“Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I don’t like to rock the boat.
I prefer to smooth things over.
I like to keep the peace, and not ruffle feathers.
I am also a mom.
I am a mom to 2 kids: one is white, and one is a person of color.
I am seeing the world through new eyes.
You might say I’ve had a racialized conversion.
Or maybe I am just a mama bear.
Before adopting, many people told me, “kids don’t see skin color.” My daughter was only 3 when she started talking about skin color; noticing, and commenting. First pointing to my skin and her skin, picking out colors of crayons to draw our family, and commenting on how many more Chinese people were at JFK than at DIA when we traveled. She was 7 when she had a best buddy at school say to her, “I am going to be friends with Ashley (name has been changed) now because she is not Chinese.” I cry just revisiting that memory. She was too young (so, so young!) to be excluded because of her skin color. Yet, she was. I can recall other experiences like this; stories that are hers to tell, not mine; times where I was seeing the world through new eyes – through the eyes of my love for her.
When Covid-19 first started I overheard my kids playing in our backyard with other kids who announced that covid was all China’s fault because they eat bats. Later I was on a Zoom call where I had to mute people I dearly love because of their insistence on “China started it” theories and I didn’t want my Chinese American daughter to hear them blaming the place she was born.
She crawled up into my lap and asked me sheepishly, “am I black?” when she overheard people she loves disdain the Black Lives Matter movement.
She has overheard someone mimic an Asian accent in front of her and her beloved Chinese nanny. She has overhead people talking about “black on black violence” and “the problem with Somali people.”
Of course, nobody intentionally meant to be hurtful, they are good people, but it still hurt.
I have always wanted to think that we do not judge each other based on the color of our skin but on the “content of our character” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, but my experiences as a mom have shown me there is still so much work to do. So, so, so much work.
Racial justice is a gospel matter. It is near and dear to the heart of God because God loves all people. He cares for the seen and unseen pain of his children. We join with God when we see the image of God in all people and when we care for the places of each other’s pain. Each one is precious in his eyes. It takes all of us to fully image God. Jesus came to tear down the dividing walls of hostility that exist. We participate in the gospel of Jesus when we join God in tearing down dividing walls of hostility and building up His beloved community.
God’s heart for racial justice was clear to me long before my journey as a mom, but my journey as a mom has given me new ears to hear just how far we still have to go. My love for my daughter has given me new eyes to see how far we have to go in seeing God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven when it comes to matters of race and justice. When one of God’s children is hurting, we are all hurting. Jesus teaches us to weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice, to love my neighbor as myself, to work to build a better world.
I wonder what it would be like if I had the same mama bear instinct and love for each story I hear? I wonder how I would be if I were to love strangers like they were my own child? How might I show up in the world? Would I listen more closely? Would I have deeper empathy instincts? Would I seek first to listen and to understand?
It is hard for some folks to understand what is happening in my heart.
I have rocked the boat.I have not smoothed things over.I have ruffled feathers.
I’ve made mistakes along the way, too. So many mistakes.
How can they understand?
I still wish they would try.
I imagine they wish I would try to listen and understand them better too.
I wish I would listen better. I want to understand.
So, we miss each other again and again.
This is a painful reality. It is an ongoing struggle.
I think I understand (at least in part) that we enter the conversation about race for different reasons.
For some, it is more political.
For me, it is more personal.
For some, it is revisiting a fight that started in the 1960’s.
For me, it is a mama bear instinct.
I’m on a journey. They are on a journey. We are all in process.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
God help us all. God help us all become the beloved community that Dr. King spoke of.