To my white friends, here are some things that are quintessentially by Black people for Black people that I think would be good for you to check out without leaving the comfort of your home (though I hope that in sharing these things you will someday be motivated to actually allow yourself to be uncomfortable). One of my favorite stories about my in-laws, who are British, white, conservative Christians, is how back in the 90s they went to a Bebe and CeCe Winans concert and were shocked to be the only white people in the room. To this day, my mum-in-law’s favorite Christmas album is Bebe and CeCe’s First Christmas. They are still curious about the world to this day. I’m so grateful to know that if they were Hobbits, they would 100% be from the adventurous bloodline of the Tooks who, though they may not always get it right, or say the right things, or understand people unlike themselves, my in-laws completely get the ingrained desire of every person to get back home in order to eat, drink and be merry, because it’s the least that any of us can do to punctuate the little hours we have here on this earth.
My friends, try to be curious enough about Our God and this world, and people that you can’t help but to find yourself sitting uncomfortably in places that you don’t necessarily understand or recognize. And, please do so with grace.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
The very first time I heard the words "Jim Crow" was from the lips of my white teacher in the company of classroom filled with all-white faces except for my own. Strangely, it was my classmates who asked disbelieving questions, not I. This was my first time hearing it too, yet I felt already knew it. Although no adult family member had ever uttered the words Jim Crow, segregation, white and colored, I felt I had traced those words etched into my skin like tattoos since the day I was born. I felt that whereas my classmates and my teacher perhaps felt the sting of those words, I felt the sting of the ancestral lives that had lived them. Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns tells the story of the 6 million African Americans who fled Jim Crow south in search of a better life in the north. Reading this book was the first time that I’d received the unutterable backstory of my full heritage wrapped in the stories of the book’s three protagonists: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney; George Swanson Sterling; and, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster. Next to The Bible, this is the book that has most changed me.
- Be The Bridge
A couple of years ago at a Parent’s Night at my daughter’s school, my husband and I were placed at a crossroads. A thing was said and a revelation was made and we could either do one of two things: pretend we didn’t hear and get back to living a happy, sheltered life, or speak out and say hard things. I spent days in tears and prayer because I knew that the latter was the only choice. But how? Not knowing how to do what I must do, I wrote Tasha Morrison, the founder of Be the Bridge, who promptly emailed me back and then sent one of her peeps, Laura Jennings, to find me and gather me into a fold of encouragement and support that I didn’t know existed.
Friends, you need to know that I only knew Tasha by name and I don’t think she knew me at all. At the time, not only was she on staff at a church with thousands of members, but a speaker at If Gathering and churches across America leading workshops on racial unity in the Church. She has thousands of Instagram followers and almost as many pairs of shoes (I’ve seen her closet!!!). My point is that Tasha Morrison is a busy, busy woman who didn’t know me or my child and yet she returned my email that I’m sure of 1 of I-don’t-even-want-to-imagine-how-manys. This is what Be the Bridge does. If you’re wanting that kind of community, start or join a Be the Bridge group.
I watched this documentary twice in one day. First I watched it alone and immediately downloaded the song “Jump” as it swelled in the backdrop of a video epilogue of each protagonist’s life. No sooner had I wiped the tears from my face than my 15-year-old daughter and I got into a spat over…. honestly, I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was built on the foundation of entitlement and privilege on both sides. So, I watched the movie again but this time holding my family as hostages, forcing them to enjoy it too. Though they never thanked me profusely, we talked long after the movie ended passing the tissue between the three of us. If you’re like me with a kid who goes to a private school with other gated-community, youth-grouped, silver-spooned, darling demons, or if your kids can pretty much never worry about what’s to eat at any given time of the day, hold them hostage and make them watch this movie with you. Then take this privilege quiz. Discuss and get back to me. And, white mama friends, note that black, inner city mamas love their kids as fiercely as you love yours. They desire the same things that you desire for their kids too. They pray non-stop, wholeheartedly and passionately for their kids too.
- Sam Cooke
If you saw Hidden Figures and loved the scene where they’re at Dorothy’s house and Mary’s answer to her frustration over things that she can’t change is to teach her stiff friend Katherine to dance and you wanted to join them in Dorothy's kitchen drinking hooch and dancing your cares away, here's what I suggest: put on some Sam Cooke and throw down with your girlfriends or your kids or your husband in the kitchen. When Mr. Cooke was at the height of his career, Nada* would have been in her late teens and early twenties with two kids and, no doubt, Mr. Cooke crooning on the radio in the backdrop. I wouldn’t come into view for a whole ten plus more years, yet when I listen to Sam Cooke, I feel like I was always there with my mommie and she is always here with me.
To my conservative, possibly Republican, Christian friends, here are some things that are so not like anything you believe that I think would be good for you to check out without relinquishing your world-view, political position or damaging your faith. Jesus did this all the time. In fact, doesn’t God say that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts? And yet, He still chooses to abide with us. God flat-out says that we don’t act like Him and we don’t think like Him and yet, He still chooses to hear our prayers. That’s extraordinary—game-changing. Jesus listened to people He didn’t agree with all the time. He asked them questions. He even walked with Satan for 40 days through the wilderness and still remained fully Himself. What if you decided not to post or say anything about any people group that you disagree with until you actually befriended someone from that people group? To befriend means you’ve shared a meal. You’ve been to their home and they’ve been to yours. I’m not suggesting that you can’t still have your opinions, but until you actually truly love someone who lives or believes differently from you, don’t allow yourself to post or share your opinion about them on social media or with your preferred, think-just-as-you-do friends and family. I know, I’m crazy to even suggest such a thing. But, what if?
- White Awake by Daniel Hill
Here’s the line that shook me and should shake you awake too:
from Chapter 1: The Day I Discovered My World Was White
“Daniel, you may be white, but don’t let that lull you into thinking that you have no culture. White culture is very real. In fact, when white culture comes in contact with other cultures, it almost always wins.”
Read this one prayerfully and slowly. Then put it aside for a while, maybe even a year or more, and pull it out and read it again.
What’s putting the sweet at the bottom of my cup these days? My top 5: