I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about the condition of our world and all the suffering the Black community—among other marginalized communities—endure every day, but honestly, I don’t have the words. Or at least the words I feel the Black community deserves.
I am a white woman. How can I possibly understand what it’s like to be a Black woman in today’s world? I can’t. What I do know, though, is that my heart is breaking. And it needs to break!
I don’t see my friends, colleagues, and others I meet as “my Black friend” or “my (insert here) friend.” I just see MY FRIEND.
I have a mixed grandson, but I don’t view him as my mixed grandson. He is my grandson. Period.
I also cringe when I hear someone talk about white supremacy. What the heck? No person is better than another. No skin color is supreme. The ONLY person we should compare ourselves to or aspire to be like is Jesus. And think about it… Jesus was born in the Middle East. Hello! Common sense tells us Jesus isn’t a white man. So where does this view of white as “the” supreme skin color come from?
Okay, jumping down from my soapbox.
Sadly, though, the state of the world is a direct outcome of the state of the heart. Until each person takes an honest look inside his or her heart and makes a conscious decision to change what’s in their heart, real change will be slow coming and lasting change can’t happen.
Full disclosure, my heart hasn’t always been where it is today.
About 30 years ago (and I’m 50 now), I found prejudice in my heart. I didn’t know it was there, but it was. It had been brewing silently right under the surface just waiting on that moment in time where it would rear its ugly head.
I always thought of myself as accepting of everyone regardless of the color of their skin. Then I joined my (now ex) husband in South Korea when the US Army stationed him there. I knew we were going to meet up with his solider buddy and wife. I didn’t know anything about this couple other than she would help me and our children learn the area and would be someone I “knew” when entering a country where I didn’t speak the language.
Then I met her. This woman was Black, and her husband was Mexican. I was shocked. I was uncomfortable. Of course, I didn’t verbalize my thoughts, but they were bubbling under the surface. I wrestled with myself.
I grew up in the south and though I considered myself as having Black friends, I later realized I never did have real friendships with Black people. They were simply Black people I knew. Sure, I called them my friends at school, but I wasn’t a friend in the sense that I was a friend to my white friends. My Black friends weren’t invited to sleepovers or to birthday parties (despite me asking my mother a few times—my mother didn’t raise us to be prejudiced, but we didn’t talk about it either). We didn’t meet up at the theater or hangout spots like I did with my white friends. Sure, if I saw them on the weekends, I talked to them, but I never invited them to hang out with “us.” Regrettably, I didn’t think a lot about it until that heart-awakening day in South Korea.
It was then that I realized I needed a change in my way of thinking. Sure, my thinking may have been subconsciously, but it was still there. It was buried in my heart. It needed to be exorcised. And thank God, it was.
When I started to see the light…
In June 1991, in a little village in South Korea, I met the most amazing new friend. A woman who taught me the real value of unconditional friendship. A woman who was a woman. A friend. Not a friend with a different skin color. No prejudice. Just a true friend.
We shared laughter and parenting each other’s children, supported one another when our husbands were in the field. We cooked for one another (she was the better cook by far), shared hairstyle tips and styling tools. Yes, we shared styling tools. This “white” woman used a “Black” woman’s brush and her curling iron. We didn’t give each other cooties, despite what I was silently taught growing up. The world didn’t end, either. In fact, my world opened as my heart widened and life became so much brighter!
It was this same woman who cared for my youngest baby (he was six months old) for almost two weeks while my husband and I were two hours away in a hospital in Seoul after our oldest son (three years old) was nearly killed by a taxi driver in a hit and run. She never once hesitated. She had her own child to care for in a foreign country, but she took mine in as if he were her own. I never doubted he was in the best care. I could rest easy knowing that I could give my oldest son my full attention.
So, yeah, I get that some views and biases are the product of what one is taught (or what one witnesses) when growing up. But views CAN change. Sadly, they won’t change unless a person is open to change, willing to change. And it starts at home and, more pointedly, in the heart.
I am so very thankful for the time in South Korea and for meeting Monique and Anthony. We’ve lost touch since leaving the Army life, but they will forever be deep in my heart. They have NO IDEA how much they changed my life—my heart—for the better.
I still don’t have the words or words that I feel come close to what the Black community deserves to hear. I know I don’t understand and that I can never understand. I desperately want to understand, but the color of my skin prohibits me from ever really knowing what it’s like to live in this world as a person whose skin isn’t white. But I am willing to try to understand. And until then, I stand. I stand with the Black community with real love in my heart.
What’s in your heart?