How to Build a Diverse Community With Love
It was a picture of heaven.
All skin colors — from peach to light tan to the darkest mocha — holding hands and praying.
For six weeks, my majority white church and its sister majority black church had come together to share a journey of racial reconciliation. No one knew how it would go. “Undivided” was a new program we’d launched together, but by the end, we were amazed.
Relationships had grown through vulnerability and acceptance. And we all are confident this new community will continue to grow, as we learn more about, and serve with, one another.
When I started to learn about the reality of black lives in America, I had to work through some hard feelings in myself. Now I clearly see there are many people who only are willing to see racial issues from their own perspective.
This mama's heart hurts when facing those unwilling to listen and learn. But my son, Levi, needs me to keep learning and fighting to build a diverse community around our family and to keep bringing awareness to this topic in any place I can.
Here are three things I wish I would have known at the beginning of my journey.
1. Work through the hard feelings. Don’t give up.
There’s a point of time when you (as a white person) will see the hard-feeling storm approaching, and you’ll want to dive into the escape hatch and hide. Plenty of excuses will arise and you’ll grab hold of those with a death grip.
After the honeymoon phase of our adoption transition, I hit that point. I made excuses not to read the books or go on the Facebook groups I had found; I ignored the news; and I pretended racial injustice wasn’t happening. I even started having thoughts like, “I don’t need to worry about this — it isn’t my problem. I need to just love Levi.”
Do you remember the scene in “The Matrix,” where the people living their lives in the city were completely oblivious to the reality that they were actually in a computer system?
My entrance into the race conversation was like taking a little red pill to wake up. When I wanted to shut it out, I felt like the guy eating the steak, asking to be put back into the illusion of the matrix while saying, “ignorance is bliss.”
It’s a hard reality, just like in the movie, but it’s necessary for change.
2. Book knowledge has to be paired with building relationships.
I am a book-lover and could read all day about racial issues, but that would keep it intellectual for me. No amount of knowledge will make a difference without connecting with the actual people who look different from me.
Become fascinated with people, listen well and find places where you can be in the minority.
Relationships will grow naturally through conversations about what you have in common, just like your relationships with those who look like you — favorite desserts (most everyone likes to indulge sometimes!), favorite holidays, upcoming celebrations, etc.
Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people. As an introvert, I know how difficult this can be. The thing is, I know a self-proclaimed super introvert, and she is putting herself out there and getting to know people who are a different color than she is.
It’s time we realize the color of our skin should be a celebration of unique beauty in the world, and not a reason for division.
3. You’ll never fully understand being a minority, but your voice is needed.
I am a white woman who grew up in white bubble America. I have not experienced outright discrimination, racism or hate because of the way I look. I never will understand fully what that experience is like.
The closest trial will be the pain I endure as the mother of a black boy who will encounter those things.
But while I never can fully understand, I can surround myself with those who do. They can tell me what it’s like to live in a country where they are supposed to be considered equals, but are not. They can tell me the conversations I have to have with my son because of the color of his skin.
I never will tell a person of color that I understand where he or she is coming from.
Instead, I will sink into the emotions with them and shoulder the burden of hurt and healing. I will both share in the delights of friendship, and I will empathize with the sorrow that is so entangled with the joy it’s impossible to separate the two.
While we whites may not have started the systemic injustice running rampant in our culture, we do have power to help stop it.
My journey started out as an adoption story, but it has turned into a path of racial reconciliation. It’s not just for Levi anymore. It’s for all four of my children and all of yours who will inherit the beauty (or the mess) we leave them.
Starting with my children has been beautiful and gives me hope. Click to see our favorite children’s books about different skin colors.
I can only change the world one person at a time. Maybe you are one of them.
- “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Beverly Tatum
- “Stamped From the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi
- “Divided by Faith” by Michael Emerson
- Any book written by a minority author.
- Be the bridge FB group
- Find local or online talks about racial justice.
- Put yourself in situations where you’re the minority and listen.
- Ask people to tell you their story.
- Join a local “Be the Bridge” group.