Raising Black in White

Maybe you’ve seen me before? Maybe it was in the coffee shop helping my children decide between juice or chocolate milk, or maybe it was in the produce aisle asking them what they would like me to make for dinner? Could’ve been in the park swinging them until my arms ached, or pulling them by the hand into school when I was running late for work?

You’ve probably seen me around.

I’m the white mom raising the black and brown children. We have a way of standing out.

And perhaps you thought…
“Isn’t that sweet. They’re so lucky.”
Or, “She’s so trendy.”
Or, “What business does she have?”

Or, maybe, like me, you really thought nothing of it at all.

I really thought nothing at all about it when my husband and I diligently and prayerfully filled out the paperwork to adopt a child… When we checked off boxes to specify race and we checked them all.

I really thought nothing about it because when God fashioned me at birth, he left a hairline fracture in my heart that bled for the orphan. He placed a crevice of compassion and longing that only seemed to deepen and grow with time. It was a chronic condition that compelled only one response.

So, we checked off every box because “orphan” was so much bigger than any other identity. And when the social worker called us for the first time to share with us about an African-American baby girl in need of placement, all I heard was “Your child is coming home.”

But, there came a point when she was no longer an orphan. The papers had been signed. The judge had ruled. She was officially “daughter.” The gaping sever in my heart narrowed in this profound transfer from one reality to the next.

And in some divine way, we were both made more whole.

But, as the months and years passed the reality became that she wasn’t just my daughter.

It wasn’t that simple.

She was my black daughter. Or, perhaps even more significantly, her mother was white.

And guess what? It was a big deal.

Maybe it’s all true… Maybe my children are lucky (though I would argue my luck far outweighs theirs)? Maybe I’m trendy? Maybe I really have no business raising children outside of their race?

I have my responses to these questions based on my experience, and maybe you do too.

But, one thing I know for sure to be true is that race is powerful. It’s powerful because we can’t control it. It’s powerful because it says something about who we are even if we’re not saying it. It’s powerful because it has a way of telling us where we fit and where we don’t. It’s powerful because it digs deep into history and our dealings with it have defined our way forward.

It’s an inescapable reality that we face. That every time you see my children in the coffee shop, or grocery store, or at school, or wherever you see us together, you will know that something about us doesn’t fit. And at that moment, it won’t be orphan, or gender, or anything else that speaks louder than race.

How could I have fully perceived the extent of its power until I became them and they became me?

My daughter has already figured it out. It goes with her everywhere we go together. Most days we don’t pay attention, but there are many days it hurts. It wages an inner conflict in her heart where there seems to be no winners. And I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed her in some way.

And don’t get me wrong… It’s not you. You can’t control it any more than we can.

But, in heated times… Times when the power of race reveals itself in the worst possible ways…

Would you remember us?

When you may feel tempted to position and posture and point accusing fingers…

Remember us.

When you start to take your chalk out to draw your boundaries…

Remember us.

Because the reality is, while something breaks in the world around us, we are working hard everyday to be whole. While something goes very wrong, we are fighting to make it right even as we sit around the dinner table. While the ugliness of humanity rises to the surface, we are seeking to create something beautiful as we find our God-breathed identity in one another.

Because my children are so worth it. And they’re taking me by the hand and trusting me to guide them through all of this.

Yes, race is powerful.

But, there is something I have found that overwhelms its strength. It has the ability to bring the world to its knees in humble submission. And it is the one thing that has made my home a place where I pray things heal more than they break.

Grace.

It’s grace that makes the orphan right in their family just as it’s grace that makes us right in God’s family.

Grace takes the mismatched, incompatible, and ill-fitted and weaves something masterfully glorious. And when we wave this wondrous banner, it casts its shadow on the over-heated and weary condition of our hearts. It speaks peace into the raging waters of our emotions… The sea of deepest threat and darkest fear.

My children are depending on me to hold grace high.

Because it’s the banner of true and lasting victory.

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