One of the most powerful questions I’ve considered lately came in the middle of David Swanson’s book Rediscipling the White Church. He was describing one of the training sessions he went through during process of adopting his son. The moderator had the group, mostly white, stop to consider this question:
“When was the last time you were under the authority of someone of color?”
Silence in the room. Silence in my heart as I considered the same thing.
When was the last time we had a pastor, doctor, teacher, small group leader, coach, personal trainer, governor, mayor, seminar leader, etc. of color?
The fact that we probably have to think so hard about our answer proves the training leader’s point: there remains much segregation in positions of leadership. When I searched for images for this post using the keyword “leadership,” the top results looked similar to this:
I had to search way farther down to find any that looked like this:
Most of us live segregated lives. It’s an issue that’s extremely uncomfortable to admit, but should give us pause, especially those considering a trans-racial adoption. They will have the added challenge of needing to find people of color in authoritative positions to give their children the role models necessary to grow up confident in their identity. Adoptive parent or not, we all should be striving for the same thing.
Not just a nice idea
Submitting to the authority of someone of color is not just a nice idea, it’s a necessary check for our pride that can grow wild if left to its own devices. We can all too easily assume that being white lends someone more credibility or expertise in their field (this is a place where unconscious bias comes in). We need to be relationships where we are submitting to the knowledge and guidance of people of color so we don’t assume that white holds the cornerstone on authority. We have to intentionally seek it out in order to change the very ingrained status quo. It will require crossing barriers and exercising tremendous creativity.
But that’s not easy.
As I think about my own community, it is hard to locate people of color in authority. Now, I’m a sheltered, shy, stay-at-home mom and my experience with the broader community is limited, but I genuinely don’t know how or where to start building these types of relationships with my kids! It’s something to pray about and keep eyes open.
So Let’s Get Practical!
What can we do? What are some small, practical ways to start? I’ve thought of a few, starting with one we’ve done recently.
- Alternate avatar? My daughter just started learning with ABC Mouse online, and the program gives you the ability to create an avatar of yourself and your teacher. We made Aurora’s avatar to look like her (blond hair/blue eyes/light skin), but we chose to have a teacher with black hair/brown eyes/dark skin for her classroom. Representation of people of color, even in illustrations, hs an impact on our kids.
2. Doctors . It’s easier to pick your doctor than your teacher. Research doctors in your area, are there any of color that you could choose?
3. Parents. Encourage your kids to make friends with all types of people, not just ones that look the same as them. And hopefully you can also get to know those kids’ parents and start forming relationships of mutual trust.
4. Podcasts. Many of us use podcasts for learning. Why not seek out some with hosts of color? You could even go a step further and listen to ones that are meant for an audience of color (Pass the Mic from The Witness BCC is a great example of this). Podcasts are such a wonderful opportunity because they are so accessible.
5. Authors. When was the last time you read a book, fiction or non-fiction, by an author of color? What type of authors do you default to in your reading life? Again, seeking someone different takes intentionality, but is so worthwhile. Right now I’m reading Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley, which is page after page of paradigm shift! It’s hard and I’m loving it.
The Heart of the Issue
Again, I’m not an expert, I’m a learner. And I’m far from doing this perfectly (that’s the theme of this blog after all). But I want to encourage anyone who can’t think of the last time they sat under the authority of a person of color to consider how they could go about changing that. Always remember, it’s not about ticking a box, it’s about laying down pride, slaying bias, and embracing a Kingdom vision of united tribes and tongues. For His glory.
Also, if you’re benefiting from what you’re reading, will you consider sharing it on your social media? Every share helps spread the message. Keep living your own imperfect journey!