MY SON IS A PERSON OF COLOR AND I AM NOT
My Family’s Perspective on Ferguson, MO
As I watch the events in Ferguson on my television tonight, my eight-year-old son is asleep upstairs. My son is the sweetest little boy I have ever met, and everyone that meets him instantly falls in love with his energetic personality just as we have. He loves baseball, his sisters and of course Legos. He is one of the most typical little boys you can imagine. He is also a person of color.
I am not a person of color. I am white. In my life I have struggled at times with finances and the criticism of others, but I really don’t know what it’s like to live in poverty and racism. My parents afforded me a wonderful education, and I took advantage of it. I have worked hard to be successful, but also enjoy a sense of privilege that many in the world do not have. I too love baseball, my son’s sisters and of course Legos. I too am pretty typical when it comes to life in America, and I love my son as much as any father ever has.
Because of where we live, I know there will be day somewhere in our future when my son will be racially profiled. He is Hispanic and given the ongoing immigration debate in America there are already people who won’t like him. There are already times when I see someone looking at him with a suspicious eye, and then watch as they relax when they notice he is my son. I’m not sure what’s more offensive, the fact that they look down on him for his color or consider him okay because of mine.
The thought that someone, someday would look at my amazing son and wonder if he is up to no good just because of his color makes me sick to my stomach. Will they make him get out of his car so they can search him? If he is in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, will someone call the police and report him as a suspicious person? How could anyone ever think such things of my son? It’s an injustice I work each day to correct. In the end however, I can’t control what others think when they don’t know my son.
If some people of color met my son they might wonder if he is really a person of color like they are. They would say he doesn’t know what it’s like to live in poverty. They would question his loyalty to his own race. They would question his privilege because of me. They might even accuse him of being too white. That too is an injustice I work each day to correct. That too is racism. Again, I can’t control what others think when they don’t know my son.
But my son is not a victim and here’s what I can do as his father. I can teach my son that color doesn’t matter. I can teach him to be respectful even to others that don’t respect him. I can afford him with the best education we can provide, and encourage him to take advantage of it. I can ask that he be the best person he can be with the gifts he has been given. I can show him how to work hard and make sacrifices, to do what’s right and to understand that doing what’s right is it’s own privilege. We can take the time to play baseball together, and to love our family as men should do, and of course to have fun with our toys along the way.
You see I would humbly suggest that my family is in a bit of a unique position to understand something like Ferguson because we are on both sides. We are people of color and we are people of privilege. In my family we don’t see color, at least as far as it divides us. We can’t. We are a family. We celebrate our gifts, ALL our gifts. We know things aren’t perfect, but we talk through problems as they come up. Sometimes we get angry with one another. We even make mistakes and don’t treat one another like we ought to on occasion. When that happens, we ask for forgiveness, hug one another, and even find the humility to laugh about our own ignorance.
In my family, we don’t believe that only people of color can understand people of color. We don’t think that people of privilege are always right, but they are not always wrong either. We know what matters is a healthy community AND people that work hard to be successful. Love and acceptance of all people is what our Christian faith teaches us and how we try and live each day.
As a family we are frustrated by the events of Ferguson. We know there is still work to do but we don’t take sides because we are on both sides. The truth is until we can all see ourselves as one family in America, we are never going to find the peace that so many are crying for tonight.
Until we teach respect for all people….
Until we embrace education as the best solution to lifting the burden of poverty and discrimination…
Until we eliminate racism in all its forms…
Until we teach forgiveness with humility…
Until we teach responsibility and community…
...then we will not find peace.
May peace be our prayer tonight!
Hear us O Lord.