An Education

bryceblogI am white. My adopted son is black. When I first carried him into the church I was pastoring at the time, a lady looked at him in my arms, gave a twisted smile, and said, “Well hon, just lather him up with sunblock. It’ll keep him from turning into a darky.” Off to Sunday School she marched and I took a chair in the classroom of American race relations.

I have lost count of how many times I talked to a coach about a kid on the team calling my son the N-word; of the hundreds of suspicious sneers aimed at my family; of how many ethnic jokes I’ve had to interrupt; of how often I’ve begged my son to be cautious in volatile situations – including traffic stops – for his own safety; of how many close friends and family I’ve had to confront or simply step away from because of their bigoted opinions.

Understand that my family has always lived in “normal, peaceful” communities. No cross-burnings, Klan rallies, or Nazis armed to the teeth flashing their hand gestures of white power. But “normal,” for huge swaths of this country, is white privilege; and “peaceful” is conditioned on everyone “remembering their place” and current social structures remaining as they are.

We who have never been subjected to racism or discrimination because we are white are simply blind, blind as the proverbial bat. We don’t see injustice because we have never experienced injustice. We don’t think there is a “race problem” because we have been winning the race for centuries, a race rigged from the outset of the American experiment. We can’t understand the burning, justifiable anger from those outside our tribal world, because we’ve never had to live outside of that world.

You don’t have to be a card-carrying white nationalist to be part of perpetuating injustice. You don’t have to don a hooded sheet to make a safe haven for bigots. You don’t have to drop racial slurs to prove your prejudices. All you must do is nothing. If “good, decent, Christian people” do nothing to oppose, correct, and uproot the heinous poison of racism, nothing will change.

I don’t say this to shame anyone or to make my family a symbol of white enlightenment or racial reconciliation. I say this as a father who loves his son with all my heart; a son, who now as a young man, continues to provide me a most necessary education on the veiled, unacknowledged, and unspoken biases of our society.

To that end, I want to keep learning, working for fairness, and trying to understand how we can heal our nation’s primal and original wound. And I want to be part of building a community where the only supremacy is love, and as Dr. King envisioned, where “The sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners” – which includes this Georgia-born father and son – “will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

12 thoughts on “An Education

  1. ambernagle says:

    I’m so puzzled by my friends who argue that there is no racial injustice any more. I see it (and hear it) every day of my life. I hope things get better soon, but change has to start with admission that there is a problem, and again, I know so many who deny there is a problem. Ugh! Great post.

  2. Angela Arnett says:

    Thank you Ronnie! Until you walk in those shoes you can’t possibly tell someone how they should feel. People are people and God said we should love everybody.

  3. Mary Douglas Neal says:

    This is a wonderful piece! Our daughter is black and we too have encountered the same experiences and had the same talk with our daughter. I pray that one day she won’t be watching the nightly news and see how divided the country really still is.

  4. Tiffany McElvy says:

    You have always amazed me–
    You have hooked this non-believer for years and I will always love that you were on of the extreme few who I enjoyed listening to your views and your heart. Now I get to read it only, but it is still so genuine (which is lacking in the world today)
    If I haven’t said it lately or enough — from someone like me that struggles talking to people of faith due to the way the conversation often veers —
    Thank you for never making me want to turn away, but rather hear you and accept and love your faith.
    You are a rare find in my world — but that is what life of about —
    Finding those rare people that make you appreciate all that life brings during your journey through it.
    Much love to you and your family ❤️

  5. Marge Ware says:

    Thank you Ronnie. Sometimes we have to be reminded that everyone does not live in our world. Bless you and him. He has a fantastic role model.

  6. Marti says:

    What a great photo of you and your son! I would love to meet both of your sons. I’ve loved reading about them and reading your books and blog.

  7. Gwen Break says:

    Thank you, Ronnie. That’s why I’ve always loved the way you write, so personal and honest. Your Christian spirit has always amazed me.

  8. Bud Owens says:

    Powerful article! We do unfortunately live in a world still filled with people who do not understand or respect those who may be “different” than ourselves. Those differences may be race, color, language, nationalities, backgrounds, religious beliefs or often simpler differences. Yes, many are bigoted and ignorant to the fact that we are All a precious part of God’s handiwork. I have always had a difficult time understanding how we allow that type thinking and actions in a church that is supposed to be following Christ! Heck, we fine Christian folk can’t even get along, respect and understand each other in our own churches.
    I don’t believe that was ever the intent of our Savior. He came to save ALL who are lost and He desires for All of His children to love each other as He has loved. We teach the children to sing that “Jesus loves the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight” and then we close our minds and our hearts!
    I was privileged to go through some “tough times” with Ronnie in his early ministry. I was there when Bryce and Blaze came into Ronnie’s life. They are truly gifts from God. Ronnie and Cindy have been tremendous parents to them and to Braden (although Braden should have been named Bud after me 😁- just sayin).
    I simply want to say that you two have done a tremendous job and your fine boys will always be grateful for the love, protection, life lessons and support shown them!
    We all learn our lessons in life and become stronger because of them.
    Let’s all pray daily to be a better example and more like the One who gave us true life.

  9. Mike K. Duncan says:

    I always enjoy reading your articles. Sunday I had my grandson whose father is African American ask me what the n word means. He heard it on a TV show. He is only 8 years old. I told him that it was a bad word that nobody should call anybody. I realize that we are going to have a family meeting about this in the near future. I ask for your prayers.

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