When our boys’ neighborhood friends play with toy guns or hide and seek in the neighborhood at night, we will have to tell our sons they cannot go out and play.
[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”innovation-pullq-right”]For the sake of our two sons, now ages four and ten months, we will have to always be knowledgeable and proactive about race to help them become successful[/su_pullquote]
Why is that? Friends and society tell us young black teens, even younger than 12-year-old Tamir Rice, are seen as black men. You may remember that Rice was killed in November 2014 by two shots fired by police officers in Cleveland. The officers drove their cruiser up in the grass next to a park gazebo and got out with their guns raised, firing shots at Rice less than ten seconds after exiting their cruiser. Police dispatchers failed to tell the officers that the caller reporting a suspicious person said it might be a teen with a toy gun. The gun wasn’t real.
To many white people, a young black male is immediate cause for concern. This same standard does not apply to young white teens. And it is important for all of us to take a deep look inside to recognize that this bias exists, to understand why we are conditioned to react as we do and to question and modify our attitudes toward our non-white neighbors.
If you’re not sure what white privilege is then you have likely benefited from not having your race held against you.
As white parents, we pledged to prepare our black sons to navigate a set of societal rules and expectations that do not apply to us. Still, somebody had to explain to us the very real constructs of white privilege as we navigated the adoption process. We learned to think deeply about our own privilege after deciding to adopt. When we learned we could not conceive children, we searched our souls and carefully researched and considered our options. Whether we were open to children of any race was never a question. Adoption forms, classes and discussion groups opened our eyes to systemic issues of race. The depth of the learning and awareness we lacked was both astounding and guilt inducing.
We have learned to never stop listening and educating ourselves. For the sake of our two sons, now ages four and ten months, we will have to always be knowledgeable and proactive about race to help them become successful.
We are all one in Christ Jesus. We believe this, but we had to face our own naiveté in what does not ring true for a majority in our society. It was imperative for us to understand bias and how deeply it exists within our world. Misconceptions about race abound. People of color are widely marginalized in ways big and small. Have you ever thought about what “flesh” colors in bandages means or what color a “normal” flesh-colored crayon is? “Flesh” color is not flesh color for anyone except Caucasians. Brown is flesh color for various populations, including African Americans.
We noticed how in our social, professional and worship circles we were surrounded by mostly white faces, and we have had to make concerted efforts to spend both our time and our money in places and with people of various racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. This teaches our boys we value people of all colors and beliefs.
We were very far removed from the real issues of race that are getting worse, not better. But we knew that we had to learn to understand how we were contributing to the problem and how we could become allies to people of color in a system that is detrimental to them and beneficial to us. We have worked to understand racial history of America, understand the Black Lives Matter movement and speak out about marginalization and oppression. We encourage those who love our children to do the same, instead of staying silent. It’s upsetting to say “All Lives Matter” in response, because all lives WILL matter only when black lives do.
We have learned to listen more and acknowledge as white people that we don’t experience racism, so we know much less than we thought we did. Reverse racism is not real. Racism is a systemic way of oppressing people of another race – people of color have never had systemic power over whites in the US. We have learned to diversify where our information originates. We understand that disparities persist in relationship to poverty and racial equality, and we contribute time and energy to organizations that we believe are working toward equity for people of color.
Our work is ongoing; and we must commit our lives to it. It’s the only way we may reconcile ourselves with God for the sake of our children and the promise of progress.
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Nikki and Chris are the proud parents of two sons. The family attends St. James, Westwood.