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My children are white. The word white does little to reveal who my children are as people. I often use words like hot tempered, compassionate, darling or even fresh to describe my children. Not white.
I’ve noticed that we are quick use the word “black” to describe African-Americans as if this simple word reveals everything one would need to know about your daughter’s professor or the teenager who took your order at Panera. It’s one of the many hidden forms of racism still present in our culture today.
My children’s race, however, matters more to me now than it ever has before. As a mother of white children I have become painfully aware that I have no idea what it is like to be the mother of black children. What does it feel like to know that your black children can click on YouTube and watch a white police officer shoot a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back?
This is what it is like to be a mother of white children:
This latest shooting of an unarmed black man stuck like a rusty nail into the bottom of my sole; just a mile away from where Walter Lamer Scott fell to the ground my dear friends are raising two black boys in North Charleston. They are beautiful boys. They are filled with all the same energy my two boys are. They like to read themselves to sleep like my boys. Their mother is so deeply in love with them that she describes their beauty to me over the phone, just as I count my boys long, heavy eyelashes. Their father, like my husband, carries them on his shoulders. Like my family they gather around a dinner table every evening and pray before their meal.
I would never use the word black to describe these two boys. I would use words like lean, mischievous, wildly funny, and bright. Yet these boys are black. And the truth, if we want to accept it or not in America, is that black boys and men are more likely to be shot by police officers.
I ache with anger. My heart breaks for the mothers of black boys in America. Yet as a Christian I am left bewildered as to what next. Prayer seems anemic. Writing, trite. Calling my friends to share my lament, removed. Political action, useless. Yet I refuse to be hopeless during this Eastertide, for there is resurrection. God’s workers are active. Black ministers are preaching forgiveness, police chiefs are improving training, citizens are demanding accountability, the press is committing to more equitable news coverage. This is no time for naïve optimism, but this is the right time for hope, hard work, and honesty.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.