“Can I watch a Jimmy Fallon video, mom?”
This is a common request, because as a faithful discipler of my children, I regularly expose them to the comic genius of “Thank You Notes,” “Word Sneak,” and “Ew.” If not me, then who?
Today, those weren’t the sketches I wanted to share. “You need to watch this one,” I said. “It’s important.” I clicked on Jimmy’s somber monologue addressing the horrific events in Charlottesville. He needed to know. He needed to see a humble, but firm, response.
After we watched, I told him all about it…the Nazi flags. The torches. The racist rants. I defined “white supremacy,” my words making no sense at all to a kid who cannot even conceive of such a concept.
It was a risk, telling him these things, because I knew what would come next: “And you’re making us move there?!”
After living overseas for seven years, our family will soon move back to a place I sometimes struggle to recognize. As you can imagine, my kids are hesitant about leaving what is very much home, and the daily headlines from across the pond do not make it any easier for them. “Why would we want to live there?” he lamented. I knew what I had to tell him.
“It’s everywhere, son. Not just America. Racism is everywhere. In our beautiful Australia, in America. Everywhere. And it’s wrong.”
What a terrible, heartbreaking reality to have to share with your child.
Despite the number of people that say racism is no longer a thing, it is alive and well—even in my own living room.
“Can you please pass the skin color crayon?” my four-year-old often asks. For months, I handed her the peach colored crayon, because I knew that was the one she meant. I gave my Asian daughter a peach colored crayon and didn’t blink an eye when she referred to that crayon as “skin.” One day it hit me, what she was asking, what I was assuming. I said, “You know, we shouldn’t call this crayon ‘skin color,’ because people have all different colors of skin—brown, black, light skin, dark skin. There are lots of crayons you can use for skin.”
I had been perpetuating prejudice in my own living room and I didn’t even realize it.
You might say, “You’re talking about crayons, for goodness sake. That’s a far cry from tiki torches and swastikas.” But bigotry has to start somewhere, doesn’t it? Feelings of superiority—of “us” and “them”—they don’t begin at marches and rallies. They begin long before.
A man named Tom posted this on Facebook:
“White Supremacy doesn’t always garb up in white cloaks and hoods. It’s spoken around dinner tables. It whispers in locker rooms. It makes decisions in board rooms. It votes in almost every election. It is voiced in racist stereotypes excused as mere jokes. It perpetuates itself by saying, ‘Racism is just a thing of the past.’ It buys houses in monolithic neighborhoods. It determines destiny by zip code. It declares unjust wars. It blames the poor for being poor. And, yes, sometimes it dresses up in white cloaks and hoods. The trouble is, it is most masked when it’s not under a hood at all.”
“Racism is everywhere,” I told my son. “And we have to speak up.”
Thankfully, I was able to tell him that beauty is everywhere, too. I told him about the brave clergymen in Charlottesville who risked their lives to look evil in the face and say with their very presence, “There is a better way.” I told him about the thousands who have been speaking up for what is right and good. I told him that our beloved Jimmy is just one of many who are saying, “This is not okay.” Who are standing for the marginalized and the oppressed and are declaring, “We will not go backwards. We can’t.” Who believe that silence simply is not an option.
Image-bearers speaking life again and again, saying, “Let it begin with me.”
My four-year-old colored with her friend today. It was time to color Elsa’s face. “Do you have a skin color crayon?” her friend asked. Without hesitation, my daughter passed her the brown.
Let it begin with me, Lord. Let it begin with me.