I've started taking my boys to our new black church. Due to significant transitions in work and other factors, I'd lost consistent, ongoing healthy interactions with A LOT of the black folks in my life. After some time, this reality hit me hard. I started asking myself all the questions:
NUMBER ONE: Where are my black people, for crying out loud?
Why don’t I have more black friends whom I see on a regular basis?
Why aren’t I reading more black authors?
Why am I default interacting with mostly white bloggers online? (Hint: they are typically easier to find).
Why aren’t I shopping, living, interacting with more black people on a daily basis?
Where can I find some black people, cuz I’m finna lose it?!
Where are my safe spaces with black folks? Where, God in heaven, am I safe on this planet? 2013 was SUCH a bad year for Black Americans.
When we pulled into the parking lot on Mother's Day, eight and a-half year old Ransom sighed.
“Ugh. Mama, I don’t want to go this one. I wanted to go to Daddy’s (white) church!”
Rhysie, who is four and a-half, followed suit. “Yeah, Mama. I didn’t want to go to this one.”
I lug them out of the car, pontificating about having a good attitude and being thankful for all things blah blah blah when I realize I need to tell them the truth.
“Look boys, it’s good for Mama to be around other black people. Mama needs more black people in her life.”
“I don’t like black people!” Rhysie says in a huff, stomping his foot for good measure.
I sigh. What I remind myself quickly—he’s four and a-half. He does not know what in thee hell he’s talking about. Also? I’m positive he’s blissfully and conceptually challenged to what race, ethnicity and cultural identity *actually* mean. In our 14 year marriage, we'd spent the first five years in all black church and the remaining nine in all white church. I left that church because, instinctively, I knew if I didn’t get around my people—in a healthy context, I would shrivel and die. Shrivel. Die. Rinse. Repeat.
I’ve been more intentional in other ways, too. That’s why I took the plunge even though my husband couldn’t come with me. We knew he needed his relationships with his white peers, recently developed. We knew he needed white worship music to enter in. We knew if I heard another white worship set I was going to hang myself upside down by my pinky toes. I could explain all this to a four and a-half year old OR I could poke my eyes out and both would have roughly the same effect. I opt for a lighter approach...
I kneel down to face him and smile, “Rhysie, it’s not nice to say you don’t like people because God made all people. All people with black skin, peach skin, yellow skin, light brown skin, reddish skin, no matter what color skin God loves them all and we should too.”
Ransom interrupts, “Besides, Rhysie, your Mama is black. If you don’t like black people you don’t like your Mama.”
Rhysie looks curiously at my skin. “No she’s not, she’s white like me!”
White like me.
White like me.
White like me.
This is too much for today. Yet, attending this church is right on time for us three racially ambiguous ragamuffins.
“Rhysie,” I say, “Neither you or Mama are only white. God made us black too. In fact, your Grandpa Green was black but you never met him because he died before you were born.”
“Grandpa Green wasn’t green?”
I explain his last name was a color not a skin tone but give up when I see him fading out spying bugs on the sidewalk.
Ransom chimes in, “Mama, I don’t like this church because… I just don’t like how different…” he trails off in confusion.
I tell him the first time I ever went to a big, black church I was scared too. I tell him people worship God in lots of different ways and just because we aren’t used to it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go to those places. I tell him I want he and Rhysie to learn to love the traditions of African-Americans because it’s part of their heritage.
He’s either very impressed with my answer or either very bored because he takes my hand and we walk in silence.
After church, Rhysie is giddy from making Mother’s Day art, Ran had an hour of snuggling, drawing and iPad time with me during the sermon.
In the car I ask, “Now was that soooooooooo bad?”
Ran says no, but that he still doesn’t like it.
Like most parenting moments, good enough for today.
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