God’s laid it on my heart to speak plainly today. So my plea is simple: Fellow white moms, we need to move past “colorblindness.”
We have to talk about race.
It took an African daughter and a whole lot of prodding by the Holy Spirit for me to see colorblindness for what it really is: blindness to injustice. Because if we’re “blind” to skin color, what does that really mean? What does it say to those who cry out about racial inequality? That we’re blind to them? That we don’t hear? That their fears and concerns aren’t valid?
I’m wrestling with these questions, and frankly, I feel unqualified to write a single word about this topic. What compels me is simply this: I’ve realized that silence about racial issues speaks loud and clear. It communicates indifference. Lack of concern or care. And I can no longer allow that to be the message of my life.
Today, I invite you to read about why I’m done being “colorblind.” And why I need other white moms like you to join me in the difficult conversation of race.
I grew up “colorblind.” Sound familiar?
I was taught that all people are equal in God’s eyes, regardless of skin color. Individuals who didn’t agree with this philosophy were “racists.” I believed that the Civil Rights movement had more or less “fixed” racial inequality and that the aforementioned racists were culturally unacceptable, doomed to go out of style.
I saw this belief system authentically lived out by adults in my life. I didn’t hear them utter racist remarks. At school, at church, and at home, I heard the truth that all people are equally capable, equally valued, equally loved by God. Given the racial bigotry that has always pervaded this country, I thank my parents for the gift of this sincere, bedrock belief about the equality of skin colors.
But these beliefs were taught and lived out in a very white bubble.
Minorities were not a part of my life, with the exception of very few individuals, mostly kids adopted by white parents or people on the receiving end of charity and missionary work. Nearly all the books I read were written by white people. The history, theology, and perspectives I studied were those of white people. My teachers were white. My preachers were white. My community leaders were white. All my “norms” were white. And since none of them really talked about race, I wasn’t concerned about it much either.
I was blissfully ignorant of a very different reality existing for people of color outside my bubble. And I was rarely challenged, as a matter of discipleship or Christian living, to seek out perspectives that were different from my own.
The First Blip
Looking back now, I see that I was shaped by racial bias at a level I wasn’t even aware of. I was affected by living in a world where all the cultural norms were pictured in white.
And then God called us to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia.
I remember a very vivd moment, standing in the kitchen doorway as I discussed our Ethiopian adoption with family. Something rose to the surface for me, an awareness that a white couple adopting a black girl meant something—something I couldn’t even articulate or fully understand. This is going to change everything, I remember thinking, not really knowing what “everything” might entail.
Some changes I could predict, of course: What was I going to do with her hair? And I realized that we’d have to seek greater diversity in our circles for her to develop a healthy identity (as if I didn’t need diversity as a white girl).
In retrospect, I see that as the first time my sub-conscious racial ideas popped to the surface: Because as soon as I felt “sure” about the calling to adopt a black girl, I knew intrinsically that our family would never be “colorblind.” I knew that race would matter.
When you adopt, you end up with a lot of waiting time. Many moments to wonder and dream about the future you’ll build with this little stranger. As I imagined life with a black daughter, I started to recognize that despite my sincere beliefs about equality, my sub-conscious wasn’t quite so unbiased.
A simple example: Mothers imagine what it will be like to navigate issues of body image and beauty with their teenage daughters someday. (Or maybe I just worried about this because I’m an over thinker.) It’s not surprising, given my white bubble and the world of advertising I grew up with in the 80s/90s, but beauty had become equated with whiteness for me. I didn’t even realize this sub-conscious bias was there until I had to do the mental shift of recognizing and celebrating black beauty for my daughter’s sake.
On a personal level, I was beginning to understand that this matter of racism wasn’t nearly as clear-cut as it had felt growing up. On a social level, we were just celebrating the process of adoption and the addition of a new family member.
When we finally brought our daughter home, we received overwhelming support from our church and family. Honestly, that love and support is the reason I’m writing this post: I know people care about our family—that they support transracial adoption.
I’m just not sure everyone understands that real support of transracial adoption means really caring about issues of race. And I get it. Because for a very long time, I didn’t see that myself.
But being a mom to a black daughter and a white son has taught me this: Raising a black child in our country is not the same as raising a white child. That says something foundational about the country we live in. And it contradicts that “colorblind” philosophy so many attempt to live by.
As my daughter has grown and our political landscape has shifted, I’ve been confronted with issues of race I never had to grapple with before. It’s forced me to “do some homework” and start seeking out new voices and knowledge. It’s made me uncomfortable—so uncomfortable—as I’ve listened to new voices describing their experience of the world. But for the first time in my life, I’m truly seeking out diversity. And in the listening and the learning, I’ve seen that racial divides are still a tremendous problem, for our country and for the church.
