Today as I was running suburban mom errands like dropping off Goodwill donations and picking up school uniforms, “One More Light” by Linkin Park came on the radio and it made me weep. The chorus of the song goes like this,
” If they say who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
WELL I DO.”
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday were horrifying and shocking. Hatred and domestic terrorism left Heather Heyer, a white woman standing up against hate in her home state, dead. One more light goes out. I have spent the better part of the past two days fighting the overwhelming sense of anger and rage and sadness that comes so easily during times like this. This is America. An American woman was intentionally mowed down in public because she believed in equality and love. One more light goes out.
As a blond-haired, white woman who married a tall, brown guy, I am no stranger to the racist-underbelly of this country. My husband and I have been chased through the streets of small town North Carolina by men in a truck waving a confederate flag, threatening our lives. We have been escorted through a grocery store in Missouri, while a police officer asked me if my Daddy knew what I was up to. And just 3 months ago, we stopped for lunch at a popular sandwich shop in Alabama and as we entered the restaurant, it was like a record-screeched and every white face turned and scowled and shook their heads.
I have only experienced this constant racism because I chose to enter into an interracial marrage. Before dating Sarath, I never experienced racism directly and even now, the majority of my life I walk around as a white woman with little push-back from society. But every day, people of color in this country are scowled at and judged and mistreated.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the massive weight of this issue. How did we get here? How is this our America? Why is this happening? I don’t have the answers to these massive questions but I do want to keep the lights burning in my home. I want to raise children who will stand up to racism and injustice. So let’s share some practical practices that our families engage in to fight the hate and speak-up for love. I’ll go first and I’d love to hear what you plan to do with your family too.
Discuss similarities when they notice differences
We were in the lazy river at a resort in Florida when my 8 year old pointed out a group of women wearing hijabs. My husband nodded and said, “yes, they believe in the religion of Islam and they choose to cover their heads. And they like splashing and playing in the water just like us.” Later, when we got back to our room, I listened as he took a few minutes with Pierson to further discuss the experience. He noted, “That family is Muslim and they believe in God but have a different view on Jesus than we do. They’re great people and there are almost as many Muslims as there are Christians in the world. We don’t have to agree with their religion but they’re a good family, just like us.” I was so impressed that he took the precious time to have this conversation and I hope it will prepare P to stand up for others when he comes across future scenarios.
Treat everyone who comes into your home as a guest
When the cable guy comes to fix the DVR, have your kids offer him a bottle of water. When the lawn guys are cutting the grass, go out and thank them for doing a great job. When the UPS lady drops off a package, have your kids offer her a cookie. Model and show gratitude to every individual who comes into your door way.
Get outside of your bubble
We all get stuck in our own communities with people who look or earn or act similary to ourselves. Choose a park on the other side of town and take your family there for a few hours. Pick-up a conversation with a mom or dad on the playground and encourage your kids to do the same thing. Its a simple act but it may change your kids world view just a bit.
We intentionally choose to play flag football in a differnt part of Nashvile than the bubble we live in becase we want our kids to compete and laugh and play with a diverse group of kids. It takes longer to drive to fields, Saturdays are really long days, but we are intentionally creating an environment for our kids that will shape their future.
Bring someone new into your world
I cant’ tell you how many times people have told me, “I have black friends (or Indian friends or Latino friends) and they don’t complain about any racial issues.” And I have learned to take a long breath and then ask the follow-up question, “when was the last time you had any of these friends over to your home or shared a meal with them?” Most of the time, I can see the answer on their face. If you haven’t had a person of another race in your home, or at least shared a meal, how likely would they be to open up to you about an intensely private and hurtful issue such as racism. We need to intentionally create real relationships with people who are from a different background than our own if we truly care about healing our country. Join a new small group, volunteer with a new organization, or take your friend out for coffee and engage in meaningful listening and respectful dialogue.
Look for hidden figures
One of the things I love to do, especially when we travel is help our kids find people who might be overlooked by others and say hello or thank you. The airport employee who stands at the end of the jet way and collects strollers and over-sized carry-ons is often totally ignored by passengers. When my kids approach them and thank them for their help, you can literally see their face brighten. Teaching your children to thank the hidden figures in life teachers them to value and appreciate all people.
We have to do better people. We have to listen, we have to get uncomfortable, we have to act. “When hate is loud, love cannot be silent. Love cannot look away.” -Premptive Love
I’d love to hear ways that your family is seeking to bridge the gap and encourage diversity and unity in our country.