Monday, December 8, 2014

white lady, suburb mom.

i'm a white lady. i live in probably what would be considered the affluent suburbs. i drive an SUV and my kids eat organic things. i like pinterest and i like styled photos. i stay at home with my kids.

i shop at whole foods and i take pictures of my feet sometimes with a drink in my hand and post it to instagram. i paint my walls white and i grew up in a family with both parents heavily involved in my life. growing up, i went to a 99% white church and a 99% white school and lived in a 99% white neighborhood.

am i fitting into the white lady, suburb mold? do i sort of sound like you? give or take?

i learned in (again, mostly white) school that slavery was abolished and that there is no more racism. i totally believed it. i wanted to believe it. this is america, after all.
and then i moved to the city. for a couple of years with my family, i lived in the city with much more diversity. my black friends said, this is real. and i didn't believe them. because i'm not a racist and c'mon. no one says the n word anymore, right? 

well, wrong.

for those years i learned and i saw. a broken school system. city lines drawn by streets and subdivisions and churches and people. it wasn't what i had learned in my textbooks.
it became real. in those years, it wasn't a predominant, in my face issue on the news like it is right now, but it was an issue in my heart. i began to see the ways were I, (yes me) was racist. where i had formed opinions and ideas about people different than me and acted on those ideas.

it was shameful and hard. i didn't want to think that i could be a part of the problem. but here's the deal: i was. unknowingly, that was true about me. the more i faced it, the more i saw.

we have a law in this country that people are equal, not ranked according to their skin color. do you know why there's a law? because our natural bend is to make ourselves better than others. white people did a lot of horrendous things and so we needed a law. here's something on paper so you will know it's not right.

now here's where it gets tricky. just because there is a law, doesn't mean people's hearts were changed. the law is there to expose and guide. we need the law because we are naturally wayward.

in the bible the concept of law is the same. it is there to show us wayward hearts, but it has no power to actually change us. white lady, suburb mom's: it is silly to believe that just because a law says something is wrong, means that people's hearts have changed or that people abide by that law. you know this because you make rules in your house all day long and your children do them begrudgingly and only because you're watching. (or is that only in my house?)

i know the speed limit says, 30MPH on my street. but i go 45 because the police officer isn't watching me. when i get caught, i feel bad because i got caught and have to pay money, not because i have grieved my government and made the streets unsafe.

are you following me here?
black people you know racism exists, you lived it your whole life. i'm not addressing you. i'm talking to white women, probably 90% of my readership(that's a guess, but i bet i'm right) who think that this is all over-talked about. over news-ed, blown out of proportion. to those women who think racism doesn't exist because you don't ever see it, and because people told you it doesn't exist. sure racism exists on both black and white sides.  of course it does. but right now, we're focusing on being a white person and acknowledging our own wrongdoings.

when i watch Ferguson on the news, when i watch the choke hold over and over on Facebook. when i watch a little boy get shot at a park, i am appalled.

i'm a typical white lady from the suburbs and these things do not sit well with my soul. i don't even have fully formed ideas about all of these issues but i want to vomit when i watch a man say, i can't breathe over and over again. and then dies as i watch it.

as i white woman i read on Facebook that it's time for white people to just listen. then i read that it's a shame that white people just sit around and do nothing. i read that my black friends are hurt from the white friend's response or lack of response. it's very confusing. and can sometimes feel paralyzing. i totally get that.

so how about you just start with you.

and i'm just going to start here. i'm going to use my voice where it is heard.
because one time i heard God whisper, i'm going to use your voice. and i thought he meant singing. (laugh). which is funny.... because i'm not a great singer...put me in a choir with 30 people around me and i'm ok. but i think he probably meant, like this. he gave me eyes to see when i was in the city, and then he brought us to the suburbs. why? maybe just so i would have this perspective for this unique time.  a perspective to take what i saw and turn it into a mouthpiece to the suburbs. to help whoever i influence see that something is not right here.

notice, i'm not offering a solution. i have none. this is only the start to a conversation in my world. i may do it wrong, i may incite a bit of anger. surely i offended many people by using the words black and white. but, that is not my intention and honestly, internet fights don't change anything. but starting where you are with your voice does.

i believe the gospel has something to say about all this and i believe that it calls us to reconciliation. if you've ever had a hard conversation with a friend over coffee about hurt feelings, you know how completely awkward it is. this is no different. awkward. clumsy. hurt feelings on both sides. we're going there.

if you want to change the world, start small and start right where you're at. i may not be on the picket lines in st.louis and new york, but my influence is here and that's where i'll start. where can you start?

stay tuned for an interview on race in the coming weeks or so. nothing formal. just a conversation.

