While I would like to free my son from every single potential relational heartache that exists, I have even more of responsibility to equip my son to be a beacon of Gospel hope in the world that we live in (Matthew 28:16-20). I have a responsibility to teach him that those transcendent truths have equipped him with everything he needs to be “the black kid” in the room (Hebrews 13:21). I have a responsibility to remind him that love is often unsafe, often dangerous, and that vulnerability always comes with the risk of being hurt… but that it’s a risk we are called to take.
This weekend, I read a New York Times opinion piece that I knew I was going to be seeing all over social media today. It’s titled, “Can My Children Be Friends With White People?” by a professor named Ekow N. Yankah.
The clickbait title worked like a charm. Within two minutes, I was knee-deep in a loving father’s raw honesty about his fears for his son. I take Yankah at his word when he says,
“I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you that we cannot be friends.”
I say that I take Yankah at his word because I am sure a lot of readers won’t. If a white author had titled an article similarly “Can My Children Be Friends With Black People,” I’m sure that any answer other than a resounding yes would have been called gross racism and dismissed outright. But I believe less racism is at the heart of this father’s concern than cynicism.
In many ways, his heart is a mirror of my own.
“THANK GOODNESS I AM NOT LIKE OTHER MEN”
At the onset of this article, let me state, unequivocally, that, yes, I believe my son can be friends with white people, and, no, I do not think that statements to the opposite are defensible opinions for consistently biblical parents to hold.
However, I proceed with caution for several reasons. First of all, I do not want to be like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who, when going up to the altar to pray, said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Luke 18:11-12)
In this case, it would be, “God, I thank you that I am not like other black parents, distrusting, jaded, prejudiced, or even the author of this article. I have multi-ethnic friendships; I never race-bait.”
That line of thinking happens a bit too much on social media for me (“Can I get a round of applause for being a reasonable black person, unlike those other people?”), and I want to steer clear of it entirely. I am not the conservative black blogger who wants to be trotted out as an iconic bulldog against liberal black writers.
Secondly, I do not want this to serve as a rebuttal to Yankah’s article. I merely want to share some thoughts that were spurred on by his. I am not of the same mind that he is, but I do understand where he is coming from.
LOOKING AT MY SON
I am the mother of a black son.
And my boy is beautiful.
One look at my Instagram will tell you that I am a bit obsessed. Wynn is the sweetest, most relational little social butterfly you’ll ever meet. He’s got a tender heart, and he gives the best hugs. He dances like nobody’s business, babbles constantly, and makes his mama’s heart explode on the daily.
When I look into my boy’s eyes, I understand exactly where Yankah is coming from. Like so many other mothers, I would stand in front of a train to keep my son from pain.
I never want him to experience being called a “nigger monkey” by all the kids in daycare. To be told he’s ugly because his skin is brown. To be told that if he “intermarries,” he’ll pollute the “white race.” I never want people to assume that he is older and more threatening than he is because of the color of his skin. Or to believe that he is more aggressive or more sexual because he’s black.
I experienced every one of these things over and over again growing up. I was often the only black girl in class, the only black girl at church, and the only black girl on the block. Most of my childhood friends were white, and I would be lying to you if I said that it was always easy.
I’d also be lying to you if I said that I wouldn’t love for my son to walk into most rooms not feeling like “other,” if I said I sometimes wouldn’t rather him bring home a black wife than suffer through the potential heartaches of pursuing a white one, if I said I thought it was fair that he will endure indignities that his white peers will never have to even think about.