When people hurt my kids, I get angry.
I remember the first time my daughter, Mia, experienced a racial reaction. Living in Johnson Co, Sarah and I often experience stares and receive inappropriate questions from complete strangers, but the first time I recall Mia experiencing anything racially motivated, she was 5 years old. I had taken her camping at Clifty Falls State Park in southern Indiana where we chose a camp site directly across from the playground. Swarming with children and their parents, the playground caught Mia’s eye immediately, and I told her she could go play after we set up camp.
For a 5-year-old, Mia got to work surprisingly quickly, helping me unpack our vehicle. Mia was anxious and I was almost done setting up the tent when I finally told her that she had done enough and could go play while I finished up. Mia loves to make friends… so imagine my horror as I watched her happily bounce into the playground while all the other children bounced out, swept up by cautious parents who suddenly felt the need to return to their camp sites, despite their children’s protests to leaving. In less than two minutes of going down the slide, Mia found herself alone and looking around for a friend.
Quickly walking over to her, I felt my face getting red and my anger rising in my chest as I watched a look of confusion form on my daughter’s face, wondering where the other children had hurried off to. But, for her sake, I tried to shake it off. I just smiled at her… thankful she was too young to assign any racial motivation to her current situation. After a few minutes of pushing her on the swings, parents with their children returned to the playground. With my (obviously white) presence, the mood shifted and Mia as I both received warm smiles from parents who were now curious about Mia. “God bless you” one lady said… “Is she adopted?”
According to the nightly news, this has been a hard week for our country. Once again the nation responds in all kinds of ways as we see racial injustice on our devices and through our television screens. We are disgusted as we listen to Amy Cooper blatantly use her race and gender to accuse Christian Cooper (an African American birdwatcher) of “threatening her life” as he simply asked her to put her dog on a leash. We are horrified to watch a police officer crush the life out of George Floyd for a full 10 minutes, a black man who was face-down, handcuffed, and begging for air until he lost consciousness and died. According to the nightly news it’s been a hard week for our country. But the truth is, it’s ALWAYS been hard in this country for people of color. People of color in America have ALWAYS been seen as 2nd class citizens and there’s no easy way to fix it because there is no way to legislate the heart. People see what they want to see or what they’ve been trained to see. Laws can be put in place (and they should be), affirmative action practices required (and they should be), racial education implemented (and it should be), and body cameras be made mandatory (and they should be). But until our hearts change and each of us legitimately values others, will anything really change?
The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:3 to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves.” I pray we begin seeing our neighbors this way. I pray we begin seeing people of color this way! And I pray this week that each of us will examine our hearts carefully before we excuse violence done to others in the name of justice or too quickly condemn the reaction of a people long oppressed. Let us consider our own children and how angry we become when they’ve been hurt by others. Let our love be genuine, and let us first listen to understand before we respond, so that no other child in this country may be judged, avoided, discriminated against, or snubbed simply for the color of her skin.
With Much Love,
-Pastor Travis Taylor