The Ugliest Principle of Our Society

I started to write this a year ago.
I was trying to decide how to address with my child the death of Michael Brown and the uprising in Ferguson and was told time and time again, "You shouldn't introduce her to such things. Preserve her innocence." Every time I'd hear these remarks, I'd think to myself, "If my child was black, I'd have no choice but to explain warn her about what was going on. I'd have no choice but to teach her how and why these things happen so that they might not happen to her. How can it be that the innocence of some children is protected, while others have to know the cold hard truth?" I would think these things, but I didn't say them out loud. Parenting is hard, everyone does the best they can and they don't need to feel judged.

I quietly ignored what I felt was naive advice. I pulled back the curtain, revealing to my daughter a glimpse of society that, for most of her peers, is almost always categorized as history. After all, if I left it with what she learned in school, she wouldn't even know the term racism and she'd go on believing that equality is real and the inequities of society died with Dr. King. I share these things with her, but I never share them with others. Parenting is hard, everyone does the best they can and they don't need to feel judged. Who am I to share my teacher-mom, soapbox advice about such things? It fits into the same etiquette box as religion and politics, right?

It's been more than a year since Ferguson... Since answering the question, "Black Lives Matter- What does that mean, Mama?" There have been so many other conversations. So many other perspectives on what is really happening in our country. And still, I privately teach my child the truth that I know. There are people who are filled with hate. And there will always be those who try to excuse it or explain it way. It's a disorder or disease, the product of poor parenting. It's the fault of Big Pharma and the side effects of their drugs. It's the fear instilled in people by the media and entertainment industries. Maybe all these things are true, but the truest of all is that the hate and the excuses can be summed up with one explanation. Racism. The ugliest principle of our society. I identify this for my child, but I do not point it out to others. Parenting is hard and...

Sometimes parents perpetuate racism by ignoring it, by calling it something else, by hiding it from their children. And sometimes we perpetuate it by not confronting it with others, so that our children might be able to do the same.

As I'm once again trying to decide how to address another racist tragedy with my child, I read and hear so many different perspectives. I didn't think I would encounter anything truer than Jon Stewart's monologue following the horror terror in Charleston, but then I read these words from my friend, Lisa Anderson:
"I have to say that to read time after time after time post all over Facebook from white people that cannot stay on the subject of the root issue that caused him to commit these murders would be offensive to me if I were African American and is offensive to me even in my white privileged skin. When I ask myself why we are not making progress it seems to me to be this very thing. People cannot simply sit with the reality of the culture and societal evils that raise persons like this young man so we change the subject to the issues we are comfortable with like the abstract evil in the whole of humanity and what went wrong with his 'raising'. We have raised him by defending him as having free speech to spout hate, we have raised him by declaring that he should have a weapon to defend himself against 'those' people, we have raised him by segregating ourselves from each other and we have raised him with our empty prayers of concern. I have raised him every time I have not spoken up for people who are victims of hate. God help us stop rationalizing and begin to act as Jesus acted in that temple that had lost it's purpose. Praying is part of our very breath but breathing alone will not keep us well and fit for the Kingdom."
Lisa's words helped me acknowledge my own culpability. Her words give me hope that it is possible for people to address racism, in all its forms, in a real and lasting way.


Lisa Anderson is the pastor is at Colonial Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Director at Room in the Inn-Memphis.