This is Part 4 of a 4-part blog post.
Read Part 1: Black History Month: A Call For Healing Conversations
Read Part 2: Healing Conversations on Race: The Role of Empathy in Building Christlike Racial Unity
Read Part 3: Healing Conversations on Race: Acceptance
We sat around the dinner table on a typical weeknight; my husband, myself, my 10-year old daughter, and my 7-year old son. We were probably eating pizza or Chinese food (I can’t remember). As we watched the evening news a commercial came on advertising an upcoming documentary special celebrating Black History month. In just a few moments the trailer for the program highlighted slavery, the civil rights movement, and the Jim Crow era. My son turned to me and asked “Why do White people hate Black people?” Then my daughter chimed in “Yea, why do White people always try to kill Black people? Why are they so mean?” I was frozen and didn’t know what to say. I planned on having a simple dinner not answering deep sociological questions from a 7- year old. This was a painful question to answer because, based on historical and current facts, I could see why they would conclude that White people must hate Black people. What other conclusion could they draw about slavery, segregation, or the murder of George Floyd? However, I didn’t want them to believe that ALL White people are hateful and violent towards Black people. I needed them to feel hopeful and believe that the “arch of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice”. What my children were experiencing is what some scholars call intergenerational racial trauma. Although my children have not experienced racism directly, and live in a very racially diverse and loving environment, they still feel the sting of anti-black racism in society.
As I sat at the table searching for a response to my children’s questions I thought quickly back to the book my colleagues and I wrote; Healing Conversations on Race. The chapter I spent the most time writing was about Love. In this chapter, we suggest to readers that the love of God and love of others is a commandment. Also, Christlike love should be demonstrated through actions that exemplify the nature of Christ. Further, we have both an individual and collective responsibility to demonstrate Christlike love in all our relationships. It is critical to recognize that Christlike love is incompatible with racial disunity and racism. As we move closer to consistently living a life that demonstrates Christlike love we should be compelled towards a pursuit of racial unity.
So I said to my children “Do you think it’s true that ALL white people hate Black people?” “What about your best friends Jennifer and Conner?” “What about Aunt Alice?” “Do they hate you?” These were all people who are very close to our family and love them dearly. They also happen to be white. We started a conversation about what love looks like and how it’s impossible to hate someone and be violent toward them if you truly love them. We talked about the ways our white friends demonstrate their love towards us. As we had this conversation, I could see their wheels spinning and see them begin to develop discrepancies between the hate they saw displayed in that commercial and the love they experience in their lives.
The experience my children had was one I pray more Christians have. The Healing Conversations on Race book helps Christians have these kinds of conversations. In the book we teach that God hates sin, racism is a sin, so God hates racism. The book guides us to see how our life experiences, relationships, and internalized narratives have led us to have beliefs about folks who are racially different from us. Many times these beliefs are inaccurate and inconsistent with scripture. We suggest that love is not a cliché or ambiguous feeling and the Bible teaches us what it looks like to really love others. We suggest that love is displayed through Christlikeness, humility, and self-sacrifice. We teach that love is incompatible with racist thoughts, behaviors, policies, and societies and loving conversations can bring healing.
My children are still young and will continue to wrestle with understanding race and racism. Our brief dinner conversation does not negate the reality of racialized hate in this country. However, I hope that our conversation helped them to think more deeply about their relationships and the ways they can engage with white people (and others who are racially different) in a way that draws them into loving, Christlike relationships. My hope for them, and for you, is that we can practice humility, empathy, acceptance, and love that drives out hate and racism and brings us closer to unity in Christ. This is very challenging work. However, it’s through intimate relationships with those who are racially different that we can have new experiences and rewrite narratives. It’s through these relationships that God will convict, and draw to repentance, those who harbor racial hatred or complicity towards racial injustice. Ultimately, I pray that through this approach we can HEAL our racial wounds and truly be the body of Christ that God desires us to be.
Thank you for following this blog series and I invite you to take the next step. You can visit our website to learn more about the book and how to begin the HEAL journey. We believe that reading the book will give you the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to engage in a real conversation with a racially different brother/sister in Christ. We are confident that taking this important step will move you as an individual, and the Church as whole, closer to racial unity which is consistent with Christlikeness. Through this process, Christians stand to be a shining example of the transformational power of Christ by demonstrating a solution to the racial disunity and racism that plagues our society.
This blog is the final of 4 in our Black History Month Blog Series for 2023. Check back each Wednesday of February for more on how to have healing conversations. CBU Students who comment on these blogs will have a chance to receive a copy of the book. Winners will be emailed in early March. Listen. Learn. Engage.
This blog is the first of 4 in our Black History Month Blog Series for 2023. Check back each Wednesday of February for more on how to have healing conversations. CBU Students who comment on these blogs will have a chance to receive a copy of the book. Winners will be emailed in early March. Listen. Learn. Engage.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Speech given at the National Cathedral, March 31, 1968. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/remaining-awake-through-great-revolution-address-morehouse-college
Wyatt, T. R., Taylor, T. R., White, D., & Rockich-Winston, N. (2021). “When No One Sees You as Black”: The Effect of Racial Violence on Black Trainees and Physicians. Academic medicine, 96(11S), S17-S22.