I grew up pretty much oblivious to race.
My childhood neighborhood in California was multi-ethnic. My best friend was Indian. Then I spent six years in three African countries.
Back in California in high school and college, I spent 8 years doing ministry in multi-ethnic neighborhoods. Camp counselor for two summers for kids who were mostly black and hispanic. Worked four years for a black employer.
As an adult I spent seven years teaching kids from all kinds of ethnicities. Spent nine of the last eleven years in Tanzania.
As I was growing up, white people were kinda boring to me. Travel and cultures, that's what fascinated me. The fact that Gil is half-hispanic? Dream come true.
So adopting African children was just sort of obvious. I mean, we wanted to adopt, we were living in Tanzania, and there are two million orphans here. So should we adopt from Africa? Duh. The fact that my kids have dark skin was just....beautiful. And though I always loved the idea of raising a family that mirrored what heaven will look like, I never set out to be a billboard for race reconciliation.
But I've been thinking.
Grace and I have been making our way through the American Girl books. And Addy is a little girl living during the time of the Civil War. She's a slave; she escapes to Philadelphia, but continues to live with segregation even in freedom.
I want Grace to know these things. She is African but has an American passport. One day it is likely she will live in the States. She needs to know.
But did I ever realize how difficult it would be to read her stories about white oppression of black people? Sitting there on the couch, my arm around her, her Mommy in every way, with nothing but the color of our skin separating us. Teaching her how people who looked like me made people who looked like her into slaves. And then even when that was over, wouldn't even let them use the same bathroom.
I never knew how hard it would be.
And then I read this book (not to Grace!). And I know it's controversial and not everyone likes it, but I personally was deeply moved. Because I am white, and my daughter is black. Because I have "help." Because even though I knew the history, there's nothing like seeing it through the eyes of someone else through a story.
Since I've always thought multi-ethnicities were so cool, I think I unintentionally ignored the pain that so many have experienced (are experiencing) because of their race. Even, often, at the hands of those who call themselves followers of Christ. And since we live in Africa, I never fully, truly contemplated the discrimination my own kids could face in America.
John Piper, one of my favorite-ever authors, and who also has an African-American daughter, recently published this book: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.
It's not my favorite Piper book. But as a theological treatise on why Christians should intentionally pursue racial reconciliation? It's excellent.
"That I am chosen for salvation in spite of my ugly and deadening sinfulness...that my rebellious and resistant heart was conquered by sovereign grace....if these truths do not make me a humble servant of racial diversity and harmony, then I have not seen them or loved them as I ought."
"When we feel or think or act with disdain or disrespect or avoidance or exclusion or malice toward a person simply because he or she is of another race or another ethnic group, we are, in effect, saying that Jesus acted in a foolish way toward us. You don't want to say that."
My favorite section was on inter-racial marriage. Really, really good stuff. Especially because inter-racial adoption is so similar.
"As long as we disapprove of [inter-racial marriage], we will be pushing our children, and therefore ourselves, away from each other. The effect of that is not harmony, not respect and not equality of opportunity. Separation has never produced mutual understanding and respect. It has produced ignorance, suspicion, impersonal stereotyping, demeaning innuendo, and corporate self-exaltation."
I humbly recognize that, growing up in my privileged, white life, I will never understand the oppression that minority groups have experienced in America. But yet, God has entrusted me with these beautiful children. So it is therefore my job to do everything I can to try to understand.
Somehow, our family must become a picture of racial reconciliation. Somehow, I must teach my kids how to love, forgive, and reach out beyond racial lines. Somehow, I must teach them how to understand the challenges and history and sorrows of their race, even though I haven't experienced it myself.
I am inadequate for this task. The weight of the burden is heavy. But yet, it is important and necessary. And worth it.
My kids are sitting on the kitchen floor drinking chocolate milk as I write this. I think chocolate and milk make an excellent combination, don't you?