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“A piece of canvas is only the beginning for it takes on character with every loving stroke, This thing of beauty is the passion of an Artist’s heart, By God’s design, we are a skin kaleidoscope…”

Dear Malachi,

You wandered into my room with an indignant look on your face and a tale of a sister who offended you on your tongue, but stopped when you saw my tears. I fumbled around when I realized you were standing there, but I couldn’t turn it off in time.

“Hey, dat boy has brown skin like ME!”

Yes baby, he does. He did. You asked me why I was crying, and you made me smile when you assumed I was crying because I too must be upset that your sister had taken your favorite green lego. I picked you up and told you that I was crying because something sad happened to Trayvon Martin, and I was sad for his parents and for many other people. Such a simplistic answer for an ocean depth problem. You wandered away, and I began to think back…

When I was about four or five, I was talking on the phone to a family member, and I mentioned that I was having a friend sleep over to my house. This person said, “She’s not black, is she?”  The tone was amused, but the warning was clear- she better not be. I remember thinking how strange that was, and wondered what didn’t I  know about black people to make this question important?  My little brain went into imagination overdrive- did black girls do something weird overnight? Were they like Gremlins?  Was having a black friend against the law? This family member wasn’t a bad person, but beliefs and attitudes are ingrained early, and it was clear to me that having a black friend wasn’t going to be okay.

I wish I could tell you this story like I’ll tell you about VCR’s or Pluto being a planet, things that used to be but aren’t anymore. I wish I could shake my head and tell you that I’m so glad those conversations are past ideas, and that we have learned from our mistakes. I wish I could tell you that Trayvon was followed because of so many other reasons besides the color of his skin. I wish I could tell you that I hear more words of forgiveness and empathy than the words “justice” and “thug”. So now we talk about what to say to our young black sons about how they could be perceived. This is new territory for me love, but I do want you to know a few things.

You love the story of the Good Samaritan. Like many boys, you are drawn the the idea of rescuing someone, of good winning over evil. You like the idea of being the hero.

You don’t know yet the pain of being mistaken for the thief.

It’s just a theory, but I imagine when that Jewish man rolled over and opened his swollen bloody eyes, he might not have been relieved to see a Samaritan standing over him. I imagine he might have wondered if this Samaritan was coming to finish him off, or take anything else he had left. I imagine his hatred welling up mixed with fear, adrenaline surging as his body prepared to fight off yet another enemy. I wonder if his mind flashed back to gazing down the road at the priest walking towards him and the pain he felt as that man, a man who claimed to love God, quietly crossed the street, avoiding eye contact. As the Samaritan hoisted him up, I imagine he braced himself for what was coming…only to feel tender hands gently attending to his wounds. I imagine his eyes warily watching as he was dressed and taken to a place of rest, where he was physically cared for and healed. As the days stretched on, I wonder how he made sense of what happened. I wonder if his heart changed. I wonder if the next time he went to a dinner party and someone made a snide comment about “those Samaritans”, he was silent or spoke up about the man who saved him.

So as your mama, I know I need to talk to you about walking late at night and hoodies and yes sir and hands where they can be seen and eye contact. But I also need you to know this- it’s so much easier to be the priest with impressive words and clean hands, but Jesus’ words were offensive and His hands are scarred. It’s not enough to talk about love, you have to actually love. So baby, when it happens, when you are pulled over unfairly, when you are scolded for something your white friends are doing too, when the girl says no to the date because her parents don’t approve, when people tell you that you are too sensitive and racism doesn’t really happen nowadays, when you are called a n***er or an oreo, when you are mistaken for the thief, I want you to jump down in the ditch, alongside the dirt and pain, and love them. Take chances, bind wounds, love extravagantly and unexpectantly.

Because love changes everything.

I don’t know if it changed the Jewish man’s heart, but I promise you it changed the Samaritan’s. That love can soften suspicious eyes. That love disarms angry crowds. That love took a little girl, confused and afraid of having a black friend, and turned her into a mother of a beautiful black son. Thank you sweetheart for being part of what He’s used to change me.

Love,

Mama

photo (2)

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

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28 responses »

  1. Beautiful!

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  2. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

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  3. Precious. Thank you.

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  4. Beautiful is the only word I can think of but it was so much more. I could feel your heart, and a heart that beautiful can only come from the source of all beauty! Thank you.

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  5. Why don’t you teach your son to not look like a thug and a criminal and then you won’t have to worry about it?

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    • followingbutterflies

      Deborah, thanks for reading and commenting. I think you might have missed my point. My point is not that Malachi can protect himself from racism by watching the way he dresses and acts. My point is that I want him to embrace his persecutor, despite if how he is treated is fair or not. The fact is, there may be a time when my son is walking home in a hoodie and someone might decide that looks suspicious. He might be approached and accused. He might be in danger of losing his life. My point is- this is reality, and he can either decide to be rageful about it or apathetic to it, but there is a third option, and that is love.

