Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. -13th Amendment, United States Constitution, Ratified in 1865-
Most of you, who have followed The Journey for any length of time, know my family is a little different from your average white American family. In 2007, my wife and I decided to adopt a beautiful little girl from Rwanda. The story has as many “miracle” turns (maybe a blog for another time), but the bottom line is: we went from four white Americans to five – with one little African American blessing.
The road was interesting.
For the most part, my immediate family was excited and thrilled to welcome a new little girl into the fold. We had a few conversations that were nothing but education, but on the outside we heard things like, “Are you sure you want to mix your family?” Some people, trying to be helpful expressed concerns with white families adopting black children. And certainly we were aware our world was going to look different, even though at the core we were going to be one family.
In 2010, we welcomed home another Rwandan orphan to find a “forever home” with us. Although our daughter was three months old at the time of adoption, our son was six. We were excited to provide a home, parent, and bring our family full circle when our son came to be a part of our American family.
So you can imagine the challenges we face when we walk the streets. Braner Party of 7, five white people and two African Americans, brings some odd looks from time to time. People have various reactions from “How did that happen?” to “You guys are doing such a great thing.” And to be honest, I can’t imagine our family without these two amazing kids.
Educating My Kids
You can also probably imagine the difficulties we face, especially when a nation is divided like America is over race today. We watch the news and the activists from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Blue Lives matter’ and we find ourselves trying to figure out how to educate our kids growing up in a predominately ‘white’ culture when the winds of racism blow so strongly through our culture. For example:
How do I teach my kids to respond to police?
How do I teach my kids to integrate into groups of friends with white kids and black kids?
Do I tell my son to keep the hoodie down when walking home from the skate park?
Do I teach my daughter to keep a mindful eye on strangers who may have a prejudice look at her because of the color of her skin?
How do I handle the fear of African American friends who are scared to go out at night for fear of their lives?
I never thought in a million years that in 2016, I’d have to be vigilant to think about what it means to be black in America. But I’m committed to being a voice to help highlight what’s going on and how we can lock arms together for solution.
For the last few years, I’ve been trying to get as much information about race in America today. I’ve read books, followed blogs, interrogated African American friends, and sought advice from other families in similar positions as we are
We took our daughter to the police station to meet with the police officers to help build relationships with local police. But I have to admit, sometimes I just find myself praying they never have to deal with some of the historic racism raising it’s ugly head in America today.
Just the other day, we saw a police vehicle stop in our driveway. As I looked out the window I saw the officers walk towards the door, and embarrassingly enough; my first thought was, Oh no. What did my son do?
Fortunately, our local police are the kind of people who stop to play with kids. When I went outside nervous to see what the problem was, I saw the two officers just kicking the soccer ball with my kids and having fun. My heart stopped beating so fast, as I said a little prayer of thanks.
The Story of Historic Racism
We all know the horrors of racism in America. From the days of Slavery to the Civil Rights movement, I think we can all look back in shame at the way America historically handled issues of race.
But this weekend I watched a new film exclusively on Netflix called The 13th.
I can honestly say I’ve never thought of racism as a systemic issue woven into our judicial system. Outside of the media highlight of Black Lives Matter, and the protests that ensue, I’m only as educated by what I see. From the latest protest in Charlotte North Carolina, I’ve been more and more tuned into what’s really going on systemically in America.
Over the last year, I’ve heard the statistics like:
In 1970, there were only 200,000 people incarcerated in America. Today there are over 2.3 Million.
The United States has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s prisoners.
One in three of America’s prisoners are Black Men.
And over 60% of all prisoners are people of Color.
This new documentary, The 13th, re-affirms those statistics and tries to build a theory of how and why this is the issue in America. I must admit I would never had thought of this line of thinking, but I can see how people of Color in America might find the lines of logic straight from the Emancipation to 2016.
What you can do
I know a lot of people who are caught in the cloud of confusion concerning the Black Lives Matter Movement. The volatile way America’s law enforcement meets a whole population is concerning, but what do we do? Of course, every life on planet earth matters, but with the history like we have; I think it’s important we don’t just skirt around the issues of pain, and we who are in the white community, take ample time to educate before we create new movements to counter. (BTW: this is no condemnation for America’s law enforcement. I believe the men and women in uniform are some of America’s best community servants.)
This is in no way a blog to pick a fight.
I’m not interested in fighting.
I’m interested in listening.
And no matter what you think of the movie, and I encourage you to watch it. It’s another point of view in the heart of the racial divide in America.
I’ll be working on this for as long as I can, and will be highlighting some ways you and I can be informed about what’s going on. If you have a heart to reach out and start solving the problem, maybe there’s a way you can engage too.
Maybe you’re an attorney looking for a meaningful cause?
Maybe you’re a businessman or woman who supports local law enforcement?
Maybe you’re an African American who can speak to how we can see this issue in a new light?
But overall, I call on all people of faith to pray for wisdom in how we can all see humanity through God’s lens. Mainly in Genesis 1:26 where God says, “Let us create man in our image, in our likeness.”
We are all created in the image of God, reflecting the nature and character of God in our daily lives. This idea that the color of a man’s skin should determine the way they are treated in our society is absolute non-sense.
Let’s learn together.
Let’s pray together.
Let’s build relationships together.
We’re better than this!