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.
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.
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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):
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