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    • Seriously???? That comment is so full of ignorance I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with thug. What is that? It’s a word to describe a person, based on what- how they dress? How they talk? What? Would you feel it was fair or loving for someone to look at you and use a word based on what you wore or how you speak? Tray was a kid holding tea and skittles. Change the color of his skin and he would be a white kid holding tea and skittles and I don’t believe he would have been approached.

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      • Not a kid, sorry. He was over six feet tall. Taller than Zimmerman.

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      • Oh so if he’s tall, that means he isn’t a kid. Right. He was seventeen. Not legally an adult and certainly not making adult choices. Would you feel differently if he was 16 years and 364 days old? Or if he was a couple of inches shorter than Zimmerman? I don’t know if you have kids, but I have teenagers. They are NOT adults. Zimmerman is an adult and as an adult, he should have obeyed the police. THAT’S what an adult would do. So in this case, it seems Zimmerman is the one who made an immature choice.

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    • thug = noun. “a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.” What does a thug look like? Does he look like a doctor at an abortion clinic (i.e., Kermit Gosnell)? Does he look a postal worker (i.e., David Berkowitz)? Do they look like a nurse

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      • Sorry – didn’t get to finish . . . . Do they look like a nurse (i.e., an angel of mercy)? Or do they look like a black kid of indeterminate age and a certain height?

        Maybe you meant something else Deborah, but whatever you meant, I believe that there’s a strong hint of prejudice in your statement.

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  6. Honest question. How am I supposed to react then if I see a black man walking towards me and I am alone? As a woman, it makes me nervous. Just being honest. Sometimes I cross the street. I lock my doors if a man walks by my car. Does this make me racist?

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    • Megan, I’ve crossed the street when I saw someone who looked dangerous, but my evaluation of dangerous wasn’t based upon the person’s ethnicity. This individual was acting like they were either on some sort of seriously mind-altering substance, or seriously mentally ill.

      I think a more fair question would be how you would react when “a man” is walking towards you. Why should their race come into play?

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      • I’m just being honest. I’m not proud of this. Honest….if I saw a group of young white men walking towards me and I was alone, I would probably think that they are probably okay, and the worst they would do is steal my bag. If I see a group of mexican men, I think they are going to probably whistle at me and maybe make a rude sexual comment. If its a group of black men, then that is when I get scared of actual violence. Like I said I am not proud of this. I’m sorry. It’s not that I think any of these people are beneath me. It’s more about figuring out chances and risks. If it’s indian men then I think they will ignore me. If it’s asian men then I think they will be polite but quiet. I guess those are stereotypes.

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    • Meagan, 1st good for you to have the guts to ask such an honest question. No one on this earth is perfect and we all have things that need to be fixed or improved and if this story by Brandy has prompted you to evaluate your thoughts then I think it a good thing. 2nd It would be a good question to ask yourself if you get scared by all men when you are out at night alone, a certain race of men, or if it is how that man of whatever race appears (i.e. dressed, etc)…search your heart for the root of those feeling and see if they are grounded in truth, stereotypes, or prejudices…….know that you are not alone if you find a stereotype or prejudice within that your weren’t aware of…I truly believe the Lord convicts us of things at the perfect time for each of us…at a time where we might be open to change, where out heart might be softened to see where we can improve. Blessings to you.

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  7. followingbutterflies

    Megan, those are great questions. I’d love for any of my male readers to chime in, but for me, the fact that you are asking yourself the question is a big deal. I think so many of us are so horrified by the idea that someone would think we are racist, so we don’t ask ourselves if there is any truth to it. So thank you for just being willing to be open and honest about it. I guess I’d ask you- are you nervous around black men or men in general. Because as a woman, if I’m alone and a man is walking towards me, I do pay attention more. Once Malachi came home, I started thinking about how I wanted people to treat him, even if he was being a rebellious teenager and not smiling at others or dressing in a way that might make others nervous. I’d want people to make eye contact and smile. So, I try to do that now. I’m still cautious, I am still aware of my surroundings, but I try to retrain my brain from seeing every man as a potential danger. Because I also think that just like young black men probably grow weary of being seen as potential thieves, men may be weary of women being automatically nervous around them.

