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Have the talk

Stamp out Racism graffiti, Eblana Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Auigust 2010
Stamp out Racism graffiti, Eblana Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Auigust 2010

I will never have to have the talk. As the parent of a white child, I will never have to sit my son down and explain in painful detail how he may be unjustly targeted by police and neighborhood watch-folk, how his community may view him as a threat before he ever speaks.

Sure, I will talk to my son about sex. Drugs. War. Unbridled capitalism. Everything I want him to resist in life. (Oh, fine: sex when he is old and betrothed. Fine.) My point is that I parent in the context of privilege.

The not guilty verdict recently issued by a jury in Sanford county Florida has made us talk. Not always in helpful ways. We shout. We blame. We speculate and shout more loudly. But talk we must. Unless we calm down and talk about race, we are doomed to witness more and more violence.

Talking about race, and all other aspects of human division, is sticky. We never come out clean. We cannot. We wish to speak as individuals, people whose minds have been freed to see all people as equal in worth. Yet we speak with histories and legacies behind us, whether we wish to or not. We feel stuck. We say the wrong thing. We are exposed.

And into this painful mess comes the good news: for freedom, Christ has set us free. We are one in faith, one baptism, one God. We were once estranged and dying; now we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

Freedom. Oneness. Reconciliation. May our talking, in the church and out, be formed by these good gifts from God. It will be painful and sticky, but we must talk about race and privilege. We must interrogate the daily affect of oppression on our lives. We must remain grounded in the love of God which unites all people in love and will, one day, bring true peace.

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Eric Blauer

Liv, I disagree, you will have the talk.
We cannot work and worship in our neighborhoods and not be brought face to face with racism in our own hearts and in our forming kids minds. I remember being shocked after one of my son’s friends left our home from playing and he referenced his friend as his African American friend who wasn’t “Black”. I asked him where he got that idea and he said at school there were “blacks” and “African Americans.” One group is the good kids the other bad, he said the ones who bully you are black but the friendly ones are African American. This kind of warped thinking arise out of the struggles of public school where race and racism are part of regular talk at school and home. When you hear your crying child say they “hate”….you will become well educated in the talk needed to defuse and educate your son. Not sure if your son is going to attend public school in west central but my kids have had to have numerous talks from both sides of the issue.

Liv Larson Andrews

Hi Eric! Yes, I think my point in the end is that certainly I will have the talk. But my opening is more about the fact that parents of non-white children must have other kinds of talks. While I must speak about race in order to parent well, I will do so from a place of privilege, not of fear for survival.
When I was a sophomore in college, my roommate’s younger brother was killed by gunfire meant for another boy. My roommate and her brothers are black, and lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her brother who died was the same age as my little brother, white, living in suburban St. Louis. After the death, her mother slept with all her children in one room. My mother has never needed to do that.
So I fully agree with you that we must have the talk, but I am not forced into it the way others are. Does that make more sense?

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