Walking Alongside Those Who Others Devalue

No matter how much I know that racism exists, hearing blatantly racist comments shocks me in a way I hope never goes way. It isn’t an ignorance that these things don’t exist. It is a heart reaction, experiencing in real time, hate or pride in the heart of a person towards another. And when said to a person….such disregard for their feelings! Or in some cases their physical well being.

Two experiences earlier in life left on lasting imprint. Two decades ago (ish) was the first time I heard a crude, racist comment in person. I couldn’t believe the person said it. The second was at a previous job I worked with a beautiful, kind hearted, gentle, older woman. After I had worked with her for awhile she shared about the poor treatment she received over the phone at a bakery because she was black. I am glad my eyes and heart at those times were opened in a more personal way. Sometimes the biggest impact is when it becomes personal.

This week. Hatred and racism seen on display. Vile, hateful words spoken due to a person’s skin color or ethnicity. Disregard for human value. Violence. Death. I am sobered. I am sad.

A preface: I am a white woman. A white woman that DOES NOT know what it is like to be of a minority race or ethnicity.

I first want to say I am sad with you. I am sad with you, you who are Black, Jewish, Asian, Biracial, Hispanic, and all other beautiful, beautiful races and ethnicities, for the times you have been seen ONLY for your skin color or race. I grieve for the times you have been seen ONLY for something someone negatively associated with your race or skin color. I am sorry for the time you have been judged as less than because of how you look or where you are from. I am sorry for the horrible ways you have been/are cruelly treated and tortured for who you are: slavery, segregation, lynching, multiple forms of abuse, and more. I am sorry for the non violent but grievous and humiliating ways you have been/are treated: facial expressions, things said to you, ways you have been isolated, and more.

These are wrong. Racism is wrong. I am sorry for the way evil has come as an onslaught against your personhood.

I want to share a personal story with you. Not to say I understand. I do not understand what it I like to be of a minority group. But I want to walk alongside you. To “put my arms around you” and whisper in your ear how hard and painful it is to be mistreated. I EMPATHIZE with your trials and your pain.

You see my 9 year old has Down syndrome. My precious son, who is absolutely beautiful in my eyes, isn’t seen that way by everyone. Many people don’t think people with Down syndrome should be born. There are countries around the world where children with Down syndrome are locked away in orphanages and treated like unwanted animals and are tortured. Just decades ago in the US people with disabilities were regularly put in institutions. In this country, in 2017, our son has experienced incredible medical care, we have had good school experiences, and Jeremiah has many family, friends, and people that love him. BUT we regularly, the majority of the time we leave our house, experience looks, staring, pulling away, and avoiding from people because of his appearance. Sometimes I don’t notice (or am just blocking it out effectively), others times it stings but I am “okay,” other times it is really hurtful and hard, and sometimes I leave and sob. I want people to see my son how I see him! And how God sees him – with so much value. A PERSON who has likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and challenges.

My prayer is my story speaks that I empathize with what you are going through. I am sorry you experience racism. I am sorry for the times you are not seen for who you are. I grieve with you.

I seek to teach my children the value of the person or people in front of them. That we would allow God to change us when ugliness in our hearts comes to light.

That my children (that I!!!) would see the beauty and value in those

whose skin is different from ours

whose culture is different from ours

To grow in them a desire to know people who are different from them.

Each day, as they (as I) engage with people across different settings, to look in peoples’ eyes, to SEE others, greet them lovingly, and offer grace.

-To stand up when injustice is seen

-To be a defender of truth and justice and love

-To offer love in the face of hate (to learn what love looks like in different situations)

-To be willing to suffer for good

-To believe that hearts can be changed, weak hearts can mature, the power of the cross is greater than hatred

-To be light in darkness

-To show honor extravagantly

-To grieve with those who are hurting

-To love and pray for enemies

-To not grow weary in doing good.

To do whatever good is within our power to do.

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