Rose-Colored Racism

In the beginning of a new year, one usually reflects on the outgoing year. If it was a bad year you are probably likely to say “good riddens” and if it was a good year you might linger on all the good moments with tinge of sadness to say goodbye.  For me 2015 was for the most part peaceful.  At least personally.  But out in the world, is another story.  The events of the year stirred me.  Stirred up feelings and emotions I hadn’t really explored before. It also stirred up memories.

And so this is the stirring.

In truth the race relation conversation (if you can call what we have seen in the media a conversation) have caused memories to well up within me and through these memories I see somewhat of a different world than the one I have seen in images and scenes splashed across our television and internet. I am at times perplexed by what I read and what I know to be true in my life.

When I look into the mirror the reflection does not always match what I feel inside. It is the same when I look at our world through the reflection of society.  It does not match up with what I know personally. My own understanding of world events, politics and culture come only through my experience and knowledge.

Any further understanding comes through the Lord.  It is almost as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says,

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

foggy_mirror_

Throughout the chapter he is describing what love is and what love isn’t. He then says ‘it is time to grow up and put away childish things,’ he adds that even in the growing up we will never reach the place of full understanding until we stand before the Lord, Jesus, Himself. We see our reflection of who we were as children, who we are now, as adults, but when we stand before Him our reflection will be Him, in all His glory.

That is what we were made for, to reflect His glory!

I long for that day if only to escape the discouragement and ache I feel sometimes here on earth. But then I am undone and overwhelmed by the thought that I may not be ready to stand before Him.

And oh, I so want to be ready.

These days in which we live can be so disconcerting for people on many levels. For me, the events of the world stir my heart with so many emotions I can’t seem to sort them out. I want to talk about it but the words just sit there waiting to be organized into some sort of cohesive thought. I do not want to speak just to be speaking or add to the overabundance of voices. The internet and television are so full of the noise of opinions and social ramblings, it makes me want to scream!

However, my heart is a stirring.

The one certainty patiently holding fast within my heart and mind, is the God of the Bible, Elohim, still sits on the throne.

It is to Him I speak in prayer, “God give me wisdom and understanding in the days ahead, show me the reflection of my life. What it has been and what it is now.  Show me what it should be for You!”

Maybe that is the stirring.

This stirring goes back to what my life has been.  Back to when I was a child living in America where I was learning about people. Who they were, how they were and what they were.   I saw divisions but didn’t understand them.  What I saw and what I lived did not always match the narrative of the world around me. In my earliest memories my world was framed in a small family of four. White people living in a world trying to color itself. Psychedelic, that is. Tie dye, beads and hippies. I guess that is why I love all colors now! I remember there were important people trying to bring the colors of people together! But it is vague because I was very young.

One of the colors of people I learned about was black or “colored people” referred to by older folks in my day but today it is “African American” and sometimes I am at a loss as to which to say. We have to be PC but how do you know who to be PC with? Never in a million years would I want to hurt someone’s feelings so I guess the best way to go about it is to ask. Is it even PC to ask? It’s all so vexing because when I interact with a person of color (pick one) I often do not see the color.  I see a soul that God created. Some are sweet, some are soulful, some or joyful and then there are those that are just not nice.  I have no idea what is going on in their life or heart. And so in my heart I am praying for them, wanting them to find the joy and peace that God gives. For me it is about their soul not their skin color!

As a little girl the subject of ‘colored people’ came up in conversation among the adults but I seemed to not be interested in what they were talking about because they were not speaking ugly, they were just discussing, I suppose, about the events of those days, the news!

It is true that pictures are powerful.  Especially when it came to war, protest and riots.  It was all mixed together. The black and white thing. On a black and white television for the world to see. I think, as a child, I didn’t see the significance because I was too busy being a child doing childish things but now I think back I realize that many of the people on TV were white. It did not occur to me to consider what it meant for a black child watching TV and not seeing their color represented in the daily entertainment.

As I got older I was under the notion that America was growing up as I was growing up.   In my life I was in places where I did not see much hatred or discrimination among black and white people. Yes, I read books and saw movies about it and understood it existed but again what went on around me did not match what I saw.

