I’m a product of 1982, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to parents who were not raised in the South. My mom and dad viewed the Civil Rights Movement on their black and white TVs from their childhood homes of Denver and Detroit.
When my siblings and I came along, my parents were quite insistent on their children being colorblind. I’m grateful for this. And I have learned from this over the years. And now I see things a little differently.
At a young age I had friends on our block who were White (like, really Southern White), Black (their mom was from the Virgin Islands), and Korean. “God made us all and we are the same on the inside,” I was told—and I believed it.
Except that there were differences. Different smells came from their kitchens. Different languages were spoken inside their living rooms. There were obvious differences in the color of our skin and the consistency of our hair. My young lenses just didn’t recognize how different we were.
I grew and matured while attending a primarily Black middle and high school—and the differences became more and more apparent. As I visited friends at home, hung out with them outside of school, and did life with them, I started to realize that life looked different for my friends with a different color of skin than me. Not drastically different (I thought at the time), but enough for me to notice.
As the years passed and my friends and I entered adulthood, made more friends along the way, and lost touch with a few others, my vision became more and more clear—fine-tuned, almost, in understanding just how different the lives of my friends actually are. And, as I’ve watched the news from the comfort of my living room or office and seen the tragedies of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and more, as I’ve had conversations with family and friends, as I’ve seen posts on social media—I now see.
I see that I went to middle and high school with Michael Browns and Eric Garners. Friends who had complete families (mothers and fathers) and friends who, to the public, may have looked like “thugs.” Friends who are now grown and have young sons and daughters of their own to raise. Friends who attended college, graduated, and are contributing to society but who could easily have ended up on the sidewalk.
I see my two brothers and recognize that they have the ability to live a longer life simply because they’re White. I’m grateful for this, yet also ashamed that this is the case. Friends of theirs from middle and high school are not guaranteed the opportunity to live as long just because they are different. They’re friends who have lived with my family, friends who have given to meet my family’s needs, friends who have become more than friends and are now family, friends who support my work and ministry with InterVarsity. I mourn this.
I mourn. So I search the Bible for answers to how to respond, and these verses continue to come to mind:
Romans 12:14-21, particularly verse 15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (ESV)
John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)
1 Corinthians 13, particularly verses 4-7 and verse 11: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. . . . When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (ESV)
And as I continue on this journey of seeking Christ and loving my neighbor, I pray this prayer:
Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve turned my head and closed my eyes to the injustice my brothers and sisters—your children—face. Forgive me for the times I had opportunities to advocate for things of you and instead walked away. Forgive me for wanting to currently disengage and withdraw. Lord, show me how I am to respond, and may my actions benefit the body of Christ instead of cause dissension.
I once was colorblind, but now I see. Lord, have mercy.