we did. That all sounds pessimistic but I don’t mean it to be. I hope that On Ramp is meaningful and helpful to many people and that we’ll keep going for seasons to come. So if anyone out there has feedback or suggestions of what they’d like to hear in the future, please let us know!

***

Thank you, Shane and Kerri for providing such a wonderful podcast for all of us. And I am so grateful you took the time to answer my questions for this interview!

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, you can find On Ramp Season 1 and 2 here!

Sign up for my newsletter by February 28th and be entered to win a copy of Beyond Colorblind! (U.S. residents only)

Sign up for my Mid-month Digest and Secret Newsletter Here:

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation? 

This month we’ll be discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?

I’ll go first.

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.

If you’re a white person who’s new to all of this, I compiled some resources to start you on your journey (because I’m not much farther ahead):

70+ Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White people

**This post includes Amazon Affiliate links

Ten White Privilege Metaphors

Metaphors and analogies help bring clarity to fuzzy thinking. These ten privilege metaphors not only apply to white privilege, but also to economic inequality. Of course, every metaphor breaks down on some level, so keep that in mind as you mull these over.

1. Different Starting Lines

If life is a race, then people of color have a different starting line than white people. This video, called The Unequal Opportunity Race, is a fantastic depiction of the additional hurdles and roadblocks people of color face as they “race” white people in life.

2. Monopoly Game

Privilege is a like a monopoly game where black people are invited to play after white people have already been playing for three days—the property has been sold and the resources handed out, and yet the people of color need to somehow make it around the board. (I couldn’t find a specific source for this metaphor, because it seems like a widely accepted one.)

3. Tall and Short People

This metaphor by Omar Ismail, explained in greater and more comedic detail here,  removes some of the emotions from this discussion. He compares white people to tall people who can reach higher shelves and experience more conveniences because they are tall. It simply means there are advantages to being tall.

4. Bikes and Cars

This article, “What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege,” suggests that privilege is like being a bike person or a car person. Cars are less aware of bikes and bikes need to cater to the cars on the road.

5. Gaming—Easy, Moderate, Hard Settings

In this article, “Straight White Male, The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is,” John Scalzi explains white privilege using a gaming metaphor. While you can still lose on this setting, you are playing against others who are using moderate and hard settings, so you have all the advantage in the game.

6. The Closest to the Goal

I recently attended a seminar that used this metaphor for white privilege. The men used an image of three people in a row trying to throw a paper ball into a trash can. They said the teacher gave the directive that if they make a basket, they get an A on the exam. Obviously those in the front row have the advantage. And there’s the added layer that they are not aware of the people in the rows behind them. A teacher adapted this idea into a lesson plan to teach his high school students about the concept of privilege.

7. The Invisible Knapsack

This is possibly the most well-known way to identify white privilege, which Peggy Macintosh describes as the “invisible knapsack.” She shares statements for people to check off to identify whether or not they have privilege. This Privilege Walk Lesson Plan uses a similar format, but has  students in a gym take steps forward or backward based on a list of statements that highlight their privilege or lack of privilege. 

8. Born on Third Base

Cactus Pryor describes privilege as someone who was born on third base and thinks they hit a triple. They don’t recognize that they are privileged from birth.

9. The Caterpillar and the Snail

“Sometimes You’re a Caterpillar” is short (and cute) story about a caterpillar and snail who are friends trying to get under a fence. The caterpillar doesn’t understand why the snail can’t just fit under the fence. She eventually has some epiphanies about the struggles of her friend.

10. No Left Turn Lane

White privilege is having a left turn lane, while people of color must wait for the oncoming cars to pass before turning left. (Chicago city drivers have first-hand experience with the joy of turn lanes when you’re not used to having one.)

More Resources:

On Ramp Podcast is a fabulous podcast for succinct, yet in depth discussion of race issues through a conversation between a white man and an African American woman. These two podcasts on white privilege are very informative: Privilege and White Privilege Revisited 

White Privilege Explained in One Simple Comic (language alert)

Another comic from The Wireless

***

Sign up for my newsletter by February 28th and be entered to win a copy of Beyond Colorblind! (U.S. residents only)

Sign up for my Mid-month Digest and Secret Newsletter Here:

 

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation? 

