Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Skin Color and Shame

Last Friday was the end of a week where the news was all about two black men killed by police in separate cities. It was also the day after five Dallas police officers were killed during a protest of those shootings.

I was skimming Facebook and saw the first seconds of a video about how to act when a police officer pulls you over. It was Coffey Anderson, a black man, giving the information in the video. The video has since gone viral; it's likely you already saw it.

When Jackson saw it, he made a joke and said, "Everyone knows how to do that!"

So I reminded Jackson that he has white skin and probably doesn't have to fear what might happen if he were to ever be pulled over, while some people with darker skin might.

The only thing I've ever feared is paying a fine or the chance of increased insurance rates.

I explained some neighborhoods aren't as safe as ours and sometimes people are told not to trust police. And sometimes police get so overwhelmed by their jobs they turn to violence and hurt people. I told him how two men were killed this week and someone else turned their gun on police.

I told Jackson we live in a neighborhood where we aren't afraid and feel safe, but not everyone feels safe in their towns. Some people with darker skin are afraid or dislike people with lighter skin because that's all they've ever known or been told to do. And some people with lighter skin are afraid or dislike people with darker skin because that's all they've ever known or been told to do.

That's when Jackson responded, "I wish I wasn't part of a skin color that does bad things to other skin colors."

My breath caught in my throat.

I explained he should never be ashamed about the way God made him. God gave him a specific eye color and hair color and skin color, and we won't be ashamed about that; no one should ever be ashamed about that!

I went on to tell him, "If you wish people with other skin colors didn't feel so afraid, then make them your friends. Be the reason they aren't scared of white skin!" We can help each other learn and help each other have courage.

And then I had to walk into a different room to cry.

We think our kids are oblivious to what's been happening in our country from Ferguson to Baton Rouge, and I've personally tried to shield mine from the harder horrors. This conversation with Jackson helped me realize we - collectively, WE as in all of us - can't change what's happening if we don't start talking about it. And we need to start talking about it early, even at my son's young age of nine.

I barely know how to parent on a good day, when we're facing sibling spats and chore accountability. Throw in the biggies like sexting, online bullying, addictions, porn, human trafficking, sexual ambiguity, the war on ISIS, Trump vs. Clinton, and race relations (just to name a few), and I feel downright overwhelmed.

How on earth do I parent through the things facing Katie and Jackson? I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm pretty sure I'm royally messing things up.

But when my son tells me he's ashamed of his skin color, I know it's time to dig in deep.

God, help me be a parent who can talk through the hard stuff and lean on You through all my inadequacies. Remind me that staying silent is worse than my bumbling attempts at honest and grace-filled conversations. Please put wise friends and family in my and my kids' lives - people who can help me navigate parenting and also give my children counsel when I don't know how. Give me courage to speak up, speak truth, and ask questions - even when I run the risk of asking stupid questions and looking like an ignorant bumpkin. Thank You for modeling humility and sacrificial love by sending Your Son, Jesus, to pardon all of our messes. Please take my messes, including the parenting ones, and make a masterpiece of them. Amen!


mary savacool said...

Your prayers are working! You beautifully and simply spoke the truth! I just love you so much! xoxo

Andrea Bushnell said...

Lovely! I too struggle with feeling inadequate when it comes to parenting. I'm slowly leaning how to bring all my fears to God. He is my source of hope and strength as I fumble my way through. Thanks Elizabeth!


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