Years ago, my son raced out of his kindergarten classroom and into my arms and shared a story that I’d long expected but wished we could have avoided. An older student had hurled racial slurs at him during recess.
A white woman interrupted our conversation. “Oh, honey,” she said. “We’re all equal. God doesn’t see color.” Before I could respond, she smiled and walked away.
My son frowned, “God doesn’t see me because I’m brown, Mama?”
“God sees you and loves you,” I said, trying to conceal my anger. Why didn’t I tell the woman that her words hurt me and could have hurt my son if not addressed? Cupping his face in my light-but-not-white hands, I met his gaze. “God chose the color of our skin just like He chose every detail that makes everything and everyone He created special and unique.” I hugged him a little tighter than usual.
He smiled, “That kid needs us to pray for him, huh?”
“Yes, but we also need to ask the principal to make sure this behavior is not accepted.”
That night, my husband and I had our first of many talks about the racism and discrimination our son would face as a Black man in America.
When my son became a teenager, he learned firsthand that his skin color could make him a target for hate, injustice, and abuse in the eyes of some no matter how much of an upstanding citizen he continues to be. On his way home from work one day, a white officer pulled him over without cause. The officer scowled as he cuffed my son, “How can you afford this nice car?” Accusing him of being a drug dealer, the officer slammed him onto the hood of his vehicle. He released my son after checking his license — no excuses, no apologies.
Watching my son sleep that night, I thanked God that we’d spoken honestly with our children about the times when my husband, who holds a PhD and has never broken the law, had experienced discrimination and injustice. We’d prepared both of our sons to respond with exaggerated calmness and respect, in hopes to prevent them from becoming hashtag-statistics when they were the ones racially profiled by authority figures or fellow citizens. We taught them how to reply when boxed-in by stereotypes and cut with racist insults from fellow students, teachers, neighbors, coworkers, strangers, and even church members.
Though God has placed loving people and honorable police officers of all races in our lives, I lament because racism is still the inescapable reality in our world.
Some people claim colorblindness is kind and insist racism doesn’t exist, but my sons and other people of color do not have that luxury. While prayerfully studying Scripture, I’ve learned that racism and injustice were just as destructive in biblical times. But I can’t find anything that leads me to believe our loving Creator doesn’t see color, and I rejoice in the wonderful diversity He intentionally designed and purposed for the good of all.
Sin, especially racism, distorts the beauty of God’s masterful and diverse workmanship, tainting our perception of differences and breeding hate, fear, pride, and a false sense of superiority or inferiority. Sin also blurs our vision so we can’t see our own wickedness, making us quick to anger and judge before we truly listen to others. The psalmist David demonstrates how much we need God to reveal our need for heart-and-mind changes.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me into the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
My son, now a young adult, still can’t avoid seeing the color of his skin when he looks in the mirror or comes face-to-face with blatant or subtle racism. He experiences the results of systemic, institutional, and generational racism in a system that has been set up against him.
Still, I am hopeful change will come. If not now, surely when Jesus returns.
I’m encouraged when people who are different from one another step out of their comfort zones and stand together in the name of righteousness and justice, which biblically go hand-in-hand.
Hard conversations seasoned with grace lead to people hearing one another without deflecting or becoming defensive. Loving our neighbors with our words, actions, and attitudes helps develop a deeper appreciation of our independent and collective value as God’s beautifully diverse image-bearers.
When we see each other and place God above politics and our believed rightness, we can seek to understand and celebrate our diversity while acknowledging our different experiences. We can hear one another and even disagree with one another with respect and compassion, not the kind of tolerance that assumes “differences” must be swallowed like sour milk.
The road toward healing and racial reconciliation often feels too long and too hard. I’ve forgiven those whose self-proclaimed colorblindness denies the pain that permeates my world. I’ve repented for allowing hurts to grow into resentment. And now, I’m willing to be uncomfortable, to saturate conversations with love so we can all be better equipped to serve the Lord as beautifully diverse brothers and sisters in Christ.
Together, we can rejoice in the color of love, displayed from the lightest to the darkest shades of beautiful that God intentionally created us with — for His glory and for our good.
Loving our neighbors with our words, actions, and attitudes helps develop a deeper appreciation of our independent and collective value as God’s beautifully diverse image-bearers. -Xochitl Dixon: Click To Tweet