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  8. I have thought a lot about this case lately and I think for different reasons than most…see I don’t know much of anything about the case. We don’t watch the news when are boys are awake and by the time I get them to bed and do a few things the news is long over. So all I know if the few details that I might hear from others or in news blurbs…I know it was a young black male vs. a hispanic (apparently neighborhood watch person) male. I know there was a fight and the young black male was killed. I don’t know what each of them where doing in that area, who they where outside of this one night, and what their history might say of their character…..But what I have thought a lot about is the outrage over the trial results….and my heart is conflicted. I believe you should have a right to protect yourself and not knowing the details I wonder if Zimmerman truly felt his life was threatened (I don’t know, but if he did how scary that must have been for him)….or this young black male, was he innocently walking around and was approached by someone, someone who’s deemer was accusing from the get go, did he then get defensive for being accused of something he didn’t do and he reacted negatively and then the snow ball happened ending in his life…I truly have no idea. But what I do know is that we live in a broken world where our society from the early ages of elementary has caused these social classes to develop and when you are painted into a box it is so hard to get out of it…the jock, the nerd, the prepie’s, the (insert whatever). We all have been raised with stereotypes that we may or may not even know we have….and often times you are painted into a box that never even fit you….this is where my heart hurts, I don’t know if Treyvon was innocent, only the Lord know the details…but what I do know is that it IS POSSIBLE that he was, that a young black male was painted into the box of “a thug” (to use the words in a previous post, truly no disrespect intended, just an example)….and I think of my sweet friends Brandy and Wes or my sweet friend the Dh family who have 2 beautiful Godly boys (that happen to be black) and my heart hurts for how they might be treated someday because someone painted them into a box that never matched who they are….just like I fear for my boys, who may not be black but who can still be painted into a box that isn’t right, fair, accurate, or true….I am glad I don’t know more of the details because I think it has allowed me to try and see it from both sides, to see that each of these men are someones child, they each had a heart and a soul, and they each could have been innocent and yet accused of something they didn’t do…Just like our savior, innocent, accused of something He didn’t do, but took that pain and turned it into something beautiful. I hope Treyvon is with the Lord and I pray that Zimmerman knows him or that he would come to know Him soon because Jesus is the only true Hope in this fallen world.

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  9. Simple economics will explain this one, Brandy.

    We all make cost benefit decisions every day. Consider the scenario that keeps coming up where a white woman acts pre-emptively defensively when there is a black man approaching. Assume the risk of being assaulted by an approaching white man in a business suit is 5% and the odds of being assaulted by a young black man in a hoodie is 10% (i think the disparity is much higher in the minds of white women walking alone, but let’s assume this for now).

    The “cost” of assault is relatively the same: i.e. getting assaulted by a white man or black man is basically equivalent in terms of physical and emotional damage. Moreover, this “cost” is astoundingly high. Consider, if assault was a common occurence in your life and you had substantial means, how much would you pay to stop an assault? Probably all you had and then whatever you could borrow. let’s say $1,000,000 for a round number.

    So, the expected cost of the assault by a white man is 0.05 * 1000000 = $50,000. and the expected cost of assault by a black man is 0.10 * 1000000 = $100,000. So, for $50,000 imaginary “cost” dollars savings, a white woman will not think twice of possibly offending a black man by crossing the street, locking the doors, etc

    Now, I don’t think this is right, but I do think that it happens. In an ideal world, we would all get to know one another before rendering judgment, but in reality, would-be assaulters look a lot like nice guys from 100 feet away, so what’s a girl to do? Unfortunately, Malachi will probably be subject unfairly to racism/dsicrimination b/c of the color of his skin and that sucks

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  10. Megan,
    Thank God you are honest- my prejudices are revealed more and more each day as I work with people who are Filipino, Hispanic, African American and “white”. God shows me my prejudices more and more through my husband- not just his skin color, but culture, “manhood” and personality. Healing begins at honesty.

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  11. Healing begins at honesty.

