As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “…we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.” We are all part of God’s family. But do we act like it? Lynne Stroy, a staff member at the Mount Pleasant campus, offers some straight-talking, much-needed perspective.
Dear White Friends,
Let’s go ahead and declare upfront that I love you! I think you love me too, that’s why we’re friends, after all. I have, however, been holding back, and that’s partly my fault. We can grab coffee or dinner and talk about why, but in the meantime, I’m going to share some things I think you should know.
I can give you my perspective of what it’s like growing up and living as a black woman in the southeastern United States, and I believe that perspective will give insight on life as a minority. But my perspective doesn’t make me the spokesperson for all black people. In fact, there are some who would be upset that I used the term “black” and not “African-American.” A shared experience does not necessarily mean a shared opinion.
A shared experience does not necessarily mean a shared opinion.
I like all kinds of music, and my parents corrected my grammar growing up. That doesn’t make me “one of you” or “more white than black,” and saying any variation of that while telling me how cool I am or fun I am to hang out with might seem nice or amusing to you, but it is offensive to me.
While we’re on the subject of “fun to hang out with,” I probably don’t know your other black friend and am not related to that black person you met who reminds you of me. We don’t all know each other! Also, I sometimes question how well you know me when you say you met the perfect guy for me, and I meet him only to find out we have nothing in common except being black and speaking English.
Sometimes you tell me stories and mention that the person you’re talking about is black. Unless the race of a person is material to your story, you don’t need to point it out. You tell me stories all the time, and you never tell me when the person you’re talking about is white.
Unless the race of a person is material to your story, you don’t need to point it out.
Also, please stop clarifying any statements with, “I’m not racist,” especially if you were the one who brought up race to begin with. Look, I’m friends with you; I already decided that you weren’t racist! Do I need to be on the fence about this?
Fellas, don’t tell me that you’re into black girls or you’ve always wanted to date a black girl or that white guys love black girls with my complexion. There is no scenario where this is what we want to hear.
I believe what we see and hear constantly is what shapes our standard of normal. I grew up in a world where positive images of black people were scarcely part of mainstream anything. Even in saying that, I feel like “scarcely” is too generous a word.
I believe what we see and hear constantly is what shapes our standard of normal.
Friend, can I challenge you to spend a week thinking about your childhood—the TV shows you watched, the magazines and books you read, the places you went, what was popular? Write down the racial and cultural makeup of those things. How many minorities were represented? How were they represented?
I’ll go so far as to extend the challenge to present day and invite you to visit your local bookstore—specifically the Christian children’s section. Now, I’m not saying Eve didn’t have blond hair. I wasn’t in the garden, and the illustrator of the kids’ Bible on my shelf had to draw somebody. I’ve just spent my life noticing that “the somebody” drawn, photographed, or cast in a movie or TV show is typically white, and I think that matters.
I hope my voice will encourage you to seek out people who are not like you and listen. God created us all in his own image. Different and united is what our family is meant to be, and every day he gives us countless opportunities to display who he is by how we love one another. I love our Father, I love our church, and as I said in the beginning of this letter, I love you….