39 comments:

  1. I'm new to your blog--I think I found it through a link from Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl. Anyway, I love the way you used your voice/influence in the hard times you guys had in marriage, and the way you use it with your precious daughter with special needs. And I love this. Also, I have been following Austin Channing since ferguson, and I think you would love what is said there--biblical, with authority and love--a delicate balance, for sure. Thanks for your voice.

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  2. Thank you for using your voice Jami. As a mother of a Black boy (hopefully 2 soon), I'm hurting. I only take my son to Johnson county when I absolutely have to because about every other time we are out there I have a hurtful, racist experience. I'd be happy to share my experiences and add my voice to the conversation if you'd like.

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    1. i would love that. it'll be interview style. i'll email you.

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    2. AND she will call you (inside joke)

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  3. Yes. These feelings have been stirring in the deep parts of my soul. Thank you for using your voice.

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  4. Thank you. I'm that suburb white mom, raising black kids. And I am beyond frustrated, and praying daily for wisdom in how to raise these girls and be a voice for them. Thank you for speaking up!

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  5. Yes this. I'm grateful that I grew up in a military family that moved a lot. I had a great experience growing up in a diverse area. Then I moved to the South. And I heard other teens using the n word and flying confederate flags and everything I thought was true just blew up in my face. But as a white girl it just made me mad, it didn't necessarily hurt. Now I have two black children - a son and a daughter. And I hurt and cry and grieve. I get it in a new way. I want to bang my head against the wall when I hear we live in a "post racial" America. Or that things are better than they were in the 60's. Yea, and then they were better than things were in the 1800's. Better isn't good enough. I'd love to be a part of this conversation.

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  6. I'm a white lady living in the predominantly white affluent suburbs on the MO side. I was raped in my own home by the black man (neighbor and friend) across the street this summer. It's set me back in fear. I didn't have fear before. I have another black male friend I've talked to about it. It would be easy to become racist under the circumstances. Black men skeeve me out because of him, before I wouldn't even have given them a thought in that light (I'm married). I refuse to let the acts of one define the believed character of many. My rape wasn't a race issue. It does however put race in my face in a fearful way every day because of what he looked like. Had he been a pale, white, red haired man I'd be in the same place, fearful of pale, white, red headed men. My life has changed.

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  7. Yes! This is so softly spoken yet piercing to the heart. This has been stewing around in my heart these past few weeks as both of my children are biracial (one is black/white, the other is (Mexican/puerto rican). My husband and I are soooo white and from Mphs, TN. A city I love dearly but still suffering greatly from racism. A racism that is so oldroots so strong that even my friends and family don't recognize it.

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    1. If you'd like to show who you are, you're welcome to comment here. We aren't going to be cowards and hide under unknowns.

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  9. HI Jami, I've followed your blog for a long time but never commented. I read a lot of blogs and I'll admit they are pretty much written by white women, some Christian and some not. My FB feed is blowing up daily with articles, videos, opinions, love, truth, and sometimes, unfortunately hate. But in my blog feed it's been quiet. It's all about decorating homes for Christmas, gift guides, and perfectly styled photo shoots. As if there isn't something much more important going on in the world right now and that has deeply perplexed me. And I'll admit, I kep thinking, (of all the bloggers I follow) when is Jami Nato going to SAY SOMETHING? And then you did, and my heart was challenged and thankful for confrontational truth you always wrap in humility and love. I don't say this to pressure you, or exalt you like some weirdo blog worshipper but I do want to echo your sentiment that God has given you a voice and it is important that you use it where you are. And you have, and I know you will continue to do so. I am sure many of the other blogs I follow, do have something to say and maybe they just don't how (ahem, I occasionally write on my own and I will confess I fall into this category myself) so I don't want to assume or shame other people. But you've challenged me to use whatever voice I DO have. Whether we want it to or not, our silence does speak for us. Thanks again for starting a conversation that allows us to listen, learn, ponder, and grow in empathy. I hope it is a place we all learn to speak from.

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    1. i could say more but im nursing a week old as I type this...and other kids want dinner....I am a black woman who is also appalled and disgusted at rioting, looting and other negative images/activities of black people, I would challenge other black women to know their history. That history includes slave masters pitting slaves against each other, by training and forcing them to beat, rape and/or kill each other. So much of our nations history is founded on injustice and built on the backs of slave labor. Discrimination didn't end there, so now we are left with poverty and brokenness (schools, neighborhoods, and most importantly spiritual) I agree that change needs to happen on all sides, and that that change starts with the heart, which only God can change. However, we also have to look at other systems and acknowledge their role in the brokenness, and perpetuation of the status quo.