This month we’ll be discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?

I’ll go first.

 

 

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.

If you’re a white person who’s new to all of this, I compiled some resources to start you on your journey (because I’m not much farther ahead):

70+ Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White people

**This post includes Amazon Affiliate links

Ten Metaphors for Understanding White Privilege

Why Do We Have to Keep Talking about Slavery? (The Facts We Like to Hide.)

You can see from my headshot that I am very, very white. I’m mostly German,  part Irish and part English. God made me white on purpose–just like he made you the way you look on purpose.

But whiteness carries invisible baggage from the past that often gets pushed under the rug in the name of “colorblindness.”

“Can’t we just forget and move on?”

“Why do we have to keep talking about slavery? Let’s focus on now, not then.”

“I didn’t have slaves.”

“I have friends from all races and am not racist.”

“I don’t see color, I just see people.”

It’s time for white people to recognize that while the past may not seem to be affecting us, it impacts people of color every single day.

The past soaks deep into our souls like ground water polluted by a gasoline leak so many years ago.

It is naive to assume history has no impact on the present.

But the truth is that we don’t want to be reminded. The fact that there are so few museums in the U.S. dedicated to slavery testifies that white people prefer to forget this aspect of our nation’s history.

So as I begin this month-long theme on racism, privilege and bridge building, I want to state some facts that I as a white person prefer to hide. They are the things I hesitate to tell my children because I don’t want them to know they are born into a tarnished, shameful history. But today, let’s drag these facts into the blinding light.

Because healing begins in the light.

Here are a few of the facts. I recommend reading them aloud so you don’t glaze over their weight:

Most black people came to North America as slaves. They were enslaved by white people, my ancestors.

Slavery lasted from 1619 to 1865. That’s 246 years of enslaving an entire race based solely on the color of their skin. If a generation is 25 years, that’s about 10 generations of slavery.

African Americans have been free for 153 years. Just six generations ago, our co-workers, friends, spouses, and classmates of color would have been born into slavery.

Segregation in schools was made illegal in 1954–just 64 years ago. But most schools, like my county in Tampa, FL, did not integrate schools until they were under court order to do so in the 1970’s. I attended schools in all African American neighborhoods under court order to desegregate. But today those court orders have been lifted and most schools are more segregated than ever.

All legally-enforced public segregation was abolished in 1964. Just 54 years ago.

My parents drank from water fountains only white people could drink from, ate in segregated restaurants, and attended segregated schools.

Interracial marriage was illegal until 1967. Just 51 years ago, it would have been illegal to marry a person of another race.

From the NAACP website:

Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.

African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.

The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.

In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million whites and 4 million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month.

African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.

1 in 3 black men will be incarcerated in their lifetime.

Unarmed black Americans are five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer, according to a Washington Post article from 2016.

By the time their kids are entering kindergarten, my African American friends and friends who have adopted children of color have already had conversations with their children about how to safely interact with teachers, police officers and white people in general.

***

And yet most white people still believe we live in a “post-racial society,” lumping slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, unequal incarceration, and housing, education, and wealth disparities together as “the past.”

But James Baldwin wrote, “History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” (“Black English: A Dishonest Argument”)

Our first step in pulling up a chair to the table of the race conversation, then, is to acknowledge that the trauma of the past is still rippling and raging into today.

***

This is an interesting resource about slavery education in U.S. classrooms: Teaching Hard History: American Slavery

If you’re a white person who’s new to all of this, I compiled some resources to start you on your journey (because I’m not much farther ahead):

70+ Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White people

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation? 

This month we’ll be discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?

I’ll go first.

Sign up for my Mid-month Digest and Secret Newsletter Here:

 

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.

Why Do We Have to Keep Talking about Slavery? (The Facts We Like to Hide.)

Can I Say “She’s Black”? (Why White Christians Need to Talk about Race.)

When you’re white, talking about race can be awkward.

Can we call someone “black” or should we say “African American”?

Will people think I’m a racist if I mention race?

