My heart has been broken by so much of what has been happening in the streets of America over the past few weeks. I, like most of you, have very dear friends who are African Americans and I’ve wondered what I can do to create positive change and to bring reconciliation and healing in these challenging days.
This remarkable article from Speak Up alumnus Sheila Qualls could be one of the most important blogs you read this year. Sheila speaks truth; she’s vulnerable; she shares what her family has faced and continues to face. Feel free to share this powerful blog. Sheila is also joining us on a panel discussion at the Speak Up Conference on: “Current Challenges and Opportunities in a Changing World. I hope you can join us. www.speakupconference.com
From Sheila’s Heart to Yours
As the mother of three black sons, the tragic death of George Floyd cut me deep. As I watched Floyd cry out for help and struggle to breathe, I couldn’t help but think… that could’ve been one of my sons.
It doesn’t matter that they’re from a middle-class, two-parent home. It doesn’t matter that they’re educated and articulate.
People see their black skin first.
Racism is real. I’ve felt its sting. I’ve been trailed through stores. Shop owners have asked to search my purse. Tellers have eyed me with suspicion when I’ve withdrawn my own money from the bank.
I know humiliation, but I also know truth. I refuse to let the actions of a few taint my view of the world. George Floyd’s death was unjust, tragic and unnecessary. Still, I don’t believe most white people are racist.
Regardless of the poor behavior of a few, all white people aren’t “the enemy.” For the few times I’ve felt discrimination, I can think of many other times white people have been loving, fair-minded and sacrificial for me.
My parents grew up in the Jim Crow South. They grew up drinking from the “colored” water fountain, riding in the back of the bus and entering establishments through back doors. We’ve come a long way, but we can be better.
As the mother of black sons, I had to coach my boys on society’s unwritten rules for Black men. What they should and shouldn’t wear, how to treat others, how to act with dignity, and how to speak confidently. I also taught them they’re not victims, and a victim mentality will limit them economically and emotionally.
They accused us of trying to “control their lives.” Little did we know, we’d be living in one of the most racially-charged atmospheres of my lifetime.
I can’t tell them race doesn’t matter after the death of George Floyd. I can’t tell them race doesn’t matter when they’ve been repeatedly pulled over by police who are “randomly” checking vehicles in the predominately white areas we’ve lived in.
I can tell them where I stand. First, they’re responsible for themselves, their families, and their communities. Second, they’re bound by the rules of society and the law, which I know they’ll respect. I’ve raised them to be men of character and integrity.
I can tell them their father and I believe America is the best place in the world. Is it perfect? No. Even so, they have an opportunity to be beacons of hope and examples of what is best about this country.
This isn’t about “poor” me. It’s about reality. My reality and reality for my sons. But it’s a reality we can change. After the buildings have burned and the haze has cleared, my sons will have to figure out how to move forward in a world that sees color first.
Many people want to stand up against racism but aren’t sure how. As Christian leaders, authors and speakers you can help bring about change. Here are nine steps you can take to change attitudes, hearts and minds and begin binding up the wounds of our nation.
- Instead of trying to be politically correct, focus on being biblically correct.
- Know history, but don’t be manipulated by it.
- Identify a safe person and ask questions to open dialog.
- Talk to your children and shape their perspective.
- Listen without taking offense.
- Challenge your paradigm and help someone challenge theirs by getting outside your comfort zone.
- Examine your thoughts and attitudes in relation to God’s word.
- Support programs and organizations that are rooted in biblical principles and uphold American values.
- Encourage personal responsibility, regardless of color.
We don’t have to find new solutions for racism. Jesus has already given us timeless ones. Judge others by their character not their color. Treat everyone–regardless of race, social stature, or religious affiliation–with respect, compassion, and dignity. Allow others to see the fullness of Christ by being the best you can be.