I’ve been watching the blogs and social media on Ferguson this past week. I have a lot of thoughts. The first is that it seems our country continues to get more and more divided. No matter what the situation, we jump to judgment on everyone.
This week though, I’ve watched the blogs and social media for a different reason though.
One of my sons is black.
I will raise two kinds of boys to become men. Three of them white and they will see the world, be treated by the world and interact with the world one way. Then, another son who will see it differently, interact with it differently and be treated by it differently. Three of them will walk around with little fear of violence or being arrested. They will walk around as young adults and not fear police officers. One of my sons will.
I wonder if my son will grow up and ever feel like the man in the picture.
That breaks my heart.
Before bringing him into our family, I could relate to Matt Chandler,
I don’t have to warn my son in the same ways that a black dad has to warn his son. I have never had to coach my son on how to keep his hands out of his pockets when going through a convenience store. Many of my black brothers are having these conversations with their boys now. Again, the list goes on.
But, now it’s different. The world I live in looks at my son differently than they look at me. The world I live will treat my son differently than it will treat me.
Also this week, I was challenged by Thabiti Anyabwile’s post about his family recently moving back to America and some of his fears for raising his black son here.
If I have a fear it would be one thing: bringing my son Titus to the United States. He’s so tender and innocent and the States can be very hard on Black boys.” That’s my one fear. This country destroying my boy. Ferguson is my fear. I could be the black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son’s blood. I could be the husband holding his wife, rocking in anguish, terrorized by the ‘what happeneds’ and the ‘how could theys,’ unable to console his wife, his wife who works so hard to make her son a “momma’s boy” with too many hugs, bedtime stories, presents for nothing, and an overflowing delight in everything he does. How do you comfort a woman who feels like a part of her soul was ripped out her chest?
Sunday after church our daughter came home from a friend’s house and she had seen the protests and news reports happening and she asked about it. As a 9 year old, there are things she doesn’t understand and things she does. She knows she is a different color than our son.
What do I tell her? How do I help her process this and the world we live in? How do I help my church?
I’ve been challenged by other pastors who are speaking up on this. Sadly, most of them are black, which on the one hand I understand.
I can relate to the silence of white evangelicals. We are fearful of appearing racist or saying the wrong thing. We are (all of us) really good at jumping to conclusions on everything. Evangelicals are fearful of things that approach justice issues because the liberals give voice to injustice in our world, the social gospel, we are people of the word. We are grounded. White evangelicals are also usually Republicans (which I am), which means we are more supportive of the military and police forces. I lead a church where probably 50% of the adults are in or connected to the military or police force.
I get it.
There is a difference in viewpoints though, helpfully pointed out by Russell Moore: A Pew study showed that when asked the question “Do police treat blacks less fairly?” 37 percent of whites said yes while 70 percent of African-Americans said yes.
This is the world we are in. This is the world I will tell my black son we brought him to. I will one day explain to him why some men are called thugs, why some are not trusted simply for the color of their skin, why some people don’t trust police because of their history and personal experiences.
People often tell us how grateful he should be that we adopted him and how he can have a better life in America than in Ethiopia. Weeks like this one, I wonder.
I’m not being cynical about it and I realize that sounds like it. This is my blog so I get to process out loud.
A few months ago I took all our kids to eat at In n Out. As I got them all situated there were two older white women sitting next to us. They asked me if I ran a daddy day care and after we laughed I said that I didn’t, that all 5 kids were mine. The one woman looked right at Judah (our son from Ethiopia) and said, “All of them?”
Thankfully, he and my other kids didn’t hear it, but yes, all of them.
What I’m reminded of as I hold our son this week is the injustice and brokenness of our world and his life. I’m reminded of how I quickly jump to conclusions about everyone, the moment I see them.
I had a good friend in high school who was black. I grew up in Lancaster, PA, home of the Amish. It was your typical, white, suburban, conservative town. He told me how women would clutch their purses if he walked into an elevator. How men would follow him around in a store at the mall to make sure he didn’t take anything. As a 17 year old, I thought he was making it up.
But he wasn’t.
So, where does it come from?
Brokenness. Fear. Hate. Hurt.
Adoption only happens from brokenness, otherwise it wouldn’t be needed. Without tragedy somewhere in his life, he wouldn’t have needed us.
Racism comes from brokenness. Fear for a man, woman, police officer, or a bystander is from brokenness.
Typically my blogs end with an answer, a nice bow to start your day with. I don’t have one.
I’m sad for the whole situation. I’m sad for the family burying a child. I’m sad for the police officer who is being tried in the media. I’m sad for people who feel like they don’t get a fair hearing in our world.
Mostly, I’m fearful for my son.
I’m reminded again that our only hope is the gospel. Our only hope is that Jesus makes all things right and that the light of the gospel casts out all fear and all darkness.