My daughter was six years old when she came barreling home from school one day with a very important discovery for my husband and me: “Mommy! Did you know that it if wasn’t for Dr. Martin Luther King, you and daddy wouldn’t have been able to get married? Then me, Zach and Caleb wouldn’t be here. He made our family possible!”
It was January and her class was learning about Dr. King – the timeless “I Have a Dream” speech, his life and legacy. I assume her teacher shared that Dr. King worked and preached toward racial equality and reconciliation. Since my husband and I don’t share the same skin color, my daughter, in her own innocent way, determined that without Dr. King’s work, we would not have been permitted to get married and have children.
Wow! What a profound thought for a six-year-old! As I go through life loving my husband, the differences in our nationalities and races don’t often come up. But that day, I began to wonder if I might be missing something. My daughter’s revelation caused me to look around at our neighborhood, her school, and our church to see if there were underlying things making our differences more prominent to our kids.
As mommies, our job is to take the simple statements from those innocent mouths and decode them into larger lessons, relate them to spiritual truths, and allow God to unearth our own hidden heart conditions, right?
What do we do, though, when the issue is racism? I care deeply about this issue and want to share with my children that “I have a dream” too. I’m right there with Dr. King. But 55 years after his famous speech, our society is still struggling to attain that dream. And as a young, married, working mom living in a middle class, primarily white neighborhood, I sometimes don’t feel qualified to comment on the subject of racism.
As I was considering this – how to address the subject, how to end racism, how to share God’s perspective with my kids – a few things came to mind. I’m not suggesting there are any short-term, easy fixes to this problem. But I do think there are some practical actions we can take to help turn the tide.
This should be our first response to any and every problem we face in life, right? We need to involve God, gain His perspective and allow Him to change our hearts.
As Oswald Chambers puts it: When we pray, “we get into union with God’s view of other people.” Prayer allows us to “identify ourselves with His interests in others. If my heart is right with God, every human being is my neighbor.”
2. Get into the Word
If we want to know how God feels about racism, bigotry, and prejudice, we need to open our Bibles. There are plenty of passages in Scripture that deal with these issues.
Take the Golden Rule, for example. Jesus taught: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Living by this one, simple commandment is a powerful weapon in the battle against racism.
3. Talk to your kids
Children are very observant. They see things. They hear things. They make assumptions. Instead of avoiding tough subjects, we need to have honest conversations with them. This can help us understand their feelings and help them understand our values and attitudes.
“Many white parents avoid talking about race,” writes Madeleine Rogin in “How to Teach Kids About Race” “Yet, young children notice difference all the time. When they are silenced or pick up on the idea that pointing out differences is not okay, they begin to think there must be something wrong or bad about these differences.”
4. Remember we are all “image-bearers”
Underlying the entire issue of racism is a failure to align ourselves with the truth of God. According to the Bible, “When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them.”
Max Lucado puts it this way: “Every person you see was created by God to bear his image, and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. …All people deserve to be seen for who they are: image-bearers of God.”
Praying for God to change our hearts… Seeking God in His Word… Talking to our kids about the inherent value of all people… Treating others with dignity and respect because they bear God’s image… To me, these are just a few of the many things we can do to help Dr. King’s dream become a reality.
“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” Dr. King preached. “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Today, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., let’s pray for that justice to come. Let’s give thanks to God for the work He has done and is doing in our nation. Let’s ask Him to bring forth the healing, reconciliation, and peace that Dr. King envisioned, lived, and died to inspire. Let’s ask the Lord to root out the racism hiding in our own hearts and help us show our children how to display His love for all people.
Mommies, daddies, brothers, uncles, neighbors… Speak up with confidence in who your Creator made you to be. We can’t let another 55 years pass us by!
“…Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” – Amos 5:24, NIV