If I actually like rap or hip hop, would it be weird to bring that up with my African American friend at risk of seeming like I’m stereotyping?

Can I compliment an African American woman on her hair?

Should I say “mixed,” “biracial,” or something else?

Can I ask my Asian friend where she’s from?

Should I say “Latino,” “Latina,” “Hispanic,” “Mexican,” or something else?

Did that just sound like I was trying to talk “black,” I hope he didn’t think I was making fun of him or trying too hard  …

I’ll just pretend race doesn’t matter, I “just see people”–race is “just a social construct,” after all … I’m colorblind.

***

One friend admitted that entering the race conversation as a white woman feels like walking in a minefield. For the white person who fears saying, thinking or being the wrong thing, there seem to be hazards everywhere.

But white people–white women in particular–need to engage in this difficult conversation.

Here’s why.

Because white women raise white children who grow up to be white men and women.

Because white women have the ear and heart of the men in our lives who still carry more power in the country than we do.

Because white women have greater influence than we realize.

Yes, discussing race is awkward. We’re going to mess up and use the wrong words, say stupid things and feel angry, confused and misunderstood. But if we say we love our brothers and sisters of color sitting next to us in the church pews, then it’s time to listen.

When we finally stop covering our ears, squeezing our eyes shut, and pretending the past doesn’t impact our today, we hear them crying out for allies and advocates to notice and speak out against their current struggle. Because though we are not separate, we are not treated equally.

Though I as a white woman have the luxury of being colorblind, my black and brown sisters and brothers do not.

This is from a post I wrote last year, called Does Talking about Race Perpetuate Disunity?:

The book Divided by Faith, a highly-researched book on evangelical’s views on race, concludes that the white perspective often dismisses institutional and systemic racism. Most white evangelicals do not acknowledge that we currently live in a racialized society. The authors push back (with documentation for each sentence in the book).

They claim this perspective misses “that whites can move to most any neighborhood, eat at most any restaurant, walk down most any street, or shop at most any store without having to worry or find out that they are not wanted, whereas African Americans often cannot.

This perspective misses that white Americans can be almost certain that when stopped by the police, it has nothing to do with race, whereas African Americans cannot.

This perspective misses that whites are assumed to be middle class unless proven otherwise, are not expected to speak for their race, can remain ignorant of other cultures without penalty, and do not have to ask every time something goes wrong if it is due to race, whereas African Americans cannot.

This perspective misses that white Americans are far more likely than black Americans to get a solid education, avoid being a victim of a crime, and have family and friends with money to help when extra cash is needed for college, a car, or a house.” –Divided by Faith (p. 90)

Yes, God’s love sets us all on equal ground, but when American society does not, God’s love should be the fuel that sets his children on fire for justice.

Followers of Jesus should be on the forefront of the race conversation.

We should advocate for equal treatment, housing, justice, education and rights for our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ.

When others are silent, we should speak out. But we also must follow, listen and learn.

Solidarity demands a posture of humility.

Yes, we are called to love God and rest in who we are in Christ as representatives of the Imago Dei, but we are also called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And loving our neighbor requires entering uncomfortable conversations and spaces for the sake of love. It’s time to admit that just because we can’t see the mountain, doesn’t mean it isn’t there, looming behind our white fog.

***

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation? 

This month we’ll be discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?

I’ll go first.

Sign up for my Mid-month Digest and Secret Newsletter Here:

 

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.

Check out this spoken word poetry by Micah Bournes today. I cry every time I watch this.:

***This post contains Amazon Affiliate links (no extra cost to you, pennies to me!)

#WhiteChurchQuiet and How the White Church Can Get It Right

I skipped church the week Alton Sterling and Alando Castile were gunned down. I feared their names wouldn’t be mentioned from the pulpit.

I wanted to protect myself from bitterness that our all-white church could afford to not even notice the tsunami happening in the African-American community. Instead, I immersed myself in downloaded sermons from churches with people of color at the helm, finding they were not as bitter as I was. It turns out this was not a new phenomenon to them like it was to me. They had seen it all before. And they’d see it again.

