For several days now, I have struggled to find the words I want to say. As is often the case, I ended up finding that the best way to process through all the things I’ve been feeling was to create. So, I painted this rock. It only has one word, but to me, it says many things.
First, it says that no matter what our outward appearance may be, we are all part of the human race. Whatever color the skin, when cut, it bleeds the same blood. Whatever color the eyes, they cry the same salty tears. As the mama of a child whose skin is a different color than my own, I lost all patience a long time ago for anyone who regards any color or race as inferior. Every person is valuable. Every person is uniquely beautiful. Every person is created in the image of God (indeed, the first people, about whom that was originally spoken, weren’t white)!
It is also a reminder that the most important job we’ve been given in this life is to love one another. For those of us who follow Jesus, this isn’t optional. We are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are told that because God is love, if we do not love, we do not really know God. Jesus told His first followers, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” How did He love us? He gave up His life for us. Jesus literally died for us because He loved us that much. And He calls us to be willing to love each other that much too. Not just our families, not just our friends, not just the people who look like us or think like us or hang out in the same social circles we do. Love all people, everywhere, that much. What would that look like?
I don’t have the answers. I just know that this world seems more broken every day, and I believe that fixing it starts here. With love. Not with judgment, not with hate, not with politics, not with violence, but by loving one another. Every person, everywhere, every day. It also starts with asking ourselves what role we play in the narrative. As I’ve reflected on this, my first reaction was to try to focus on the way I try to treat each person I meet with dignity and respect, regardless of their appearance. As I thought harder, though, what occurred to me is how immersed I am in white culture.
While parts of Maryland have high levels of diversity, our particular county is not one of them. Growing up, I knew very few people of color. When I was in college, I got a part-time job in the Admissions Office where I worked alongside two black students, my first real encounter with POC. John and Carl were hilarious. They were smart and kind, and both were talented singers. We used to pass the time singing along with the radio and we’d go out to lunch together almost every day (we particularly enjoyed Chinese food and peach sundaes). One day, the guys were chatting and they vented their frustration that there was nowhere in town where they could find the product they needed for their hair. I was floored. Not only was I unaware that none of our local stores carried what they needed, I hadn’t even realized they used something different than what my white friends and I did. That was my first wake-up call of just how little I knew about black culture. Over the years, while my circle of non-white friends, coworkers, and family members has increased dramatically, I have to confess that I have done little to actively learn about what it’s like to be a black person living in America. Thanks to our Chinese son, I’ve done quite a bit of research in regards to Asian and Asian-American culture, but I haven’t extended that effort to fully understand what it’s like for other people of color. I must strive to do better. We all must do better.
Here are a few places we can start. The following is a list of inspiring folks I would encourage you to check out so that you can hear their voices. Their feeds, their podcasts, their artwork, and their videos will begin to unlock a different perspective. A perspective that those of us immersed in the white narrative need to hear. Even those of us who strive to overcome racist behaviors need to listen, to understand where and how the current systems in place are failing our brothers and sisters of other skin colors. Follow, listen, learn, and pray with me. Change starts with each of us.
Elsa M (Emmy Nominated Host of Midday Maryland and of the podcast Eden & Elsa): @iamelsam
Stephen “tWitch” Boss (SYTYCD, the ellen show): @sir_twitch_alot
Amber Kemp-Gerstel (NBC Making It, Disney Family Sundays Host): @damasklove
Be the Bridge (nonprofit racial literacy organization): @beabridgebuilder
Danielle Coke (artist): @ohhappydani
Tasha Morrison (speaker, author): @latashamorrison
Black Coffee with White Friends: @blackcoffeewithwhitefriends
Austin Channing Brown (writer, speaker): @austinchanning
How to Be an Antiracist/Ibram X. Kendi/2019
White Fragility/Robin J. Diangelo/June 26, 2018
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness/Michelle Alexander/2010
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings/Maya Angelou/1969