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  12. I would like to weight in, because my dad is black, and my mom is white. I grew up with both races surrounding us, and I hate to have to say that the black community is in great need of changing its own community and identity. Especially in the poorer neighborhoods, which is where I grew up, the vast majority of blacks were so ugly towards each other, and even more so towards whites. The racism going on in those communities would take your breath away. It is almost like palpable hatred. The overwhelming mindset is so low, and if you dream of something better, their reaction is that you are selling out, or that you “want to be white”. It is also sadly true that most crimes are overwhelmingly committed by black males. When the population at large is only between 10-13% black, and yet an overwhelming majority of violent criminals are black (over 80%), the discrepancy speaks volumes. Having taken police training, and seen what the authorities have to deal with daily, helps one understand why race is taken into consideration. It may not be politically correct, but the facts support that far more crime is committed by black young men, than by any other racial community. The problem is so entrenched, and so deep in these black communities, and it starts with the broken family units, and boys and young men growing up without a dad, without leadership, and with lots of anger. I wasn’t allowed to be part of the black community, because blacks thought I was “too white”. The black community also didn’t want to hear any talk about success or dreams of something better. Our family strove to get out of the bad neighborhoods, and we were berated for it!! There is no encouragement in most of those communities. It literally sucks the life out of you, to have to live there. But it is self-inflicted. With the particular case in the news, both people involved made grave mistakes. One for not falling back, and letting Martin go, the other, for deciding to beat on a “creepy-ass cracker” (Martin’s own words, which showed how racist the young man himself was). And I can attest to the fact that many black communities are much more racist than anyone can imagine. (Yet what is astounding, is they themselves don’t think they are being racist!) Trayvon’s picture in the news was of when he was 12, and it sickens me to the lengths that the media and supposed black activists played this up with race. At 17, Trayvon was not only 6’1″, he was very well muscled, and a strong fighter (pictures he took of himself, which were released after the trial). The fact that the media went straight for the idea that Martin was killed by a white man (and Zimmerman is not white), is evidence of wanting to fuel the idea that white people are out to get black people. I now live in a very diverse neighborhood. Never had any white people (or any other minority, for that matter) try to make trouble or hurt anyone, but sadly, groups of young black men have made it their mission to inflict pain on our community. We have wonderful black neighbors. Yet even their lives are hurt by young black men who are and become part of the huge statistics of violent crime. It is sadly so much deeper and so much sadder than any of our discussions can fathom: mostly, because from what I’ve lived through, the black community is not willing to start changing the perception, by changing their own ways and minds. It all starts in the home. I have friends who wanted to adopt a black teenager. My friends are white. The black case-workers didn’t want my white friends to adopt the black teen whom they dearly loved and wanted. The teenager didn’t have any other prospects for a family, and he was already 15. He wanted to be part of my friends’ family, yet the very people of his own race who could have made the process easier, chose to make it harder, and with the hopes that it would never come to pass. Truly, truly, sad! Because now, for the vast majority of racially charged cases, we should start looking to the fact that the black community is perpetuating the very thing which they are wanting to do away with. We all need the heart of God, His love, and His Son is the only way out of this mess. As Brandy says, it is heartbreaking that the flames of racism keep being fanned, however, my perception is not that this case has fanned them, but that we aren’t really getting to the heart of the matter: we need to stop blaming that whites are against blacks. Overwhelmingly that is no longer the case. We need to start building up the black community, and educating success, starting in the home, by teaching the children that they have endless worth and value in the sight of God, and that young teens and pre-teens having children out of wedlock leads to nothing but self-imposed poverty. This country has limitless possibilities, and we could debate about all kinds of other factors, but I’ve been a part of a story, and have seen too many others rise above the very communities that have tried to keep them down. My prayer is that God open up all of our hearts and allow us to see beyond the meaningless superficial things, such as skin color. I cannot believe that it is 2013, and so many people are still taking the Enemy’s bait on this topic! If God is moving your heart like He has Brandy’s, my friends’ and mine, we would see God’s Kingdom here, as it is in Heaven, and none of this would need to be a point of discussion. We do have a choice to fall for racism, or not, whether black or white, or any other race or ethnicity. We need to start owning our own lives, and stop blaming others, and take responsibility. God’s love brings out the best in people. The Enemy’s disobedience brings out the worst. We still choose.

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  13. I used to have some of the same prejudices that some of the other ladies have confessed. I loved teaching black children, but somehow those sweet children I taught didn’t equate with the frightening “monsters” I saw grown up. Then I met a man whose walk was amazing! The Spirit simply radiates from this man. He is the embodiment of what you have written to Malachi to become– one who meets hate with the love of the Abba-Father, extravagant love. Brother G opened my heart, and a 12-step fellowship opened my heart wider. I began spending time with African Americans at meetings, and for fellowship after the meetings. I discovered I had been letting fear hide some wonderful treasures from me. I found brothers and sisters in the Lord who loved even my brokenness. Not all of my friends from recovery are African American, but enough are that my paradigm has shifted. I no longer see a group of young black guys in hoodies listening to hiphop and try to avoid them. I walk right past with confidence, I meet their eyes and smile, and if I like the music I might ask what they’re playing. I might catch them off guard, but so far I haven’t been rebuffed. I haven’t been assaulted. I look at it this way; If I am to be Christ’s representative on Earth, how can I not love EVERYONE? What’s the worst that can happen? I get robbed? I own nothing more important carrying the gospel to the unbeliever. I get killed? Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.” I’m cool with that. I don’t recklessly look for dangerous situations, but situations that once looked dangerous to me, don’t any more.

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  14. I think young black men have come to expect being treated suspiciously (especially) by white women, so I make a big effort look them in the eyes and smile at them when I see them. It is amazing what a friendly look and a loving smile can do to one’s spirit. I’ve experienced it myself, and I want everyone I come into contact with to experience it, too. I know that often there is fear, confusion and misery behind those tough looks, and a kind, motherly smile (no matter what color skin it’s ensconced in) is a huge balm.

    Thanks for writing about this topic.

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  15. hello
    It’s a great post.

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