I found myself gathering a similar resolve this past weekend after Charlottesville, my insides coiling and preparing to fight or flee as a response to the inevitable silence of our white church. We’ve since changed churches, but our 98 percent white church has tended to shy away from controversy in the past, so I suspected silence from the pulpit.

I was wrong.

Our pastor hit it head-on. We began our service with a congregational prayer and response for racial healing. From there, he launched into a lament and a call to us to do more, be more, learn more. He shared a time when he got it wrong in a partnership with a local black church.

Our church doing a congregational prayer and response after Charlottesville.

The white church has so far to go. In Lisa Sharon Harper’s recent guest post on Ann Voskamp’s blog, she pointed out that race is often considered an extracurricular activity for the church. But fighting for equal justice for men and women of color is not the same as signing up to help with the monthly newcomer’s potluck. It is not the same as giving money for overseas missions or serving in the soup kitchen.

This is not just one lane of many that we can choose to advocate for—the lane of racial healing is for every single member of the body of Christ. For when one part of our body is hurting, the rest suffers.

We all know how these things go. The internet will be deafeningly loud—for a while. The buzz will quiet down for a time until the next brown teenager is shot or the next rally is broadcasted.

But what if the white church couldn’t be identified as #whitechurchquiet any longer—a Twitter hashtag coined by Andre E. Johnson as a way of calling attention to the silence of the white church? What if the white church was known as a champion of our brown and black brothers and sisters in Christ? What if the white church was the loudest cry, the longest march and the most insistent voice in the fight for equal justice for every breathing human made in the image of God on this planet?

What if?

I am tempted to tune out and turn off the noise. I feel numb to the hate, paralyzed by the need for change.

But the church does not have the luxury of scurrying away and hiding from pain.The church does not have the right to cover her eyes until this, too, has passed. No, the church needs to step into the fire. 

We are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The church is fueled by the Spirit of the living God and the resurrected King of Kings. This is not the time for the church to cower. This is the time for the church to come out of hiding and love with all the love we have been given. It is the time to speak into the spheres where we live, work and worship.

These are not dark days, for God is not dead. He is piercing the darkness. He wants the white church to join Him.

Race Resources:

70+ Race Resources for White People

80+ MORE Race Resources for White People

Facebook groups:

Be the Bridge

Pass the Mic

What if the white church was the loudest cry, the longest march and the most insistent voice in the fight for equal justice for every breathing human made in the image of God on this planet?

Does Talking about Race Perpetuate Disunity?

Some evangelicals question the need to talk about race. Didn’t Christ erase our dividing lines? Aren’t we all one in Christ? Doesn’t Jesus want us to live in freedom, and not in (white) guilt and shame?

Yes, Jesus came to bring freedom to all who know Him. But when society does not treat people of color as equals, the church must speak up.

Sometimes we need to acknowledge brokenness before we can begin to move toward unity. We need to name it. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We sit, we listen, and yes, sometimes we speak.

It’s time for white evangelicals to enter the race conversation as advocates, friends and allies. Ignoring the race question is like pretending the mountain doesn’t exist because it is shrouded in fog.

Since completing a one-month series on race during the month of March, many people have asked me how I felt about it and how it was received. Honestly, it was one of the least satisfying projects I have ever completed. Writing daily about race opened doors that only led to other rooms with more doors. Talking about race is never a finished conversation, always just a beginning. A person is never fully “woke.”

Most of the feedback I received was from people of color giving me a thumbs-up for having the guts to even enter the conversation. They were surprised I would venture into volatile territory since most white people who engage in this conversation have stakes in it—they’ve adopted a child of color, married a person of color or live in a very diverse area. I’m a white woman living in a white bubble. If I wanted to, I could go on with my life without a thought to race. Except I can’t.

A few friends pushed back on my series, asking, “Isn’t discussing race just divisive?”

Though some may argue that pointing out inequalities is unproductive and even unchristian, I believe silence perpetuates abuse. Last week there were several hashtags causing waves on Twitter. #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear and #WhatWoCWritersHear revealed ways women in general and women of color specifically feel undervalued, overlooked and diminished as writers. In speaking truth, we blast the darkness with brilliant light. As we bring ugly, buried sin into the open, it loses its power. It’s time to talk about the scary aspects of our society and our humanity.

