What #BlackLivesMatter Means To A White Mom.

We’re a multi-racial family of 10. The events of these past few weeks have shaken us to the core. They’ve prompted fear in our children and left us broken and on edge as their parents. This is what #BlackLivesMatter means to me…

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I want to go back.

This picture was taken on a trip to Disney World in 2005. Our daughter was just about to turn 3. The only thing she loved more than Cinderella’s castle was her daddy. He had just raced through the streets of the theme park toward the castle with his little girls clasped in each arm. “The princesses are arriving!” He shouted. They giggled with glee and I trailed behind with our son in the stroller. I rolled my eyes at the absurdity of it but I couldn’t stop laughing. His happiness was in his daughters’ delight. He would bring them the world to make them smile. His joy poured from him and reflected in their faces.

Breathless, I finally caught up and began to unbuckle our son and raise him to my shoulders. I looked up to see our daughter grab my husband’s face. Princesses paraded all around but she had stopped to look into the eyes of her hero. My Nikon dangled from my wrist and I picked it up just in time to snap the picture.

In 2002 it had occurred to me that adopting a brown-skinned child as a peach-skinned family would come with challenges. I had felt honored to be chosen by my daughter’s birth mother. There were over 50 waiting families when we put in our application and she chose us. She saw something in me that went beyond the color of my skin. I was there when my daughter was born. The sight of her took my breath away.

I see her color.

I see her race.

I see her birth mom mirrored in her smile. I see the way her skin shimmers like melted chocolate in the bright sun. I have the honor of looking into her eyes as she speaks. Eyes so dark they remind me of midnight. Her hair curls into tiny, perfectly formed tendrils, I wrap them around my finger as I comb and pull them into a thousand braids. When I think of being the mother of someone so beautiful my chest fills so full I think it will burst.

I see her heart too.

She feels the emotions of others deeply. She is sensitive and kind. She is strong-willed and fierce. She is wickedly smart but often hesitant to let the world know. She never puts her laundry away but always apologizes when I get angry. She is a gifted writer. Words float from her brain to her pen with ease. She sings with a voice like an angel. She is a friend. She is a daughter. She is my daughter.

She is valuable.

She is treasured.

She is Black.

Her life matters.

I thought the world knew that. I thought the world would see my daughter the way I see her. I trusted that I lived in a time of reconciliation. I believed that I lived in a time of healing. I envisioned that I lived in a place of equality. I don’t. My friends don’t. My neighbors don’t. My sons and daughters don’t.

We live in a time of tension. We live in a time of murder. We live in a time of racial inequality. We live in a time of fear and uncertainty. Our children don’t see their reality reflected on television. They do not see their faces in the storybooks they read. The media does not share stories that show their value. Unless something changes, my children won’t have the same opportunities as those around them. They won’t have the same expectation of education or salary or inclusion or even life. The realization hurts so bad I can’t breathe.

I was blind. I don’t know if I want to see. My eyes are being pried open and the bright light of clarity rushes in. I wince from the pain and wonder…did the man Jesus healed feel the same way? His story sounds like a dream but the details are a little uncomfortable.

Mark 8:22-25 (NIV):

“Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’ Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”

It was messy. Jesus’ spit, dirty hands, and a pair of blind eyeballs! At first the man could only see a little. Jesus touched him again and his sight was restored. I wonder if for a moment he panicked. I wonder if having all of his previous understandings challenged, did he wish to go back to the darkness for just a moment? I do. I wish for a moment to see my daughter as I once saw her. I wish for her to see me one more time without the knowledge of the racially charged fear that lies between her race and mine. I’m also thankful for the pain. I’m thankful for the mess. I’m thankful because, although the discomfort is sharp, it soon brings clarity. My vision is stronger now. I see the hurt and I feel the tension. I no longer wish to go back. I no longer wish to live blind. I wish only to move forward with clearer sight to see. Not only the hurt, but also the hope!

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  • Molly

    Thank you for this. As a white mom with two soon to be adopted black children I have had these same thoughts swirling through my head. They both came with a warped view of the police which is so hard to try to understand coming from someone who has not had to fear them. We also live in a community that is not diverse and has quite a level of underlying racism. This world can be so ugly, but Jesus can make it beautiful again.

    • You are most welcome Molly. 🙂

    • Kristin Berry

      I completely agree Molly. Our faith has become central to these tough discussions.

  • Sumi Allen

    Hi There.
    This article made it to my minifeed. The adoptive parents are probably some of the best souls around as every child deserves a good family to call their own.
    You’re not the first parent to raise a child of a different race,
    I’m only half Caucasian. My dad is a white guy and a 3rd generational native of San Diego. I do believe that “conservative” San Diego is one of the most tolerant places in the world.

    In San Diego, it’s “normal” to see white guys flirting with pretty, well dressed black girls.

    Sometimes they even marry the black girls, have kids and a not so secret contest on whose the bigger Laker’s Fan.

    Not only am I a different race, but I grew up in a mixed culture household which is very challenging.

