If you are one of the 2.5 billion people logging on to social media every day, you have heard about the current debate over Colin Kaepernick and Nike. As you scroll your newsfeed, Colin’s face appears again and again. Everyone has an opinion. Good. Bad. Hero. Villain. Maybe you are burning your Nikes or maybe you are rushing out to buy new ones.
The truth is, this is an old debate. Racial tension is as much a part of the fabric of our country as the American Flag.
The face changes, but the issue remains. Today it is Colin Kaepernick, yesterday it was Jesse Owens.
I am not here to convince you I am right. I am not here to prove you are wrong. Everyone else is already busy doing that.
I am here to ask you to listen.
Let me tell you a story.
When I sent the manuscript for OKAYEST MOM to my publisher, I thought I had turned in a complete book. Then my editor, Adrienne Ingrum, asked for 10,000 more words. She wanted me to write an entirely new chapter dedicated to the topic of race. She said, “You touch on racial issues, but you kind of dance around the edges. I want you to dig a little deeper.”
I was nervous. I am a white woman raising black children. I am still in the process of learning and unlearning many things about race. Adrienne is African-American. What was she going to think about my opinions? Would I be able to do justice to this complex issue? Would I offend her with my ignorance or my feigned enlightenment? I wrote Chapter 17, titled the chapter COLORED, and sent it to Adrienne with trembling fingers.
After reading my entire manuscript, the actual entire manuscript, Adrienne wrote a letter. Here is an excerpt:
International, cross-racial adoption is controversial. As early as 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers issued a position statement on transracial adoption declaring the organization “has taken a vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason.” During my two visits to Ethiopia, I saw many white families at hotels and the Addis Ababa airport cuddling beautiful, big-eyed brown babies. I noticed they received both approving stares and disapproving glares. In conversations with Ethiopians about the topic, I heard ambiguity. All of this controversy swirled in my mind as I began to read Natalie Gwyn’s story.
[Gwyn’s] account offered a perspective that had never dawned on me, even though I’m a rabid Jesus follower. She was not a privileged-perfect white woman who had plenty of household help and a savior complex for starving children. Reading Natalie’s story lifted the adoption controversy above the politics and black culture rhetoric (which usually tends to be my view). OKAYEST MOM placed international, cross-racial adoption in the realm of God, of callings. After reading OKAYEST MOM, I viewed motherhood by adoption as a spiritual thing.
I cried when I read Adrienne’s letter. I had shared my thoughts/opinions/heart with her, she responded by sharing her thoughts/opinions/heart with me, and we both listened as the other talked. We have since discussed Trump, the closing of Ethiopia’s borders to adoption, and the use of the word “Colored.”
Discussed. We both talked. We both listened. Back and forth. A conversation.
Sharing our stories, listening to each other, building relationship; these are the things that will move our country towards unity.
Racial unrest. Rioting. Gay marriage. Gun control. Abortion. Trump. Starbucks. Nike. The NFL. Vaccinations. There is no end to the number of issues trying to divide us. These are all important topics and we need to have conversations about them, but yelling at each other isn’t going to get us anywhere.
I urge you to approach each other with compassion. Lace your words with kindness. Maybe you are right. And then again, maybe you are wrong. Of course I would like to think my opinion is the truth, but what if it isn’t?
As a Jesus-follower, my words can either point people towards my Savior or turn them away. I would hate to lose the opportunity to talk to someone about something as important as ETERNITY because I was too busy being angry about (insert current hot-button issue).
So…let us talk. And let us listen. But most importantly, let us love.
The world doesn’t need another social media post full of hate for the other side.
The world needs more respect for differing viewpoints.
The world needs more listeners.
The world needs more relationships that look like this.
If I want the world to be less hateful, I need to be more loving.
Order Natalie Gwyn’s new book OKAYEST MOM here.