Though it’s uncomfortable, naming our pain unleashes the power it has over us. We cannot move forward in relationship when we carry unspoken offenses. There is no sisterhood or brotherhood without trust. 

Here’s the truth:

“One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.” –Just Mercy, (p. 15)

One in THREE black male babies are expected to go to jail or prison.

The book Divided by Faith, a highly-researched book on evangelical’s views on race, concludes that the white perspective often dismisses institutional and systemic racism. Most white evangelicals do not acknowledge that we currently live in a racialized society. The authors push back (with documentation for each sentence):

They claim this perspective misses “that whites can move to most any neighborhood, eat at most any restaurant, walk down most any street, or shop at most any store without having to worry or find out that they are not wanted, whereas African Americans often cannot. This perspective misses that white Americans can be almost certain that when stopped by the police, it has nothing to do with race, whereas African Americans cannot. This perspective misses that whites are assumed to be middle class unless proven otherwise, are not expected to speak for their race, can remain ignorant of other cultures without penalty, and do not have to ask every time something goes wrong if it is due to race, whereas African Americans cannot. This perspective misses that white Americans are far more likely than black Americans to get a solid education, avoid being a victim of a crime, and have family and friends with money to help when extra cash is needed for college, a car, or a house.” –Divided by Faith (p. 90)

God’s love sets us all on equal ground. But when American society does not, God’s love should be the fuel that sets his children on fire for justice.

I cannot speak for any one race—my own or anyone else’s. But I’ve been listening. And this is what I hear.

I hear my black sister say society calls her less beautiful, more intimidating and less intelligent than a white woman.

I hear my black brother say he feels unsafe.

I hear parents of adopted children of color say they need to have complicated conversations at an early age.

I hear my mixed race friends asked, “What are you?”

I hear white people say they don’t see color.

I hear the church say we have different cultures, worship and preaching styles, so we shouldn’t attempt to integrate on Sunday mornings.

I hear my black sister experience microaggressions as she is told, “You are so articulate.”

I hear white parents say they value equal education (until they consider sending their child to a failing school).

I hear white evangelicals say we are already equal in Christ, so we don’t need to belabor the race issue.

As of the 2010 census, the United States is 72 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic (included with other races), 13 percent African American, 5 percent Asian and 3 percent other races (U.S. Census Bureau). Race is and will continue to be a conversation as the U.S. becomes increasingly more diverse. Squeezing our eyes shut will not make this problem go away.

Followers of Jesus should be on the forefront of the race conversation. We should advocate for equal treatment, housing, justice, education and rights for our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ. When others are silent, we should speak out. But we also must follow, listen and learn.

Solidarity demands a posture of humility.

Yes, we are called to love God and rest in who we are in Christ as representatives of the Imago Dei. But we are also called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And perhaps loving our neighbor means entering some uncomfortable conversations and spaces for the sake of love. It’s time to admit that just because we can’t see the mountain, it is there, looming behind our white fog.

***

How is God calling you to enter the race conversation?

(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)

***

I was recently interviewed on Anita Lustrea’s podcast, Faith Conversations, about the series “31 Days of #WOKE” and how that series came to be. Check it out here. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please leave a comment below (or if you are being accused of being a “BOT,” you can send me a comment via Facebook or my contact form–that seems to be working!)

Related Post: Wake Up, White Church

**This post includes Amazon affiliate links

Day 31: Conclusion: This I Know {31 Days of #WOKE}

Day 31: Conclusion: This I Know {31 Days of #WOKE}

Would you buy a remodeled home with a cracked foundation? Would you forgo the inspection, assuming that because all appears well, then all is well?

That’s how I feel being born in 1979 on the heels of the Civil Rights movement and school desegregation, without full awareness of the racial history that preceded me. Like moving into a remodeled house without realizing its very foundation is damaged, I was oblivious to living in a world where all was not as it seemed.

