I had written something different for my article this month, but the tension over racial injustices in our country after George Floyd’s death has burdened my heart and caused me to think much about my personal responsibility in the journey toward healing. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I don’t want to be a friend who further harms by keeping silent, and since this topic has indeed been a major theme of my contemplations these past few weeks, I felt it appropriate and necessary to write about it.
As many of you may know, Luke and I adopted our youngest son, Brooks, in 2018. His birth father is African American, which contributes a beautiful piece of not only his physical identity but his heritage as well. Until the Lord laid it on our hearts to adopt, in particular to adopt transracially, we were quite ignorant of the systemic racism existing in our country or how we personally, though unintentionally, were contributing to the problem. By God’s grace and through the wisdom of many podcasts, books (listed at the end of this article), and conversations as well as through the kindness of friends of color who have taken the time to share their stories and perspectives, we have begun to gain greater understanding of the depth of racial prejudice that exists and the reality of our privileged position as White Americans. We’ve also begun to realize how much more learning we have yet to do and actions we have still to take to be a part of breaking down the systems and perceptions that perpetuate racial injustice.
Though there are many stories I could share on how God has helped us better understand the unfortunate realities of what our son may experience in growing up as a person of color in America, I wanted to share one that was particularly revealing of my personal ignorance on the issue. On our trip to Georgia to meet with our adoption agency for the first time, we asked the Lord to connect us with people who could help us better understand the unique considerations and responsibilities we would face as White parents raising a Black child in a White dominated society. God quickly answered our plea by gifting us seats next to a kind and smiling Black man who grew up in my hometown and was willing to spend the entire four hour flight graciously answering any questions posed, no matter how naïve or potentially offensive. Of the many things our new friend shared with us that day, his emphasis on the importance of teaching our son how to maintain a respectable appearance and to respond appropriately to authorities was perhaps the most eye opening. Though we intend to teach all our children the importance of carrying themselves well and being respectful and kind to those in authority, it had never occurred to me that Brooks, simply because of the color of his skin, would need to meet an even greater standard of respect and cautiousness to avoid a wrongful assumption of his actions or intentions. Nor had it occurred to me that by not properly teaching him these things, I could be endangering his safety or even his very life! This revealed for me in a tangible and remorseful way—a way reaffirmed by current events--that though our country has made some good strides in the fight against racial injustice, we are still such a long way from Martin Luther King Jr.’s hope of living in a world where people are judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
When I consider the distance between where we are and the hope of MLK’s dream being a reality for our son, I can feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and discouraged about how to move forward—how to bring understanding, healing, and repair. But as Shai Linne shared in his recent article, “Though I’m deeply grieved, I am not without hope…My hope is in the Lord.” And, the Lord’s word has reminded me over and over during this time that the distance I feel between our current position and the full realization of the justice, mercy, reconciliation, love, grace, and salvation Jesus bought for us, should never stop me from moving toward it! “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Lord, I pray the events of these past several weeks would continue to motivate me to action, not just during this time of heightened media attention but throughout my life. I pray I would not forget the extent of the grief being felt or the way that grief reveals the depths of the racial injustice still existing in America. Lord, I pray you would continue to encourage me to grow in my understanding of how our history has played such an important part in creating structures that drive systemic racism and that you’d move me to take part in the very difficult work of peaceably tearing down those structures. Please increase opportunities for me to develop deep friendships with people from all different races and backgrounds and to allow their unique experiences and perspectives to show me more of You. Father, help me to humbly admit where I’ve been wrong, to repent of harm I’ve caused, and to be part of your healing and reconciliation process. Most of all, as Latasha Morrison says in her book Be the Bridge, give me your eyes so I can always “recognize the image of God in others” and your heart so I can “love, despite and even because of, our differences.” Indeed, with You, Lord, it is possible! Amen.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
By Katie Miller
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Some Personally Helpful Resources on Understanding Racism
If you're interested in learning more about systemic racism, how you may unintentionally be taking part in it, and how to move toward the hope of racial reconciliation, here are some books, podcasts, and movies that have been helpful for us or that have been personally recommended for our future read/watch list:
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson
- Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- How We Respond: A Playlist of Critical Conversations About Race - QIdeas, Various Speakers
- A Christian Response to the Death of George Floyd - Theology in the Raw, Justin Giboney & Preston Sprinkle
- Grace, Justice, & Mercy: An Evening with Bryan Stevenson & Tim Keller
- A Conversation on Race & Restoration in the Body of Christ - Body Language, Dr. Anita Phillips & Christine Caine