    You said that “my child won’t have the same opportunities…”

    You haven’t heard about ALL of the advantages that African Americans get from Affirmative Action?

    “In “The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities”, Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y Chung of Princeton Univ. state, “African-American applicants receive the equivalent of 230 extra SAT points (on a 1600-point scale), and being Hispanic is worth an additional 185 SAT points. Other things equal, recruited athletes gain an admission bonus worth 200 points, while the preference for legacy candidates is worth 160 points. Asian-American applicants face a loss equivalent to 50 SAT points””
    http://amherststudent.amherst.edu/?q=article/2013/04/24/admissions-race

    Your adopted black daughter will get the advantages of growing in a CAUCASIAN wealthy/upper middle class household and she still gets affirmative action. She hit jackpot.

    • Kristin Berry

      I like your positive spin! Thanks for sharing.

  • Racism, Prejudice, and Discrimination

    DESENSITIZED

    Meaning:
    Rendered emotionally insensitive

    Synonyms:
    desensitised; desensitized

    Context example:
    a desensitized public indifferent to the violence in films

    Similar:
    insensitive (deficient in human sensibility; not mentally or morally sensitive)

    As you can see by the definition of DESENSITIZED, our world has become indifferent to what is happening around us. Thanks to TV, iPhones, iPads, Computers and the way both the news media and social media treat current events, we as a human race have, as Kristin put it in her blog “What #BlackLivesMatter Means To A White Mom”, and I quote:

    “I thought the world knew that. I thought the world would see my daughter the way I see her. I trusted that I lived in a time of reconciliation. I believed that I lived in a time of healing. I envisioned that I lived in a place of equality. I don’t. My friends don’t. My neighbors don’t. My sons and daughters don’t.

    We live in a time of tension. We live in a time of murder. We live in a time of racial inequality. We live in a time of fear and uncertainty. Our children don’t see their reality reflected on television. They do not see their faces in the storybooks they read. The media does not share stories that show their value. Unless something changes, my children won’t have the same opportunities as those around them. They won’t have the same expectation of education or salary or inclusion or even life. The realization hurts so bad I can’t breathe.”

    And what’s sad about this whole ordeal is the fact that we, including the Christian community, as a human race really don’t have a clue as to how to handle what is happening. We don’t have any answers as humans, but God does.

    The first thing to understand in this discussion is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups.

    God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

    Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died.

    Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    This may not south your soul Kristin, but if nothing else, hopefully it will give you something to ponder. God Bless.

    • Kristin Berry

      Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your kind word and perspective.

  • sickofOmom

    Mixed feelings on this I’m mixed race grew up in the ghetto I worked hard got good grades yeah many days in school my tummy would growl from hunger but it pushed me. Had ZERO problems getting financial aid due to heritage, did NOT get pregnant till marriage (this is such a huge one people), & have been married to my also mixed hubby for 16 yrs. I’m not a victim never was, w/ prayer & dedication you can accomplish anything a pure Caucasian can, I believe …

    • Kristin Berry

      Thank you for sharing from your perspective! I appreciate it.

  • veronica1973

    I’m the white mom of 2 black, 2 mixed race, 1 hispanic, and 1 white children. This piece bothered me for the same reason expressed by a couple of others. My children ALL have the opportunity to chase their dreams and fulfill, or even expand, their potential. That’s partly my job as their mom, and I advocate and push and challenge the system to ensure that they can grow into the people God meant them to be. I refuse to allow them or anyone else to let their color determine their opportunities or outcomes. As noted by others, my brown children definitely have an advantage over my white one when it comes to admissions and financial aid!

    • Monica Hall

      My four adopted children have many advantages over my biological children. Because we are in Connecticut my adopted children get free college – including room, books, food and a monthly stipend plus medical insurance including vision and dental. But my adopted children wish they were bio children so they could have the pain and scars of neglect, poverty, abuse, starvation, betrayal and abandonment by people they thought they could trust. All my children have opportunity but some paid a high price, well beyond money for what appears to be advantages.

  • Monica Hall

    This makes me sad. It makes me profoundly sad that it needs to be written. I do not see colors that way. It is absurd to me. To discriminate someone by skin color is as bizarre to me as discriminating by eye or hair color. It’s what Hitler did! He was a hate-filled monster! I don’t understand…I just don’t. I don’t see skin color as anything other than one of many descriptors…you know, the guy with the red shirt, the lady with the black hair. Is it because I was adopted as a blond haired girl with blue eyes into a family with six biological children who had black hair and brown eyes like our parents? For whatever reason – I don’t see it. I see people. I see human beings. I see every single one of us is different. Unique. Special. Designed and equipped with a plan and a purpose by their Creator from before they were born. I see an eternal being that is of such great value to God that he sent his son to die for ALL of us so we can be with him forever. Who are we (except lost in sin and depravity) if we see different?

    • Kristin Berry

      Monica, I hope that that is the perspective we all have one day!
      k