It’s foolish to ignore the bearing history has on the present. We pretend slavery, segregation and Jim Crow were in the distant past, when those events continue to seep into old fissures, splitting our cracked foundation even wider. How could the fact that my mother did not attend school, drink from the same water fountain or sit in a doctor’s waiting room with a person of color not have any bearing on how I perceive black people today?

For the past 30 days I have been writing, reading, thinking, eating, drinking and breathing race. The simple fact that I don’t have to think about race on most days reveals that my world caters to people just like me. In the U.S., I am never inconvenienced, denied, discriminated against or made to feel inferior because of my race. I can go about my day without giving a single thought to the color of my skin.

Truthfully, the only times I’ve been painfully aware of my skin color was when I was a minority: as a teacher in a school in inner city Chicago; and on mission trips to Tajikistan, Costa Rica, Uganda, Nicaragua and China. In Chicago, I felt ineffective and paralyzed by my race, but in every other place I felt honored, admired and even revered—simply because I was born with white skin. Though it made me feel uncomfortable at first and I tried to shrug off the attention, I admit I began to enjoy it. Now I can confess: I liked being white because of the privileges it earned me. I knew I could use my whiteness as currency if I needed to get a visa, buy the last bus ticket or find a seat in a crowded room.

Though I’m thankful for some readers who have followed me on this journey toward being more “woke,” I wasn’t out to convince anyone of anything. Instead, I hoped you would learn along with me. Now, I can’t read a book without wondering if the author is a person of color. I notice when all the characters in my children’s books are white or if there is not a single person of color sitting in church. I drive by schools and parks in neighborhoods we could potentially move to, hoping to spot more than a few children with brown skin skipping next to the white ones. I look for opportunities to talk to my children about race.

But as a person who trusted Jesus with my life 27 years ago, I need to process these issues in light of my faith, which, if I’m honest, has wavered. Not because Jesus changed, but because I started looking at and being disappointed by the white church instead of looking at Jesus himself.

Jesus moved in the margins. Though he came from the “right” pedigree of the times, He was criticized for mingling with undesirables. He risked disgrace by talking with a promiscuous woman, being touched by a bleeding woman in a crowd and having his feet soaked with the perfume and tears of another “sinful” woman in a room full of self-righteous men.

With his brown, rough, Middle Eastern fingers, the carpenter, Jesus, touched the untouchable—lepers, demon possessed and those burning with fever. He welcomed wild, curious, innocent little children, telling everyone else to become like them. He broke the rules: throwing over tables in the temple, doing the work of eating and healing on the Sabbath holy day and even calling himself God.

As a child, Jesus narrowly avoided genocide, only escaping by becoming a refugee in Egypt with his parents. Three kings journeyed from the east to lay gifts at his feet and worship the baby king born in the Middle East. Jesus was not white, nor did he say that white people were God’s chosen people. The country called The United States would not exist for another 1700 years.

Jesus did not promise comfort, acceptance or power. In fact, he guaranteed suffering, hardship and death. He told his followers to fall to their knees and wash one another’s mud-crusted feet. He said to show hospitality to the stranger and to outdo one another with generosity. He told them that if they wanted to bear fruit, they needed to die. If they wanted to live, they had to die. If they wanted to love, die.

Jesus cracked the dividing wall of hostility that once separated the Jewish people and everyone else (Eph. 2:14). Jesus made it possible for every person who admitted they were lost and named him as Lord of their lives to be grafted in to his incredible tree of life.

Jesus defeated death, rising from the dead after three days. A low-class woman was the first to see him, touch him and tell others. And with this resurrection, eternal life rushed in like a river undammed.

But the promise wasn’t just hope after death, but Spirit Fruit in life. We could have: Unconditional love for the unsavory, the undesirable and the undeserving. Joy in suffering, but also laughter in abundance. Peace in being beloved children of God–nurtured, adored and protected. Patience in stress and anxious times. Kindness even when treated cruelly. Goodness when the world applauded evil. Faithfulness that God wins. Gentleness when attacked, persecuted or treated unfairly. And self-control to keep moving forward when all they wanted to do was run away, lie down or fight back.

