On Saturday at the IF:Gathering, seven women of various ethnicities sat on stage together and had a frank talk about race. As someone who has spent the last six months trying to listen and learn from people outside my little Gilbert, Arizona bubble, I appreciated the intentionality of this conversation.
I asked my friend Laila to share some of her thoughts. Over the past six months, I have learned much from her as she has graciously answered my questions and engaged in thoughtful conversation. Here’s what she had to say:
My word for 2015 is MESSY.
Yes, in all capital letters.
I decided that this year I was going to dig deep, underneath the layers of what has been my comfort zone for over 30 years. I’ve been feeling God pull me to get messy about my passions. Even if it makes me it makes me squirm in my seat. That’s where the growth is, in those moments where we want to shrink away.
Then I sat and watched IF:Gathering and I began to squirm in my seat.
There they were sitting around a table, sisters talking about race.
The “r” word can sometimes get stuck in your throat, maybe your lips can’t get it out without choking. We are quick to assert that the content of one’s character means more than the color of their skin.
Here’s where it gets messy.
We know that it’s not true. And that hurts.
I realize that I am fortunate to have grown up and always lived in racially diverse communities and had friends who didn’t look like me. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I had a serious of unfortunate events related to my racial identity.
I’ll never forget sitting in my freshman seminar when a classmate revealed that sitting next to me was the closet she had ever been to a Black person. This was before Facebook or Instagram otherwise I would have jokingly offered to let her take a picture with me. Instead I responded the only way my 17-year-old brain could, I smiled and nodded. As I reflect back I realize how brave she was to share this with me. But at the same time I felt like I had become a representative in her mind. I didn’t want that burden.
Fast forward 15 years and I’m a mother raising a Black child. I live in a world where people hashtag their pain in attempts to get people to pay attention to inequality and social injustices. I live in a world where I wonder when my 8 year old son will stop being cute and become dangerous.
It’s time to get messy.
We have to sit at tables and get to know one another. I’m a firm believer that the incomplete stories we have about each other are because we don’t know each other. Every week we attend segregated churches and live segregated lives.
We are called to be strong and courageous.
This means we have to be vulnerable and dig into what scares us the most.
Just like my classmate, we have to admit what is new to us. Our incomplete stories about race, White privilege, and people of color hold us back from enjoying the life that He has declared for us. The easy part is that you don’t have to hop on a plane to another continent to dig deep. You can begin with your own community. Your own church. Your own family.
God is here.
Waiting on us.
I’m Laila from Front Row Mama – a blog where I talk about being a mom who seeks to live life to the fullest. I live in the ‘burbs of Chicago with my son and his LEGOs.
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