Author: Sarah Levy
One of the most important things my father ever taught me about race came when choosing a college.
I am mixed. My mother is white, and my father is black. I have lived the majority of my life in mostly white communities, but whatever the space, I would sometimes suffer for being too black or too white. It was tiring. I felt so out of place.
But the moment it brought about the most confusion was when I began looking for a college.
One day, when I asked my father, in tears, why he chose to live and work in a non-diverse community, he shared this:
He said that when he made decisions or even thought about himself as a person, it was first as a child of God. He was indeed a black man, but that was only a piece of his identity. He was first a Christian, and this was the prominent place from which all his decisions were made. He was next a husband, a father, and a black man. But being black was not the primary or singular way he defined himself or made decisions.
That piece of advice allowed me to breathe. I still struggled as a 19-year-old to fit in or discover who I was, but I was less weighed down by being defined by my race.
Fast forward 20 years, I still live in a mostly white community, and if I am honest, I think very little about my race. I have a husband, four children, a job, a home, and a beautiful church community that occupies much of my time.
But when it’s quiet, I pick my head up, and I cannot help but wrestle with the realities of living in a country where systemic racism still exists, and still takes the lives of men and women of color in massively disproportionate numbers.
So, as a believer, and a wife, and a mother of black sons and daughters, here are my thoughts.
As a believer, which I believe to be my overarching and defining identity, I know this.
We are those who speak for the oppressed.
We are those who weep with those who weep.
We are those who are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
We are those who believe that God will bring justice.
We are those who believe that vengeance does belong to God.
We are those who wait to speak until the Lord gives us words to say.
We are those who strive to live at peace as much as it is up to us, yet,
We are those who are not afraid to fight.
We are those called to care for the oppressed.
We are called to speak truth where there are lies.
We are called to bring light where there is darkness.
We are those who are angry and sin not.
One thing about Jesus is that he seemed to be able to contain things that were contradictory.
He loves grace, and He loves justice. He will forgive, and he will hang a millstone around your neck and throw you into the sea. We cannot in ourselves hold His wisdom. We can approach His throne boldly and expect him to give it to us. We can beg for wisdom and strength and courage when we need to stand and fight. We can beg for grace and humility when we need to love and forgive. We can treat our brothers and sisters who see things differently with kindness, and yet always speak the truth in love. We come to this table with such different experiences and different thoughts.
Let it be said of us, fellow believers, that we loved well, that we did justly, that we loved mercy and that we walked humbly with our God.
As a black woman–I’m mixed race, but as far as the outside world perceives me, I’m a black woman–I am grieved to my core. I’m afraid for my sons. I worry about my husband–he takes walks early in the morning every day, and I hate the feeling of wishing he wouldn’t wear a hoodie.
I also know that my experiences with racism have been minimal compared to those of so many others. I am furious that it continues, and I feel powerless and frustrated when I look at our long history of racism.
I often feel unseen and lonely in a community where very few understand what it’s like to be a minority. Don’t get me wrong; my community loves my family and me very well, but incidents like this highlight some of our deep differences, which is a lonely experience.
If you’ve never had to think about it, that’s privilege. If you’ve never had to consider what to wear to seem less threatening, that’s privilege. If you haven’t had to teach your sons to always keep their hands showing and speak softly and carefully if pulled over by a cop, that’s privilege.
I got a message this morning from a woman in my church. We’re acquaintances, but she has been the first in my community to take the risk in acknowledging my blackness and reaching out with such sweet tenderness.
At that moment, I wept. I wept in relief that I was black, and it was both different and okay with her. Our differences did not need to be minimized for us to connect. In fact, the connectedness came from her very acknowledgment of these differences.
I don’t know that I have anything here to say that hasn’t already been said, but let’s not be people who are unwilling to engage with the pain and the heartache at hand, even if it’s not our own. Let’s come, in humility, to the table with hearts to hear. To love and forgive. To extend grace to one another as we stumble forward. Let’s reach out even when it might be uncomfortable. Let’s give grace easily when others’ ignorance hurts us.
Let us be the ones known by our love.