The Two Things I Want to Teach My Sons About Their Black Friends
I was thinking today about my two sons. They are 15 months and 2 years old; they are also white. I was thinking about how being white makes other's perceptions of you different than if you are some other color. I was thinking about some of the recent police shootings, and about the longstanding, systemic discrimination towards people who don't look like my sons. And I was thinking about what it is I want to teach them about their black friends.
I'm sure the (at least) two things I want to teach them aren't perfect and certainly aren't comprehensive. I simply cannot relate to what it's like to be black in today's society (or any other society, for that matter). In fact, I ran this post by several people of color to get their insights and perspectives in an attempt to make sure that I won't be teaching my sons harmful things, or forgetting to teach them critical things. The fact of the matter is that I won't have to communicate certain things to my sons that every African-American that I know has been taught by their parents and has or will teach to their children. Now, those who are white can doubt that such a talk is necessary in today's society. But of course we don't actually know; we are, from our ivory tower, simply decreeing that our brothers and sisters in Christ are either liars or are fantastically fearful. Either way, we are making judgments about things that we simply know very little about.
That being said and those bridges being built, I offer this post in an attempt to help us think through how to, in at least one way, teach our children to be empathetic as they attempt to be wise as serpants and innocent as doves.
First, I want to teach them that there really is no such thing as being “color blind.” It doesn’t exist in our society. Any risky behavior, goofing off, being loud and obnoxious, will be seen differently depending on who is present; therefore, inevitably, it will be seen differently if a black friend is with them. In our society, unfortunately, that means it is more likely that the police will be called sooner. Growing up, my brothers sometimes played with toy guns; unlike Tamir Rice, however, the police were never called on them. So they need to stand up for their friend, as well as be aware that injustice should be met with truth and patience. If they witness racism, don’t be silent. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If they see or hear prejudice, a well-spoken word will go much further than anger, or especially apathy. Shrugging it off as just “being how it is” doesn’t serve anyone, especially those who aren’t colorblind.
Second, I want to teach them that black lives matter. And by saying that black lives matter, this doesn’t mean we are denying that all lives matter, because of course they do. They need to know about white privilege. They need to know that inherently, life will likely just be easier for them, not because it’s their fault, but because we live in a fallen world full of people who have fears, and prejudices, and racism in their hearts without even knowing it. They themselves probably do, too. The only way to combat this is to fundamentally acknowledge it’s there, and deal with it. And fight it. And talk about it. And write about it. And confess it. And actively work to destroy it.
The fact is, every single one of us, male or female, black or white, have prejudices in our hearts. My sons do too. The answer is always going to be turning to Christ, getting our gaze off of ourselves and onto Him. The answer will always be to turn to the One who made every race beautiful, to show us the inherent worth of every single life, born or unborn, male or female, black or white. Jesus showed no partiality in who He loved. In fact, he demonstrated His impartiality by dying for the sins of the world, of offering forgiveness to anyone who asks.
I want my sons to start there…at the gospel. THAT is what should inform them about how to treat others, and how to lay down their lives for their friends. THAT is what they should shout from the rooftops to anyone who will hear. Jesus saves. Jesus loves. Jesus will come back again, and he won’t look like them. He’s a dark skinned man, and it's He and He alone who will make everything right again.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
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