Last week I had an interaction via email that shook me up, I was writing to someone about a video shown to one of the kids that I felt was too violent for them to watch. As it turns out that person completely misunderstood me and responded with a really angry email that implied that I had a problem with social justice and race issues. I was shocked, as this is counter to who I am as a person and not at all what I am trying to teach my guys. I was hurt and I felt misunderstood. I still feel that way in many ways BUT… and this is a really big BUT; As I was moaning to my mom about it on the phone and telling her the unfairness of it I had a smack in the head, it felt like an actual smack too, I had to sit down. All these feelings of being misunderstood because of the colour of my skin was a moment(s) in time, but for a man/woman of colour this is actually a living reality of their entire life. I was just peaking into a window of what it must feel like to live in a different skin and let me tell you, it’s uncomfortable, even for a moment. My stomach was churning, my feelings were hurt, I was angry, I was feeling a need to justify, to explain… if that was just a moment, just a thread of emails in a long history of email writing then what would it be like to live with these misunderstandings on a daily basis. Every day, for a lifetime? It was humbling and it was eye opening for me.
Then there was the US elections, we sat (the boys and I as Tim was away) watching and waiting for a result just like the rest of the world and. on Saturday, right before I took Kaleb to soccer they finally announced the winner as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and as I took a deep breath I realized that my relief, my joy, couldn’t be anything close to what many people of colour must be feeling. I won’t lie to you, I cried when Van Jones cried, I cried when it finally hit me that a woman, a woman of colour was going to be the VP of the US. It was a beautiful day, a moving day, a day in which the entire world seemed to let the steam out of the pressure cooker that we have all been living in for the last four years. No, I am not living in the US, but their President, their race issues, their hate talk of the last four years has been fueling anger and dissent across the globe with attacks on allies and terrifs for no seeming reason. They had become a bully on the playground where they once had been the kid who stood up to bullies. I was born in the US and though I have tried to down play that the last number of years there was once a time in my life when that made me proud. On Saturday, I felt a small amount of that pride again when I saw Kamala Harris standing on the stage delivering her speech. I cried again and I was very aware that my two sons, white males, were also watching this historic moment and were just as happy as I was.
Yesterday I watched the concession speech that John McCain gave when he lost the race to Obama and it sprang up a new hope in me that we can once again look at the race issue without hate, that we can open our hearts, eyes and ears to really hear the other side because the other side is not our enemy. This person I was emailing isn’t my enemy, they are a hurting person of colour and while I took the brunt of the hurt this week I think it’s okay, I think I can suck it up and take it because when it boils down I think I can sit and listen (when that time comes) to hear from them and come to a greater understanding, a more helpful way forward. When I was a child we used to sing a song called ‘all the children in the world’ – red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus/God loves ALL the little children of the world and to HIM adults are his little children as well, there is no magical number that changes a black child into an adult that is not loved by God. He/She will always be his child, just as my guys will always be my child regardless of how fast they overtake me in height. His greatest command to us was to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and if the world started to do that a little more then maybe, maybe the world would look a little less broken, the people of colour in this world would feel more welcome, more understood. If white people could for a moment try to put themselves in the shoes of the ‘minority’ maybe we would start to have a deeper compassion, a deeper understanding, a more committed way of listening and maybe then change would finally be within our grasp.
The week to me was one filled with both anxst about the emails and also the election in which so much has changed, I feel a small (really small) understanding of what it’s like to judged by skin colour, but it’s been an incredible learning tool, and a humbling experience and I won’t soon forget it, I pray I can use that new understanding to extend grace, compassion and love regardless of how I am interpreted. I challenge us all to do the same. No matter what your political leanings, no matter what religion, or race or gender I ask you to open your eyes and see the person beside you as a beautiful member of the HUMAN race, not the black race, the Indian race, the White race, the Latino, Asian, (name the race) race but the HUMAN race. I ask you to put down your defences, listen to the other side and learn from them. You don’t have to always agree but when you stop listening and only assign motivations based on colour or political stripes you are part of the problem, not the solution.