It’s been a hard journey: There’s nothing pleasant or comfortable about seeing injustice, noticing where racism still has a grip on America.
But my faith has grown richer because of these new voices in my life. I’ve come to see my own identity in healthier ways. A recent podcast I heard discussed the value of “transformational conflict,” and those words perfectly capture this road I’ve been on. Because here in the confusion and vulnerabilities of engaging issues of race as a white woman, God’s doing transforming work in me. He’s helping me see that diversity may be messy, but it isn’t an “optional” activity for someone else to pursue—it’s an integral part of a healthy faith, a godly nation, a thriving church.
I started learning about race “for my daughter.” It’s actually bringing about wholeness and joy in me.
For All of Us
I know some of you are reading this and thinking, I’ve known about this for ages, Amy. Glad you finally burst the white bubble and woke up to reality. To you, all I can really say is thank-you for your patience.
But I also know there are some out there like me. Women who were raised to be colorblind. Who thought this race stuff was behind us. Who truly don’t see that racism is still a vicious and ugly divider of God’s people in this country.
Consider: All those rumblings from news stories, those threads that pop on Facebook, those awkward tensions you feel in your gut when race comes up? They are pointing you toward truth, if you’ll look: Racial tensions are not a thing of the past. And they are present, even in our sacred spaces, our spiritual family.
So I write to you, white sisters in Christ. Because I know you love Jesus. I know you are horrified at the idea that race might still be used to hurt and dehumanize people. And I also know that once you see it, you won’t be able to stand silent.
I think the devil trembles with rage at the very thought that we might wake up and start fighting against it. Because the power of Jesus-loving mamas is fierce.
We white mothers have a unique position. Because of our majority status, we can choose to ignore all this “race stuff,” and it won’t have a lot of bearing on our everyday lives—at least not on the surface. It won’t likely affect how we’re treated, our feelings of worth, or the opportunities for our families.
My position is a little different now. Sometimes I think of myself as a white person who “has skin in the game now.” I have a black daughter: That means a piece of my heart walks around on this earth with black skin around it. This has profoundly shaped my understanding.
But you know what? We all have skin in the game.
Anyplace where there’s a racial divide—anyplace where one skin color is elevated or advantaged or separated from another—our hearts are affected, whether we realize it consciously or not. Racism doesn’t just destroy the image of God in people of color, it distorts that image in white skin too.
If any part of the value I’m given by my culture comes at the expense of someone else, I’m just not okay with that. I don’t think you are, either.
Caring About Race = Loving Your Neighbor
I’m coming to see that learning about race is a critical way that I can love my neighbor as myself. And that really, regardless of our skin colors, we all desperately need the same Love. For me, it’s not about politics or party affiliation or power—it’s about seeking to be more like Jesus.
I recently read this post from Ekemeni Uwan, a fellow sister in Christ. In it, she asks a haunting question: “I am left to wonder, when will the few white allies we have become the majority? When will we, black people, get the opportunity to witness a multitude of white brothers and sisters bind themselves to us in this fight against racism, instead of exercising their privilege by observing from a safe distance or not engaging at all?”
I’m asking all the white moms and grandmas who love Jesus: Do we have the courage to join this fight?
We fight for our families. On our knees. In our churches and schools and communities. In the wee hours of the morning and the late watch of the night. We fight hard to be faithful to Jesus and share his truth with our dear ones. I’ve seen moms do this in hundreds of unique and courageous ways.
So now we face this question: Will we fight for other families too?
Will we fight for a little time in our schedule to learn more about this issue? Will we fight for open hearts to honestly learn and listen to the perspectives of people who look different from us? Will we move past colorblindness and acknowledge the reality that makes us all uncomfortable: That racism is still alive and well in America, and it needs to be dismantled?
Or will we go on as usual and do nothing at all?
I know it’s uncomfortable. Unfamiliar territory. Perhaps this whole messy post has cast a slew of question marks across your mind. But something has stirred in you, I urge you to pursue it. Questions, actually, are a really great place to start. Take them to God and ask Him what a next step looks like. Maybe you can read a book about race. Or listen to a podcast. Google that term you keep hearing but don’t quite understand. There are countless ways to open your eyes–and your heart–to new voices.
But please, don’t say you are colorblind. Because that just means you’re choosing not to see.
Note: This post was about the heart work God’s done in pushing me toward racial reconciliation. If you’d like to hear more concrete ways to engage the issue of race as a Christian, you can read about that here. I’m just taking little steps, but I’m hoping that sharing my own experiences might help others find their first steps too.