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    2. Thank you for answering that so eloquently!

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    3. My short answer to this is essentially what I say when one of my kids, called out for wrongdoing, starts pointing fingers at a sibling who also screwed up (sometimes minutes ago, but usually eons ago): Worry about your own self. Meaning - you don't wait to be repentant, and make changes, and try to bring restitution until someone else goes first. That's an unhealthy pattern that just never bears fruit.

      Beyond that, though, as a white woman who's been studying systemic racism over the course of the last decade, I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that "racism exists on both sides". There is no such thing as the reverse racism that you're describing. White folks may experience moments of discrimination, but racism as realized by the Black community is a deep and pervasive thing that is absolutely not the reality of white people. Ever.

      I'm going to try to say this gently and humbly, but I may fail. I'm sorry in advance of what's going to spill off my fingertips, not because I'm afraid of speaking truth, but because I'm not sure if I can do it without offending. You start your post by saying that your child attends a diverse school in order to "teach her to love all on who they are rather than what color they are". A few sentences later you say, "The looting... makes that race look negatively." Why, in your mind/heart, do the actions of SOME define the persona of MILLIONS? Is that love? Assigning a stereotype to a whole entire race based on the decisions of a (super small) portion of that race? This is actually a great example of a micro-aggression against Black people. As a white woman, I know that if a large group of white people act criminally, their bad choices are never assigned to the whole lot of us. For Black men and women, this happens frequently - like, every single day. This is just ONE example of the type of inequalities that Black people have to battle. How exhausting and discouraging it must feel.

      I'm the mom of a white son, a Latino son, and a Black son. Having raised my white son first (he's a teenager, and my Black son is a toddler), it's interesting, frustrating, and heartbreaking how very different the conversations I will have with each one sound. And oh, how I wish it wasn't real! But it is, painfully so.

      I'm not big on quotes, but Mahatma Gandhi nailed it when he said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." What do I wish to see today?! Peace! Love! Truth! Patience! Kindness! Gentleness! Understanding! And I'm finding it's painfully difficult to be those things, because all are against my very nature. But I'll keeping working at it, because as far as I can tell, there is no other way.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this. Another good article that I think does a good job of explaining the issue in plain terms is here: http://qz.com/257474/what-riding-my-bike-has-taught-me-about-white-privilege/

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  12. great post jami. i think this is on so many peoples hearts and minds. growing up on a farm in iowa and now living in a suburb.i know there is so much that is not right in our country. i just don't know what i can do.

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  13. This is a very good post and it brings to light some of the hidden depths of sin...but why don't we venture a little further even and take a stand at the abortion mills. There, day in and day out, thousands of black babies(whites too-just not as many) are murdered every day. It is called black genocide(look it up) and it is a fine oiled machine. No one stands up for racism there. That is racism in our country at it's finest.

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    1. I hope you're fighting just as hard for funding for food stamps, access to healthcare, affordable housing, employment support, and childcare. If you would ask low income women why they choose abortion, I bet a large number of them would tell you it's because they don't want more children to live the hell on earth they've experienced.

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  14. You know I love this. Sitting here saying "Me too" to every word.

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  15. I'm really glad you posted this. It was pretty awful last week to read and see what was happening across the country and then hear people talk about shopping or other materialistic things. We may not have the words, but acknowledging and trying to understand this deep pain and anger felt by so many of our citizens is incredibly important!

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  16. I love you. You said it well! Thank you!!!!

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  17. Sometimes it's so hard to believe that we can make a difference. Thank you for the encouragement to start where we are.

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  18. I posted on Instagram and told myself to leave it at that- but then I read a few comments here & thought maybe I could speak here. First of all- I'm white. My husband is a Texas state trooper. I don't drive an SUV & I live in a tiny town without even a stoplight. I grew up with only about 20-30 black students in my graduating class of nearly 200 people. And I went to a private Baptist college 20 minutes from my parents front door. That said, my experience with other races is limited. Am I racist? I don't think so. But am I upset with the generalizations made about my race? Yes. If I make generalizations about a race as a white woman, I'm racist. If a black woman makes similar generalizations about the white race, it's her truth- her experience. My experience: I had a truly precious friend growing up who happened to be black. In Jr High I reme the other black girls pushing her into us as we walked down the hall and taunting her because she was our friend. Saying "Cassie- why do you want to be a white girl? You don't know who you are!" Our Junior year of high school she slowly separated herself from us to befriend them. People who had treated her cruelly- she chose over us bc the teasing was just too hard. We still spent time with her when we could and she still loved us- but those girls taught her that she couldn't be our true friend bc she was black and we were white. THAT was a lie. And THAT was racism. That's my experience to add to the conversation.

