Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the issue of systemic racism–specifically as it pertains to African-Americans. As I’ve been reading people’s posts on social media, I’ve encountered some encouraging dialogue. Yes, some of it is negative. Some people have completely missed the point of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Because it’s not a “perfect” movement, some people want to completely dismiss the essence of the message.
One thing I’ve realized is that whites are often timid in bringing up the subject of race for fear of offending us (the non-white person.)
One of the most offensive things that people regularly say to me is this: “I don’t see color. I just see people.” Can you imagine a person walking through a beautiful flower garden with many different types of flowers saying, “I don’t see color, or any of the differences in the flowers. I just see flowers.” ? I pity the person who walks through life, ignoring the unique beauty of God’s creation. To notice the size, shape, smell, texture, and color of one flower is not to discriminate against another flower. To notice and to acknowledge is the first step towards acknowledging the amazing creativity, and wisdom of our marvelous creator.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory! Isaiah 6:3
I acknowledge his glory in me. In my brown skin and my kinky, curly hair. In my wide nose, full lips and my full figured body. I love the soulfulness of my culture, the rhythm in the way we carry ourselves and our passionate way of expressing ourselves. I don’t want to be ignored or to blend in with the masses of “people”. I want to be the black woman I was created to be. Of course, I don’t want anyone presuming to know who I am based on the qualities of my culture. Of course, I don’t want to be treated as inferior (or superior) because I am a woman or because I’m black. Of course, I don’t want to be made fun of for eating watermelon and fried chicken. And I don’t want anyone assuming that I’m a criminal or that my sons are criminals simply because we’re black.
I am a human being with thoughts, feelings, struggles, pains, joys, strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else on the planet. But I’m a human being who is American and of African decent. I’m here! Please don’t just put me in the melting pot of people. Please see my unique beauty, for I believe our uniqueness reflects something about our beautiful God that only we can reveal.
I believe our Creator reveals something unique about Himself in every culture. It is only when we recognize his beauty in it’s various forms, that we have a fuller picture of who this God is. He is not the culture, but He is uniquely reflected in each culture
I think one of the blessings of all this talk about racial injustice and systemic racism, is this: We’re finally talking. Not simply shouting at each other. (Although that’s going on too.) It seems as if the majority culture of America is finally giving us (African-Americans) the opportunity to share our stories. I’ll be honest. Many of us hesitate to share because we have accepted our struggles as a part of life. It’s not something we usually think about, it just is what it is. Two, we don’t want to be the angry black person who blames every problem they face on racism. I have been overly sensitive to this. As a result, I’ve become unaware of, and haven’t acknowledged much of the overt and indirect racism for a LONG time. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt unless they prove otherwise. Three, many white people don’t think racism still exists in America. I’ve actually had friends to tell me this directly. Just because YOU don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because people aren’t burning crosses in people’s yards doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Now, it seems, people are willing to listen. People are trying to understand this issue. Thank you to each of you who are willing to listen without judgement. As we share our stories, and you listen to understand and to connect with us as humans, we experience healing. Our stories aren’t political issues or religious beliefs to be hotly debated. Our stories are our personal life experiences. Yes, there is a commonality to each story, but each story is unique and it paints a picture as to why we believe what we believe. It helps you to understand why we are the way we are.
Several years ago a lady began to talk with me about black people. She was white. She didn’t understand why black people voted for Obama just because he was black. Btw, she never gave me an opportunity to explain why. She just spouted out her opinions on why she thought blacks were being racist. I listened quietly. She began to tell me about a book that she read to her children about a black person. (Bravo to you. You read one book about a black person! Sorry for the sarcasm.) Then she proceeded to tell me how she grew up in a town in Oklahoma where blacks weren’t allowed. She said there was a sign at the city limits telling blacks not to enter. Finally, she ended by saying that one of her family members called blacks the N word. She said he didn’t mean anything derogatory by it. It was just what he called blacks. Not once in the “conversation” was I asked about my experience. In fact, I listened the entire time, pretty dumbfounded, greatly offended and hurt. In spite of what you may think about this lady, I think this lady loved me. I was probably the first black person that she felt she could share so openly with. I’m glad she shared her story with me. I wasn’t happy about her lack of humility in seeking to understand me and my culture and she seemed to exude an air of superiority towards my culture.
She suffered from ignorance.
I would have felt valued if she had asked me questions, rather than presuming to know the answers.
Recently, I was listening to Soong-Chan Rah talk about racial injustice in America and how to move forward. He talks about allowing the voices of the suffering to speak for themselves, rather than the person of privilege speaking for them. He says, “Can we elevate these voices because they are the voices that have not been heard.” He also asks the question,”What books have you read? Of the last 10 books you’ve read, who are the authors?” Most people would respond that those authors represent the dominant culture. He further explains, “This shows me that you’re not hearing the other voices. ”
If you want to better understand the underlying problems of racism that still affect us today, listen to our stories. Read books by African-American authors. Listen to our stories through our music. (Please listen to more than just Lecrae. 🙂 ) If you want to become a lover of all cultures. If you want to have your heart enlarged, and your mind opened, read books by authors from a variety of cultures and perspectives. Develop good relationships with all sorts of people. Ask questions. Listen to their stories, and humbly seek to understand rather than judging. I know I need to do more of this myself.
Here is a list of books written by African -Americans to get you started as you seek to understand the beauty and challenges of being black in America. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m just included a few books that either I or my husband have read, and enjoyed. I’m also including a list of African-American musicians that we also enjoy.
Jubilee by Margaret Walker (My favorite book in highschool)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred D Taylor
Autobiography of Malcolm X
Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou(and the rest of her autobiographies. I LOVE them!)
To Kill a MockingBird ( I haven’t read this one, but my daughter insists that I do.)
Up From Slavery by Booker T Washington
Having Our Say By Sarah and Elizabeth Delaney
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson
Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Fear Lives Here No More by Alecia Baptiste (that me!) Get your copy Here
Check out Deidra Riggs. She’s an African-American Christian writer: http://www.deidrariggs.com/
Check out Tony Evans. He’s an African-American pastor/author from Dallas. http://tonyevans.org/
Here are some of the musicians that we enjoy:
Alecia Baptiste (get your copy of my CD here)
Men of Standard