“What more do we need to do?” That was the question that the white-haired, white-skinned gentleman asked our dark-haired, dark-skinned professor. We had been talking about Sunday morning at 11:00 being still the most segregated hour on Sunday Morning, and the hands and the blood pressures in the room went up. There were a variety of thoughts, opinions, and questions but this dark-haired, dark-skinned professor’s answer to his question is what stood out most to me.
Our white-haired, white-skinned friend was talking about his church that had attempted racial reconciliation. He talked about how they had some black people in their congregation, and how they have had a neighborhood black congregation and their pastor come and lead worship in their church. He even talked about how they welcomed black people. One of our fellow classmates reminded us of the gap between making someone feel welcome and having someone feel like they belong. Our exasperated white-haired, white-skinned friend then asked the question, “What more do we need to do?”
Our dark-haired, dark-skinned professor replied, “You need to adopt my 3-month old niece and raise her as black.” The silence lingered in our classroom as the truth of that statement sunk into our souls. The last two words provided the knock-out punch, “as black.” I am still ruminating on that phrase.
It sits with me for a few reasons, but namely because of two little girls I dearly love: Emily and Hallie. They are two black girls from different families that my white friends Danny and Lyn adopted from birth. They had gotten married later in their life and wanted to raise children together. The opportunity came for them to adopt Emily and then a little over a year later they adopted Hallie. Heather and I were privileged to be an integral part of their lives for a few years before we came to Kentucky or “tucky” as Hallie used to call it. They didn’t adopt them because they were black, but they adopted them because they needed love.
It has been an honor to be a part of their lives and to see them grow. Of course, I don’t see them as black though I describe them as black. I see them as Emily and Hallie, accompanied with all their smiles, laughs, and their inability to stay hidden very well when we play hide and seek. When listening to Dr. Gray (and other professors here), I’ve come to understand that we are not to be color-blind, but to embrace our diversity as the only way to find true unity. Thus raising a child as black is critical.
For this I commend my friends because as soon as these two young girls had enough hair to be styled, Lyn went to a beauty shop and learned how to do their hair. That is raising them as black. Raising them as black will continue the rest of their lives. I do not know what all that entails, but incarnational love commands that we enter into another’s world and journey with them. Thus, when we raise a child as black, we grieve the first time someone calls them n——-. We listen when they decry that there is no one who looks like them at their church or in their classroom. We celebrate with them when a black man from a broken home is elected President, maybe not because we agree with the policies, but because the symbol of a black man from a broken home being President communicates more hope than most policies ever could.
“What more do we need to do?” It’s the right question. The church that Jesus established and the disciples that follow Jesus need to continually ask that question about the continual need of reconciliation in the world. Our churches are still largely segregatedWe need to live our lives incarnationally, living in the world of the other, and journeying with them in grace, mercy, justice, peace, and love. Then we will not merely welcome one another, we will belong to one another.