"But you're not black!" said my neighbor's child to me while I was discussing politics with his mother. I did not cringe when he said this; I have had many years to practice my "strong face." My mother, whom I have so much respect for, is white. My dad, the thought-provoker, is black.
Mixed. Biracial. I choose the “other” box when encouraged to provide race information. Growing up in a class surrounded by white children, I stood out.
In my younger days, friends would compare their skin tone to mine after their Florida vacation, but my skin was still darker. I remember in middle school the nagging suggestions to “straighten your hair, straighten your hair” and comments like, “I wonder what your hair would be like if it were straight.” But it is not straight. It is as curly as curly gets. I remember a bus ride during fifth grade when the driver turned on a rap station, briefly, and my friends asked me if I knew the song, because that was my music.
Being black in a sea full of white can be exhausting.
I have a sweet baby boy, who is innocent and full of life. This little boy has stolen my entire heart. He makes me proud. He makes me humble. He makes me patient. I have so much love for my son, who is brown and beautiful too.
He is so much like your children or the children you know. Warm. Compassionate. He does not like to miss out on popcorn and a movie. He loves book after book at bedtime. He loves with no limits. He is kind and full of hope. He is so much the same! And yet, he is different.
I pray that my son, with his brown skin, stays safe.
My son, who loves his hooded sweatshirts, will not have the same luxuries as his fellow classmates. This little boy will face a different reality when getting pulled over by the police. When he becomes a teenager, I hope that he does not do foolish teenage things, as his punishment will be much harsher. If he decides to grow his hair out and wear an Afro, please do not call him a thug, or think it. When he’s walking at night in a nice neighborhood, I pray he does not scare you.
I need a safe space for this young man to grow up. I need him to come to church on Sunday and be able to weep with his fellow church family for the black lives lost at the hand of police officers. I need him to be able to come to God's house and talk about his frustrations about being a black man. I need him to be loved. I need you to embrace him. I need you to look at him and not be afraid. I need that for him. I don't want him to grow up in a church where we cannot discuss racism and injustice.
So don't be silent. Don't sit in your pew and squirm when someone prays for justice for black people. Be empowered. Stand firm. Love people and their differences the way you would want to be loved.
I have such a strong hope that by the time my son is old enough to endure the burden of being black that we will have changed the world.
How strong would we be if we all came together?
Take a stand. A stand to not be silent. A stand to speak out.
If you think you do not know anyone affected by racism, then think of my son. Think of how important he is to me. How important he is to God.