Maybe I did see it firsthand but did not recognize it because of my lack of experience with such emotion as hatred. Which is a credit to my parents. I saw some in elementary school coming from both sides but not so much of it that I could draw any conclusions about superiority of one race over another. It just never crossed my mind that ‘we’ were better or ‘they’ were better.  I just know I longed for ‘unity’ in those situations and at the time I did not even fully understand that word.

I remember as a young girl, my mother worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis. It was a factory. She worked with several black women who became her friends. One of her friends had a little girl who was a little younger than I and a little older than my sister.  I remember playing with her at her house. She would come to our house and play in our room where our toys were.  We played with our fake stove by putting White Castle hamburgers inside pretending to cook them. 🙂

I remember laughing a lot. I remember that she liked to sing and say the abc’s all the time.  I don’t remember our conversations and I only have images that pop up now and then but they were happy memories.  I also remember her mother. She loved to laugh and had a great smile that lit up her whole face. When she and my mother got together they seemed to joke and laugh a lot.  I have no idea about what but what a great memory to have, a memory that colored my world with a precious friendship and mutual respect. *(see below for update)

racism_by_alahay-d2cjak5

I was a part of the desegregation of the public schools in the district where I attended elementary school.  I believe God providentially prepared me for that. I went to an all white school from Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Due to my parents divorce and my mother moving my sister and I to Virginia, I was then registered at a school that happen to be three-quarters black.  I don’t remember being afraid because of the color of the kids but being afraid because for the first time in my young life I was the ‘new student’ and I missed my home, the home I grew up in. I knew no one. I did make one friend who happen to be white and one non-friend who chased me home one day. She wanted to beat me up. Looking back I can not remember why she did not like me but I do remember her calling me, “teacher’s pet.” I didn’t feel like the teacher’s pet.  She was black. Her name was Angela.

A couple of years later I moved back to live with my father.  Back to the same elementary school.  Only now I was in the sixth grade. And that was the year they decided to desegregate. Many of the kids I knew were nervous about it.  I took it in stride.  I made a few friends that year of both colors.  I also made another non-friend.  She would give me dirty looks and threaten to kick my butt. She also chased me home after school one day.  I don’t remember all the things she said to me but she also called me something similar to “teacher’s pet.”  She was white.  Her name was Nancy.

I guess the lesson here in supposedly being “teacher’s pet” is the angst it causes others! Which knows no color!

rosecolored glasses

Before our 1st black President was elected, I felt like I lived in an America where people were for the most part getting along.  I was not completely naive to think that ‘racism’ did not exist any longer or that there were not divisions in places around our country. I just thought that many in our country had moved past the hatred and the vile disdain for others of a different color. Maybe I was wearing the so-called rose-colored glasses. But there is proof that no matter the color of your skin or where you come from you can be anything you make up your mind to be. There are people from practically every racial group in America serving in the highest offices of our land. In our military. In our education system. It is the way it should be.

Through my personal experience, I have met a few ‘angry, racist black people’ and a few ‘angry, racist white people’ but that has not changed my mind about how kind and helpful the majority of black and white Americans are toward one another.  The majority of people of all colors and nationalities, that I have met, were just people living life and getting along with one another and trying to give their children a better life.

Even so I knew there were still hurts that ran deep among some black people because of the sin of slavery.  I learned about it in school. I read books and watched movies about it. But no one talked about it out loud, especially white people. As a white person I would often feel a guilt or a shame for my color of skin when I would watch the stories or read accounts of families being ripped apart and abused by slave owners but the emotion I most often felt was and is anger.  That one human being could treat another human being so abominably is unconscionable to me.

Today, I cringe and have cried hearing stories from around the world of people of all color taken into slavery today. I often feel helpless to know what to do. So I pray. And what can be done, what can I do about something perhaps my ancestors did to another group of people years before I existed? Questions have come to my mind, “What part could I play in reconciliation of our country in the area of slavery?” Is there something white people should be or could be doing to rectify those past sins?

What is it, Lord?

As I said in the beginning, there is a stirring.

I remember the very evening in 2004, when Barak Obama was speaking at the National Democratic Convention as the keynote speaker.  As he spoke a chill ran down my spine.  I audibly said out loud to one my children, “He is going to President of the United States someday.” The chill was not because I was scared or repulsed. I believe a part of me had hope. That he might be someone to bridge the gulf between two races of people who still held grievances toward one another in some places.  At least start the conversation to move us in the direction of healing.

