I am guilty of not hanging out with black people. And, you might be too. Or, if you’re black, you might not be hanging with white folks either. When we separate, differentiate and bifurcate, what are we teaching our children? I know this is not a new question, but it bears repeating in 2016.
I noticed something today, while watching a preacher on TV (yes, I admit to watching regularly). As the show cut to various shots of the audience, the whites were sitting among palettes of white and the blacks among various shades of black. In other words, the blacks were sitting with blacks and the whites with whites. I thought, this is CHURCH, for heaven’s sake! How can we be divided HERE? Ironically, one of the scriptures used during the evangelist’s sermon was this: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Hmm, so maybe we didn’t get the scriptural memo?
My daughter is still at the age where she doesn’t describe her friends as black or white. Now, admittedly, she goes to a fairly “whitey white” school in a rural mountain town; however, she does not describe her friend of a different color BY her color. She’s just her friend who sits with her at lunch. Amen, sister.
And, of course, I do have black friends. But, do I go out to dinner with them? Or, invite these precious women to my home? And, if they went to my church, would we sit together? I hope so. More than hoping, I should be taking actions that allow me to answer “yes” to each of these questions… for the sake of my children!
Let’s think about the elections that everyone is tired of thinking about… just for a moment. Why do we think it’s right to talk about “the black vote” as opposed to “the white vote?” Why do politicians make different appeals to different colors of people just to get their differentiated votes? If we claim to want to fight racism, why are we constantly pointing out race? I honestly think this country is more divided by race than it has been for awhile. And, we’re modeling this division for our kids.
Speaking of politics, here’s something else we must question: do we want to stake our primary identity on the ways in which we’re mistreated? And, do we want to teach this habit to our children? For instance, should a mom teach her daughter that what will define her as a woman is all that threatens her? That she is bound to face a continual disparity in wages between men and women? Or, that she will be saddled by sexism in the workplace? Does a black parent want to focus primarily on the unfair representation of African Americans in prison cells and on unemployment lines?
I do not suggest that these unfair conditions should not be fought, but do we want to claim them as the irreconcilable identities which divide us? The stereotypes which will make our kids resent each another… with no end in sight? I submit that we don’t want to teach our children to stake their primary identities on the way in which they are victimized; further, we don’t want to teach our kids to see others, primarily, by their victimization. I want my kids to view all people, as having promise. If my child is struggling with a negative stereotype of a particular person of whatever color, I must respond by asking my child to talk about the potential they see in that person. And, by the way, if my kids witness the victimization of a particular person (due to gender or race), I must urge my children to discover ways to fight that victimization rather than allow it to continue to divide them from potential friends.
Oh my goodness, people, “Can’t we all just get along?” Of course, that famous question came from a man named Rodney King, a black man who was beaten by white, Los Angeles police officers during an incident in 1991. Not long before he died in 2012 (of accidental drowning tied to addiction), Rodney King was quoted as saying this: “I remember my mom told me: ‘Vengeance belongs to God. It’s up to Him to wreak vengeance.’ It’s hard for me to get to that point, but that’s the work of God.” Clearly, Mr. King had a mom who modeled well for her son, to resist the resentment that emboldens division. A lesson espoused in the Bible. King added: “As far as having peace within myself, the one way I can do that is forgiving the people who have done wrong to me. It causes more stress to build up anger. Peace is more productive.”
I believe we must work harder to pass on this ideal of peace between races to our children in 2016. I want to stop being lazy, allowing myself to quietly endorse stereotypes of my fellow black, white, brown and every other hue of American, by not speaking against those maligning stereotypes. I must teach my children that the God we believe in does not divide us by color… in fact, He created our various hues to fit together like colors in a rainbow… even though we’re guilty of tearing that rainbow apart. I suggest that you teach your children the meaning of the scripture below, for it’s basic principle of unity.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
How can we, as parents, teach our children to focus on the truth of the above scripture and emphasize unity among people from different racial backgrounds instead of division… reminding our children that this is exactly what Jesus would want us to do?
By Jenny Dean Schmidt
Wife of Mike
Mother of two teenagers, Otis and Georgia
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Executive Director, ChannelMom Media & Outreach and Host of ChannelMom Radio on 94.7 KRKS FM in Denver and also at channelmom.com.