How to Reinforce Racial Reconciliation as a Family
Within a week, my seven and nine-year-old sons both received gross misinformation from their peers about the murder of George Floyd. My husband and I were pleased they asked us to clarify the matter—fruit from the previous conversations we have had together. It showed their trust in us to provide a safe place for questions with complex and occasionally unclear answers.
Talking About Race with Our Children
Racial conciliation under the banner of the gospel is a regular topic in our home, and I’d suggest it should be in yours, too. Just as parents should be their children’s first and regular source of information regarding God’s design for sexuality, we should claim the same responsibility of teaching our children God’s design for race. As with sex, if we don’t teach our children, they’ll hear about it from the world.
Dominant-culture parents occasionally hesitate to bring up race and ethnicity. They may feel ill-equipped, and it’s admittedly easy for white parents to avoid the subject. But our children are not colorblind and our culture not neutral. Stepping into the conversation helps our children see God’s glory in diversity among different tribes, tongues, and nations; silence, in contrast, makes our children more susceptible to the culture’s bias against dark skin. Our Lead Pastor at College Park Church, Mark Vroegop, has compared passivity in American culture to a downward escalator, and with race, the escalator descends to prejudice.
The Lord graciously opened my eyes to the ways my silence toward racism compounded the problem. Sometimes I still feel paralyzed by my inability to “fix” the brokenness. Sometimes, I still fear saying the wrong thing. Yet, God’s helped our family to change our thinking, habits, conversations, and friendships.
Scripture is very clear about conveying truth to the next generation, including the beauty of the gospel in color. So how do we shepherd those in our home to stand against racism? To escort them from a non-racist posture to an anti-racist one?
These ideas are not exhaustive nor prescriptive, but I pray they help you in discipling your children in conversations about race.
1. Diversify Your Bookshelf
One of the easiest ways to engage our children and broaden their worldview is to pursue books not only about racism and the gospel, slavery and civil rights, but also movies and music featuring people who don’t look like them. We must be intentional to celebrate black and brown children, to highlight their God-given beauty as image-bearers of his likeness. We can also explore African history to remind our children that African Americans came from kingdoms of deep beauty and rich culture.
2. Broaden Your Friend Group
Do you love black people as God loves them? Do you and your children have relationships allowing regular expression of this love? Ask God to help you develop connections deeper than the “token” black friend or coworker (Mark 12:30-31).
Books and present-day examples of racism take on a deeper meaning when we connect them to people we know and love. So, when my son realized a classmate he considers his best friend will grow up to be perceived negatively simply because he is a black man, he felt the weight of injustice and wanted to do something about it. Do you pursue a diverse community for yourself and for your children? Find ways to do that through the school you send your children to or other activities. Pursue meaningful relationships with African Americans so your children play and grow together as you do life alongside each other. Doing that has blessed our children and our family immensely.
3. Speak Out
As the Spirit sanctifies our hearts, he’ll show us more opportunities to speak into real-life circumstances. Rather than usher our children away when they comment on someone’s skin color or ethnic features, we can reply, “Yes, and isn’t the way God created her beautiful?!” Our children will naturally notice differences, and we can help them celebrate rather than stifle or hide those differences.
At a park recently, I instructed my two-year-old daughter to say, “Hi, friend!” to a young African American man relaxing near us; I wanted both to know we don’t see him as a threat. When our favorite Christian audio drama series had an episode with overt racial stereotyping, I told my sons we wouldn’t listen to the episode again and explained why. I also wrote a letter to the producer expressing my disappointment and requesting they remove the episode from their website.
Ask the Lord to give you wisdom, to see people as he does, and to respond with wisdom and kindness.
4. Align Your Resources with Your Convictions
Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” There are many ways you and I can obey this command today. For instance, when strife hits our nation, why not reach out to African American neighbor or church member?
Consider taking them a meal, mowing their lawn, or serving in another way to show extravagant grace. Patronize black-owned businesses or encourage an African-American server with a generous tip, and tell your children why. Support minority missionaries or gospel-centered ministries fighting racism (our family loves EJI), and pray for them with your family.
In 2002, John Piper called for “coronary” Christians in the journey of racial conciliation (in contrast to “adrenaline” believers who fade), and this exhortation remains relevant now. Our African American brethren have faced these challenges for four hundred years, and we in majority culture must step—and stay—alongside. The eye can no longer say to the hand “I have no need of you,” (1 Cor. 12:21).
In Acts 10, the Lord exposed Peter’s prejudice towards Gentiles and changed his heart to say, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality” (v. 34). This is just one example of how Scripture clearly says favoritism contradicts our identity as Christ-followers (James 2:1-13).
One of our Bible Study teachers at College Park, Montinia Darby, recently echoed this sentiment, reminding me that we need the Lord’s help to show us where we are out of step with the gospel of peace (Psalm 19:12), for in Christ there is no partiality.
I’m a white woman married to a Korean man. I’ve always lived in a white-dominant culture with white identity, but my view of God is limited if I only see him through my white perspective. I will never fully know a minority perspective, but I’m committed to learning and growing in considering others more significant than myself (Phil. 2:3-4).
No one’s individual actions will fix racial disparity, but multiplied efforts through changed hearts will glorify God. (Rev. 7:9-10). By God’s grace, may our children do even more as ambassadors of the truth and beauty of diversity in light of the gospel.