These Spirit Fruits became accessible to every person– regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic class, though those in the margins seemed closer to God because they had less distance to fall. God’s arms extended and his love capacity welcomed all who would come to him. Like children all jumping in bed with their parents at dawn, kicking, scratching and laughing at frigid feet and bedhead, every person who knows Jesus shares family privileges.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” –Gal. 3:26-28

We are all one in Christ. We maintain the beauty of our skin tone, language and culture, but all sit under the blanket of Christ thrown over our legs, warming, comforting and claiming us. The fire light strikes our faces—tan, olive, chocolate, coffee, caramel and cream colors—as we all share the same covering, laughing in the light of His unrelenting love.

The foundation of the United States is cracked. Just as we would not move into an immaculate house with a faulty foundation, so we shouldn’t exist in the world without studying where we went wrong and how we can repair the rift.

Being woke means refusing to live in a house with a broken foundation and pretend that all is well. Although we did not cause this breach, if we do nothing to repair it, then we are good as guilty. As a white woman who wants to follow Jesus as he moves in the margins, I confess my silent complicity in a broken system. I confess my ignorance, pride and complacency.

Christians should be leading the way when it comes to racial reconciliation. And as white Christians, we should be the first to fall on our faces and the last to criticize, be defensive or cover up. This is the way of Jesus. We grind our knees in the ground, making the repairs we know to make on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We educate ourselves, speak out, write, read, teach and listen. But mostly, we just listen.

And yet we know our hope is more secure than our society. We have an unseen foundation that cannot be moved. We have a God who brings the high, low and the low, high. He draws the marginalized, oppressed, invisible and ignored into the same building and gives them equal status as children of God. Paul put it like this:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” –Ephesians 2:19-22

Our spiritual building is anchored by Christ. In him, we rise to become a place where the Spirit of God dwells. We each reflect a facet of God’s glory, a piece of his image and a strength that someone else may not have. We need each other. Without different skin tones, languages, laughs, cultures, expressions of worship and ethnicities, we have an incomplete picture of the kingdom of God in the world.

***

This concludes 31 Days of #WOKE, though I know it is not the last post I’ll write on these issues. Check out any posts you missed in the series here:

1. Introduction

2. The Year I Went All ‘Dangerous Minds’

3. My #Woke Journey {for SheLoves Magazine}

4. Rich, Loud and Carries a Backpack {stereotypes}

5. Lent and Prophetic Lament

6. (Guest Post) “What are you?” by Vannae Savig

7. Without a Voice (poem) 

8. Three of My Favorite Podcasts with Women of Color

9. Uncomfortable Friendships (Part 1)

10. Friendship: The Need to Hear “Me, Too” (Part 2)

11. Resources for Talking to Our Kids about Race

12. Just Mercy

13. Words (a poem)

14. The Culture of Whiteness

15. White in Uganda

16. White in China + 14 Stereotypes Chinese Have about Americans

17. (Guest Post) Moving Towards Different: My Reconciliation Call by Tasha Burgoyne

18. What I Want for My Children

19. How to Engage in Racial Reconciliation When You Live in a White Bubble

20. The Problem with the Wordless Book

21. What Ever Happened to Integration? (Part 1)

22. Following Nikole Hannah-Jones Down the Integration Rabbit Hole (Part 2)

23. The People We See and the People We Don’t

24. (Guest Post) A Letter to My 13-year-old Self by Leah Abraham

25. Divided by Faith (book)

26. The White Savior Complex (thoughts on short, medium and long-term missions)

27. A Lesson Plan for Talking to My Preschooler about Race for the First Time

28. Two Poems//Teaching in Inner City Chicago

29. Transcript of ‘The Race Talk’ with my Kids

30. Talking Race with my Southern Mama (an Interview)

31. Conclusion: This I Know

 

Day 30: Talking Race with my Southern Mama {31 Days of #WOKE}

Talking Race with my Southern Mama

 

My mother grew up running through the orange clay of Buford, Georgia, a small town northeast of Atlanta. Though I’ve heard stories about their beloved black maid, Sadie, her father’s house calls as the town doctor and her attending boarding school to avoid the chaos of integration, I wanted to know more. Especially now, as I’m discovering the cost of a whispered history. We sat in her home in the mountains of Colorado this afternoon and had a chat while the kids napped.