I am not a Democrat.  I am not so sure I am a Republican any longer.  I am a conservative and I believe in what this nation was founded on, faith and freedom.  I also believe that we have left our ‘first love,’ our faith, and because of that we are losing our freedoms.  But I digress. I did not vote for Obama because of research I had done on his background.  The reason was not the color of his skin, after all he is half white,  but the content of his character.  Even so I held out some hope.  I believed what the bible says that God can move the heart of the king. For ‘He setteth up kings,’ does He not?

“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

~ Daniel 2:21

Sadly, in my opinion, he has been one of the most divisive men to serve in public office in our country’s history.  There are many people, black and white, who agree with this assessment. I am sure, many who do not. I must make clear that it is not the color of his skin that makes him divisive.  It is by his actions, his fruit, if you will. While I can not judge his heart on the matter of salvation, which only God knows, I can judge his actions. And as citizens of this nation we all should be accountable for those, even a President of the United States of America.

In my world, I have friends of all colors and nationalities. Being in the military gave me the privilege of serving alongside many of whom came from different backgrounds, race and cultures.  I loved that about the military.  It was and is the same within all the churches I have been apart of.  I believed that God prepared me for those experiences from early childhood.  My mother always taught my sister and I not to be prejudice. She explained to us what being prejudice was and told us it was wrong, period.  So we believed her. And for the most part my family lived that out in their lives. We had an example of what not being prejudice looked like. Though throughout the years there were a few who came into my life who did not believe that and well, they did not stay too long.

From a young child to now I may have put on rose-colored glasses when it came to race.  I do not know what it is like to live as a black person nor do I pretend to come close to knowing.  For that matter I know nothing of living as an oriental person, a Hispanic nor a Polynesian. Just as they may not know what it is like to live in my ‘white’ skin.  I also do not want to make light of it.  For I know there has been much oppression and difficulties to overcome because of the color of one’s skin.

But the one thing I know about all people regardless of skin color is that into every persons life comes love, joy and pain.  We all have the same blood and we all come from Adam and Eve. The bible itself never speaks of race.  Only families, tribes and nations.  At one point we all spoke the same language, that is until the Tower of Babel.  Where God confounded the people by giving them different languages and then they could not understand one another. This again did not have anything to do with skin color. Only the sin that was in each of their hearts!

I believe the most wonderful thing about knowing people of different races is the variety of color and personalities.  Over the years I have made some wonderful friends ‘of color’ and I do not just mean skin color.  Some real characters.  They made me laugh and we bonded over whatever was going on in our lives at the time.  What they have added to my life is immeasurable. I have often thought if God is no respecter of persons than why should we be? Why does man care about the outward appearance? How does that matter a hill of beans when each of us is faced with living somewhere forever for eternity?

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

~ Acts 10:34-35

When I heard about the Charleston shooting my heart literally fell.  My stomach felt like lead.  First, for the heartbreak of my brothers and sisters in Christ, for their loss.  And for it to have happened in their place of worship, incomprehensible.  Secondly, to find out this heinous crime was perpetrated by a white racist male.  Opening up wounds in our country.

No words. Just a stirring.

I hear a story, “White people will have to answer for this.” My heart races, emotions swell up and my mind tries to wrap around this statement.

Again no words, more stirring.

I hear another story, a man stands in a pulpit on the Lord’s day and says “The doors of the church are open, no evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Still no words but the stirring gets stronger.

And another man says, “What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he said. “To hatred, we say no way, not today. To racism, we say no way, not today. To division, we say no way, not today. To reconciliation, we say yes. To loss of hope, we say no way, not today. To a racial war, we say no way, not today. To racial fear, we say no way, not today. Charleston, together we say no way, not today.” ~ Jermaine Watkins, an African-American and the teaching pastor at Journey Church.

Silence. My heart is still.

Looking at the powerful photos of grief, I see past the tears to the celebration of faithful lives that have gone home to be with the Lord. Only those who believe in the Savior can fully understand how faith in Jesus and heaven can transcend a loss so great you can’t breathe. I have stood at the graves of tragic loss and now even as then, I am reminded that God is sovereign in all things.  As promised He is taking what was meant for evil and bringing good out of it. The nation witnessed faith, hope and love win through the people of Charleston.

