Family

How Children View Race

My boys were so excited as they anticipated the end of the week.  Their good friend was coming over to hangout and sleep over.  There would be chess matches and football games, talk of sports, and a bit more football.  Their hands and fingers would intertwine as they greeted.  Their arms would embrace each other as they departed.  Friends.

As the events in Charlottesville unfolded that same weekend,  I would steal small glimpses of the images on the computer as the boys came in and out of the house.  When I knew that they would be occupied for a bit, I turned on the television to see with greater clarity the events that were transpiring.  I was saddened beyond words, and I struggled as I attempted to try and understand how some could hold so much hate within their soul.

As the sweaty brood of boys crashed through the front door, I quickly turned the television off.  They ran into the kitchen for water and snacks, then proceeded to collapse in the living room.  As  I listened in as they described their football game at the high school’s new field, I couldn’t help but study the faces of the boys ever so closely.  I took note of something that I always knew was there but never really thought about: the stark contrast of their skin.

We are white.  Their friend is African-American.  I can’t begin to tell you how it pains me to even type those words here, how it literally hurts for me to separate these boys, these friends, into categories for the purpose of this post.   Our family views race as an expression of beauty and uniqueness from our Most Awesome Creator.  The Lord draws no lines, there is no separation, no difference in value or equality among man in His sight.  Man looks at the outward, yet God, looks at the heart.   We have chosen to do the same.  I know that our attempts have failed at times.

As the weekend came to a close and the boys said their goodbyes, my curiosity was piqued.  Do the boys even regard each other’s skin color as a difference?  I decided to find out and asked my friend to do the same with her son (age 14).  So we set out to question the boys as to what similarities and differences the boys have.  As I sat down with each of my sons (ages 17, 15, and 12) in private, I took note of their answers.  I waited.  Would one of them even bring up race or color?  Would their friend?

No one did.

They noted differences in age, in where they lived, in the grade they were in, the sports they liked, the teams they supported, and the foods they enjoyed.  They identified similarities in faith, the fact that they were all homeschooled, and in their love of sports and competition.  Friends.  They are simply friends, and that’s all that matters to them.

Oh, if the world were more childlike.

So, the boys and I sat down and talked about the real purpose behind my questioning.  We discussed the events in Virginia.  Although it was likely lacking, I did my best to discuss racism.  Then one of my boys piped up,”But, mom, that stuff doesn’t happen today.” And yet again, I find myself in that terrible place as a mom where I take away a bit more of their innocence, where I wipe away their “rose-colored-glasses” view of the world.  But this is their world, and I will soon be releasing them into it as they make their own way.  They must know, they simply must, because if they don’t know the truth, how can they be the difference?

That afternoon the face of racism became a bit more personal to my boys.  I forced them to imagine how their friend would feel when encountered with such senseless hatred.  In all honesty, they grappled over why some would harbor such hatred based on skin color.  It’s just something they can’t understand.  As a mom, I am thankful that they can’t relate to that kind of hatred.  Yet, they must be sensitive to the fact that it is present and that it does affect people’s lives.  They must be willing to stand up against it, to say something without hesitation, lest their silence be taken for acceptance.

I wish that could be the end of the story.  I wish that everyone would just replace hate with love.  But, there is sin and depravity and brokenness in the heart of man, and ultimately, the only solution is Christ.  On this side of heaven, the battle will rage on.  Unfortunately, it will always exist and there will likely be witnesses to and victims of more hate-filled behavior.  How do we stop it?  How do we change the course?

Well, we start at home.

We are honest at home.  We discuss the difficult matters.  We talk about how each of us can be that much needed difference.  We learn about the real story of history.  We think outside of our homogeneous neighborhood and town.  We expand our personal borders to include those who may be different than us.  We share a phone call, an embrace, a meal.  We make sure that through our front doors “sameness” is not the only guest.  We fill our yards with the beauty that is color.  We take a stand, a visible and audible one.  We talk about it with those who are affected instead of pretending there is no need for dialogue. We acknowledge when we fall short or when we succumb to hidden prejudices.

Imagine if we all did this?

We can.

 

 

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