Me: Do you remember specific ways you saw segregation in Buford?

Most of the blacks lived on one side of the train tracks and the whites lived on the other. I really don’t remember seeing many black children. We all kept to ourselves and went to different schools on different sides of the city. My dad was a doctor and I remember there being separate waiting rooms for whites and “coloreds,” as we called African American people then. My dad’s nurse, Katie, was black, though, and she was a close friend of our family. I don’t think she had much education, but was trained by my grandfather, who was also a doctor.

I don’t remember much overt racism growing up, but I do remember it was illegal for African Americans to even go to the next county over, Forsyth [We stopped and looked up more information on this at this time and found this Fresh Air podcast about the racial cleansing that went on in Forsyth county in 1912.]. Once when we were driving through Forsyth with my dad’s black nurse, Katie, I remember she had to lie down on the floor of the car because it was illegal for her to even be in that county. She also came on vacation with us, which always felt a bit clandestine because it wasn’t like she could even eat in restaurants with us.

Me: What was the perception of Martin Luther King, Jr.? What do you remember hearing about him? How did you feel during the Civil Rights Movement?

It was a bad time. I can’t believe my mom even let us kids watch the news during that time. Although he was respected for his non-violent stance, I just remember my mom telling me that it wasn’t going to end well for Martin Luther King, Jr. because the cops certainly weren’t taking the same nonviolent stance. I didn’t do any marches at that time, but I did do a march later when we lived in Florida for MLK day to become a national holiday. I remember the private Christian school your brother went to for a while voted not to observe MLK day.

Me: Can you tell me more about your house help growing up?

So our main interaction with African Americans was through our maids. Sadie was our maid for 23 years and was like family to us. The day my father told us she had terminal pancreatic cancer was the only day I remember my father crying. We loved her.

She would come to our house every day from 9 AM to 5 PM except Wednesdays and Sundays. We all came home for lunch since our school and my dad’s office was so close and we’d have traditional southern food. When we ate, Sadie would sit in the kitchen just a few feet away while the rest of us ate at the huge round table. Sadie would also do our laundry, clean and come on Saturday mornings to make us pancakes. Since I had four sisters, I remember her chasing away neighbors who were bothering us with her broom. We always hated Wednesdays when Sadie had the day off because the house just felt emptier somehow.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized Sadie couldn’t read or write. I also eventually found out she had a daughter being raised by relatives in the north. Because she worked full-time with our family, she wasn’t able to take care of her daughter.

We went to Sadie’s funeral in the black church when she died. We were the only white people there and they had us sit in the front row.

My best friend growing up also had house help. Their family was even more well-off than ours, so they had a live-in upstairs and downstairs maid. And their maids wouldn’t just put the food on the table for them to eat family-style, but would serve them at every meal. They also had a chauffer.

My aunt and grandmother had house help, but they would mostly just clean for them, not cook for them like ours did for our family.

Me: Do you feel like the portrayal of house maids in the book and movie The Help was realistic?

Yes, it was. In that movie, the help wasn’t supposed to use the bathroom in the house. Our maids did use our bathroom, but my wealthy friend I was talking about had a separate bathroom in the garage. And your dad’s grandmother in Jackson, Mississippi, had a bathroom out in the shed for her house help.

Me: What do you remember about the schools being integrated?

It was my junior year of high school and instead of continuing  in the public schools, my mom decided to send me to a private boarding school. There was just a big fear that the schools would be violent when they went through the transition to integration. My sister who was five years younger than me did eventually attend the public schools and observed some violence, but it wasn’t as bad by the time she graduated. I don’t remember there even being many black people when I went to college at the University of Georgia, though I’m sure there were some.

***

Check back tomorrow for the last post in the series! (Woot!) I’ll be doing a bit of rehashing, reflecting and ruminating on how to move forward from here.

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Image: By Esther Bubley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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