As the story unfolded and the politics came out. I turned it off, it was and is shameful.

I see pictures of people praying. (Thank you. Lord)

Standing in a circle, holding hands with heads bowed. (I pray too)

Black, white, people of all colors coming together. (My heart holds hope)

Singing hymns. Hugging. Crying. (I cry too for God is there)

Journalist breaking down at the sight. (He has witnessed the Power of God)

People are dumbfounded. (Just wait, He has more)

They are seeing God but do not recognize Him. (God has more)

They are sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in and around His children but they do not comprehend. (Every knee will bow and every tongue confess)

And the forgiveness they have extended!  (Thank you, Father of forgiveness!)

I have said in my own life, it is one thing to say you forgive someone but you have to walk in it daily.  You choose it and then you live it out each and every day for the rest of your life.  I took a lesson from Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, she said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.  It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”   I had to do that in my own life.  Because of sinful actions against my children and myself I had to keep forgiving.

The consequences of those actions would show themselves throughout the years over and over again. And each time they showed themselves, instead of anger or bitterness, I would choose forgiveness.  Forgiving does not mean that there is no justice.  It just means that you let it go, you give it to God and there is peace.  It takes courage, faith and love to do that! I can attest to that in my life!!

The stirring has given me words and God has shown me just a little part I can play in the reconciliation of our country.  I own my sins and take responsibility for them. Confess them, repent of them and seek forgiveness from Jesus, my Savior.  I walk in His commandments and live them out daily in my life toward my neighbor.  Firstly by loving the Lord, my God, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength! And then loving my black, white, Hispanic, Chinese and all-others neighbor. Loving the hateful men, the mean women, those who do not agree with me, those who want to hurt me and finally those who hate me, my enemy. When I do that, when we all do that, there is healing.

The thing about healing is that it has to come through the love of Christ. He can heal and mend the racism in our country and around the world but He wants to do it through us.  And He can only do it if His people are surrendered to it. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the people of the church in Charleston and that community, are surrendered to Him. They are our example. They surrendered to His will.

And that is where His glory shines. Through our brokenness!! Through the darkness!! Through His people!!!

A great man once said…

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” 
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

You know, in reading that I believe his prayers were answered for so many he was marching for, bleeding for and praying for. I believe God gave him that vision, that task and that dream.  He never quit speaking truth or believing in the God of the bible. And we have witnessed the fruit of his faithfulness even to the end.

And that is what I choose to see. The good that has come from evil. The love that I have experienced from others of all colors. The success of many who in his time would not have had the opportunities they have today. I see the world in color! All colors! If that is what wearing rose-colored glasses mean then I will continue to wear them.

So in 2016 I want to walk in obedience to God’s direction for my life. I want to submit to His leading and stirring.  To not be afraid to speak out but to be sure to do it in love.

Grace to you,

Shell

“Holy, Father, stir our hearts together, as one people, who are called by your name to surrender our will to yours in bringing healing upon this country. Stir our hearts for repentance and reconciliation.  Stir our hearts for YOU!” – my prayer

*NOTE: My mom kept in touch with her friend over the years and she attended my first wedding in 1987 but life happens and they lost touch.  I always wondered what became of them. Just recently the daughter found me on FB. She actually messaged me back in December of 2014. But for some reason, which has happened before I did not get the message till a few weeks ago.  I immediately contacted her and we got to speak on the phone for several hours. It was a wonderful blessing to hear her voice, hear her stories about her life and that her mom had been trying to reconnect with my mom for many years. And in actuality it was an answer to an unspoken prayer I have had for over a year…..but since this post has been so long I will save it for another time!!!

Update to the update: Several weeks after writing this draft my mother suddenly had to have open heart surgery. I went home to be with her. I got to meet up with both her friend and her daughter and what a sweet reunion. We hugged necks and talked over lunch, sharing what God has done in our lives.  I can not even tell you what a blessing it was to see them after all these years. They prayed with me which was a comfort and an encouragement as my mom went through her surgery and difficulties in the hospital.

 

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