The Talk We Must Have

After dinner tonight, I called my 13 year-old son to my office. He squirmed as I muddled my way through the set up. I wasn’t 100 percent sure of the plan, but I knew that it could not wait another moment. We didn’t have talks like this growing up — even though we desperately needed them then, just as we do now. Tonight, we had the talk. The while privilege talk.

When I was young, my parents instilled in me a sense of respect and honor for all people. They witnessed Jim Crow crumble in their youth. And, they always taught me to be a better person. For that, I’m extremely grateful.

Photo by Mati Mango on Pexels.com

I can’t believe I’m now the parent of a teen. Teenagers are interesting creatures. They are grown in their own minds, as their bodies rage with hormones and change. Their sense of logic and morality is growing at a pace faster than common sense and maturity. They wrestle in tension with the realization that childhood is fading behind and adulthood marches ever closer.

In five years, he will be an adult. I asked him tonight, who he wants to be when he’s 18. Who does he want to be now? I told him that since we’ve had the other talk, he’s ready to know everything else about this world. Then, we watched newsclips about George Floyd and Christian Cooper. We talked about Ahmaud Arbery and we discussed an experience one of our health care providers had today on their way to our home.

We contemplated how we live in one of the greatest nations on the face of this earth. We discussed about how our country affords more freedoms than people in some parts of the world could imagine. We remembered how we just honored those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to live in the land of the free because of the brave.

Then, I taught him about the great crack in the foundation of our country. The premise that for some reason, white skin is superior to skin of color. It wasn’t the first time that my son has heard about it, but it may have been the first time it was connected to the events of today’s world. We’ve shared our nation’s painful past at the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham. They’ve laid their fingers upon fingerprints of enslaved workers at Historic Stagville.

We talked about how our white forefathers and the institution of slavery was a crack deep in the foundation of a great nation, one that has always permeated the walls and structure of society and erupting into a chasm like this. We talked about how the fallacy in thought of one color being superior to another extends beyond slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow. We talked about how it extends to our ancestors’ treatment of Native Americans, our Hispanic neighbors and the horrible interment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.

My son struggled to understand why people of color are treated so harshly in our nation. He pointed out that we are all created by a God that loved the world so much that he gave his own willingly for all of us.

My son struggled to understand why people of color are treated so harshly in our nation. He pointed out that we are all created by a God that loved the world so much that he gave his own willingly for all of us. I told him that I struggle as well as many believers in majority culture as we are all image bearers of God. I told him that I am concerned for his two biracial brothers, that they will not have the same privileges in society that he does. I told him how much that saddens me. I confessed that at times, I am wrong as well.

For the time in his life that he’s been with us, he’s been surrounded by people of color in his circles of influence. For the first four years he was with us, we attended a minority-majority church. We’re surrounded by diverse neighbors.

He’s seen POCs in places of influence and leadership. We are supported by several POC medical and therapeutic caregivers in our house each week. Our family is under the authority of many POCs as part of our foster care journey. He’s been taught the gospel by many that are different in appearance by him and yet created by the same God.

As I told him—I’m stumbling through this because its so heavy and important that we acknowledge it. His parents aren’t perfect, by any stretch, they just want to see all of their children have the same opportunities in life. It’s important that we start somewhere.

Honestly, this chat was only a half-step more comfortable than the other, more coming-of-age talk we had. However, in both of them, I ended the same way – let’s allow this to be the first in many open, uncomfortable discussions on this topic.

Then, I challenged him. Now that you know about it, what are you going to do with it?

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