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    1. I think the main difference is that white people in America have not experienced systematic racism spanning centuries. Of course there is animosity which is what you described in your experience from middle school. People make generalizations about everyone, it's how people are, but when those generalizations lead to a diminished quality of life and inequality in general, that is racism. I strongly doubt the generalizations made about you because of your color have led to fewer opportunities in education, your professional life, home ownership, etc. etc. etc. Conversely, generalizations made about black men and women, historically as well as in the present though at varying levels, have led an entire race of people to be marginalized within our country. That is racism. So while sometimes the generalizations made about us as white Americans are difficult to swallow and sometimes painful, they pale in comparison to what those of other races face when generalizations are made about them.

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    3. Respectfully, I disagree with some of your response & do not appreciate your effort to diminish my experience.

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    4. I did not mean to offend. Just trying to underline the catastrophic effects of actual racism experienced daily by African Americans in our country. I did not mean to take away from your personal experiences. Best wishes.

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    5. I think sometimes we get caught up on terminology and miss the point that's trying to be made. Because the term racism refers to systemic power + prejudice, people say you can't be racist and be a racial minority. What you can be is prejudiced, like the example you gave regarding your friend.

      I think systemic racism has resulted in some people of color being opposed to befriending white people (just as the opposite has occurred among prejudiced white people). I think when you dig into the history of our country and learn about how black slaves were pitted against white indentured servants beginning during colonialism, it becomes clear that our country's systems were intentionally developed to benefit wealthy, white men. That's not saying that if you are wealthy, or white, or a man that you believe that's how things should work or treat people that way in your personal life, but you benefit from the existing power structure in many ways.

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    6. I love this post! I also agree with Amy and have experienced similar things. I think it's wonderful that we can have this discussion without arguing and using nasty words. I think overall things need to change for everyone, no matter what color, lifestyle, religion, etc. I hope/think if people started conversing more like this and using their anger toward in a positive direction this could be the turning point for our country. Honestly I think everyone is hurting/angry no matter what side they choose/color of their skin/experiences as long as they are a compassionate human being.

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  19. Man, thank you for being brave enough to post this. My first thought about this has been wondering why Christian people don't seem to get what is going on here. Show Ferguson the love and compassion of God and let Him do the work.

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  20. So thankful for your blog on so many levels. I've been revisiting this post since I read it, watching the comments come in.

    I never want to be ignorant of my sin. I pray the Lord will reveal what's truly in my heart, and not just what I want to be there, or want to appear to be there. But something that overwhelmed me when I thought and prayed about the events of ferguson was God's faithfulness and justice. I cannot know what truly happened that day, nor can I know either man's heart. (Well. Other than that each man had a heart that was "deceitful above all else, and desperately sick"- just like mine.) I don't know if a grand jury acquittal was just. But. I can know and trust and rejoice in the fact that there will be justice. And yes, we should absolutely strive to see God's kingdom, his justice, here on earth. But in the end, hallelujah- God, truth, and justice reign.

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  21. THIS has not been setting well with my soul either. I do believe conversation is a very important start for us because answers and change do not happen without starting somewhere - thank you for reaching out to let it begin.

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  22. My husband and I ran a ministry for 8 years using the game of basketball to get kids of the street and teaching them about a relationship with Christ. I say off the street because that's very real in our city. 90% of these children were black. It was nearly impossible to get white people to give money to our ministry bevause they believed the government already gave so much of our taxes to them in food stamps and housing and medical care. And after living in the city and taking in homeless moms and their kids and dozens of kids (American American) I can say racism is Alive and even in their own community's against each other. So I see both sides. From living in it. And I've struggled myself even in my love for all races to not get passionate about this topic. It's easy in a white community to forget what goes on. It is ignored. It was nearly impossible to get volunteers to help us out because it technically wasn't safe where we ran our programs. We eventually had to stop running this ministry because of burn out and lack of finances. We brought many black children to church with us in a mostly 99% white community and got looked at, we also spent significant time in communities where we were the only white people for a mile. I speak from both sides. The segregation is maddening. Not a super smart Post from me but just my experience.

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  23. Aww I just saw this...What a great post..Take care...

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  24. Amen. Well said and you are an inspiration to all you have touched with post.!

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