Growing up Black in a predominantly White church, I didn’t believe racism angered God. In retrospect, this is no surprise: the standard practice in Christian churches has been to push a message of unity at the expense of addressing deep-rooted issues of oppression. Common narratives within the church often echo the message, “We are all Christians, aren’t we? So put aside your differences. Focus on the goodness of the Lord!”
Consequently, I assumed that racism was outside of God’s realm of concern. How else to explain why my church leaders stayed clear of any discussion of race when Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were murdered by police and when Sandra Bland died in police custody? I assumed that because my pastor didn’t focus on these issues, neither did God.
Wanting to Give the World to My Children (Or, How It Felt to Send My Black Son and Daughter Abroad This Summer)
When I was nervous about sending my oldest son, Rory, to preschool, I came across a quotation, attributed to writer, Elizabeth Stone, that captured a feeling I’d had since becoming a mother but hadn’t been able to articulate: “Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Her words acutely described the vulnerability I felt in loving another person so fiercely that I made bargains with the universe about his safety and well-being: “Throw anything at me. I can handle anything that comes my way — except losing this child or having something terrible happen to him.” This was the sort-of-prayer, or exercise in magical thinking, that I indulged in as a young mother determined to protect Rory and guide him safely and whole through his life and into adulthood.
My neighborhood, like so many across the country, has a racial profiling problem on our online community forums. I live in a predominately White, affluent community in Atlanta, Georgia comprised of nearly 8,000 residents. Despite our reputation as a liberal enclave, on Nextdoor, a social media site that purports to connect neighbors, people of color are criminalized on a nearly daily basis while White people doing the same things are extended compassion and understanding.
Neighbors share “be on the look out” posts when Black transients are seen in our neighborhood, while a White transient is fiercely protected — a beloved fixture in our community, actually.
On June 30th, EmbraceRace posted an article by a gay black man entitled “Why I’m Giving Up on ‘Allies’.” The author, Ernest Allen, writes this: “What I have realized is that too many allies conduct themselves as service providers: They show up only when there’s an immediate need, they require me to explain the problem again and again, and they may or may not actually fix anything. In other words, allies are more trouble than they’re worth.”
This piece, submitted anonymously, was prompted by Allen’s reflections.
The stakes are enormous.
Can good teaching save America? Considering the number of education-focused government agencies, non-profits, and businesses in America today, there are plenty of folks who believe that this is true. I’m one of them.
Liberal white folks like me usually focus on low-income children of color when we think about saving America’s educational system. In my case, I spent a decade of my life as a dedicated teacher of such students. There were many unmet needs in the schools I taught in, and the resulting costs to my students’ education and health were significant.
But this essay isn’t about the challenges faced by low-income students of color. It’s about another group of at-risk students we’ve been ignoring for too long: rich, white boys.
Why many Muslims, including me, will be fasting on 9/11
This year a mysterious confluence of time overlaps the season of Hajj with the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
Hajj is a pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca), in Saudi Arabia, that Muslims are required to undertake once in their lifetime, if they are able to. Pilgrims leave their worldly affairs behind, don a simple white cloth, and partake in rituals that retrace the footsteps of Abraham. The journey commemorates sacrifice, striving, fellowship to humanity, our connection and eventual return to God.
In which an alien inspires reflections on transracial adoption
As I noted in my previous Embrace Race post about Mike Jung’s middle grade science fiction novel, Unidentified Suburban Object, I hope many child readers will discover its major plot twist on their own. But even if they find out that protagonist Chloe Cho is an extraterrestrial alien (and not Korean American as her parents raised her to believe) before reading the book for themselves, there’s much more to be savored and appreciated about Jung’s book beyond its stunning reveal. During our shared reading, my ten- and eleven-year-old kids, Caroline and Stevie, and I ended up talking about children’s rights to their own stories and histories and the work we need to do as a society to promote and protect those rights. These conversations were informed by my children’s experiences as transracial adoptees.
In which we talk about confronting “weird questions” (or racial microagressions) with a little help from … an alien
When I started hearing buzz about Mike Jung’s middle-grade novel, Unidentified Suburban Object, I moved it to the top of my list of books to read with my eleven- and ten-year-old children, Stevie and Caroline. It ended up giving us one of the most meaningful shared readings I’ve ever had as a mom. A favorite moment occurred at the big reveal (spoiler alert) when middle-school-aged protagonist Chloe Cho discovers that her parents did not emigrate to the United States from Korea as they’d always told her; they escaped from a doomed planet and are … aliens. When I read the scene with Chloe’s revelation about her extraterrestrial heritage with my kids, Stevie shook his head back and forth as if rattling his brain around in his skull and said:
Witnessing my children become brothers and sisters, not through shared genes but through shared experience, has been one of the most powerful parts of raising them.
Conversations about adoption frequently omit consideration of the adoptee’s biological family and focus on parental and filial love that transcends any need for biological ties. The erasure of these members of the adoption triad is what enables adoption to be simplistically depicted as a happily-ever-after scenario for adoptive parents and children, which ignores fundamental, underlying losses and complexities. In families like mine that are formed through transracial adoption of children of color by white parents, such erasure is often compounded by a reiteration of an insidious white-savior narrative that denies the humanity of a child’s biological family, and by extension, the humanity of the child born of them.
Redressing such discourse is integral to the love I share with my children. I know in my bones that our bonds are deepened, not threatened, when we honor the love their birth families have for them and the pride they can take in their respective identities as children of Puerto Rican, African-American, and mixed Irish- and African-American heritage.
An interview with Jeremy Whitley about his race-positive, gender-bending, subversive series for kids, princeless.
Princeless series [recommended for ages 8+] by Jeremy Whitley (Action Lab Entertainment)
Synopsis: As a young girl Princess Adrienne was already critical of the princess stories her mother read to her. What kind of parents imprison their daughter in a tower? she scoffed. Until one day her parents do imprison her in a tower, as is the custom, so that the brave knight who slays the dragon guarding her can win her hand. But Princess Adrienne doesn’t want to be saved or belong to a prince. So she decides to save herself and her seven sisters who are also trapped in towers. When her ruthless father, the king, hears about the “short knight” trying to free the princesses he calls for “his” head. Adventure, suspense and fun ensue. Along the way, we meet others (like her brother, Prince Devon!) who need to go against convention and expectations just to be themselves.
Melissa: Thanks so much for writing the Princeless series! What were you trying to do in regard to race with the story?