I’ve been teaching my daughters, ages nearly 3 and 4 1/2, about skin colors lately. My girls are curious and smart, and I want them to ask questions. We’ve been reading, “God’s Very Good Idea,” by Trillia Newbell. It explains that God’s very good idea is to have lots of different people (different skin colors, different interests, different abilities…everything!) enjoying loving Him and loving each other. This morning, we decided that our skin is not white, but peach. We are big fans of Fancy Nancy in this house, mostly because my oldest daughter Noelle has wildly curly ginger hair just like Nancy. What I also love, is that Nancy’s best friend Bree, is a girl whose brown skin is the color of “hot cocoa,” according to Noelle. Half of my high school in Wilmington, NC was white, half was black, and I was surprised to notice that nobody really sat with anyone who didn’t look like them. I was Sophomore on my first day there, the day after Christmas/New Year break ended. My family and I had moved just before Christmas from northern VA. The two classroom buildings were connected by a breezeway, and the doors were not automatic. I can remember, with a jolt in my stomach, that a tall, dark-skinned girl slammed the door shut just before I could walk inside. I’d never experienced any kind of hostility against me before, and I can remember my eyes brimming while I yanked the door open and walked to my next class, wondering why she hated me without even knowing me.
My first job was at the fast-food restaurant directly across the street from my new school. On my first day , I was greeted by an older white manager named Pat, who introduced me to Tammy, an intimidatingly large girl with skin the color of milk chocolate, a few years older than me. Tammy toured me around and introduced me to the rest of the employees. The manager, Pat, and I were the only white staff that afternoon. It was an odd feeling for me to be in the minority, for me to be the one who looked different from everyone else. I wondered if this was how the small handful of non-white students I’d gone with to school and church in VA had felt; uneasy at first. But I worked there for nearly two years, and when I left, I dearly missed everyone. One of the cooks there was named Leon. He was a lanky older man with dark coffee-colored skin, a limp, and one of his front teeth was missing. He asked me one day about my Spanish sounding last name. “My dad is half French, half Hispanic,” I explained. He thought about that for a minute, then with his missing-tooth smile, he said, “You one of us, then.” A few months after I started, a new girl named “T” was hired. She and I went to the same school and were in the same grade, although we didn’t have any of the same classes. We quickly became friends, and would hug every day we got to work together. We never sat with each other at lunch at school, though. I’d stop by her table to say hi, but there was almost this unspoken rule that we couldn’t sit together. I would have invited her to my table, except I didn’t belong to one. One day at work, T out of the blue said to me, “You’re my best friend.” I was elated. I loved her too. A few months later, she told me that she was pregnant. “Are you going to finish high school?” I asked her anxiously, afraid that she was going to drop out. “Girl, this is the black way. Of course I’m gonna graduate,” she told me confidently. I’ve since wondered why that had to be the “black way.” When she found out her baby was a girl, she asked me to help her pick out a name. She invited me to her baby shower a few months later. A fellow coworker, Kelly, and I were the only two white faces inside T’s mother’s house that day. T did indeed graduate, but after graduation, we both changed jobs, and sadly, she and I never kept in touch after that. I saw Tammy about ten years ago working at the grocery store in the same shopping center when I went to visit my parents. We exchanged phone numbers, but we’ve never put them to use.
Why do we naturally gravitate towards people who look like us? Why do we stick to what is familiar and stay away from what is unknown or different? Perhaps it is fear of the unknown, or maybe we have experienced negative interactions with other races. Maybe we simply like comfort and familiarity, and don’t want to step outside that bubble. We buy albums only if we know at least one of the songs. We go to places that are based on others’ recommendations. We even buy books whose characters are like us or our children. But what if we actively searched for friends/music/books/businesses that are not like ourselves? I am so thankful for churches actively trying to be more diverse, not for the sake of keeping up with the current culture or to look like they’re trying to embrace diversity in motto only. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, is adamant that all believers are ONE.
There is no distinction between Jew or Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.Romans 10:12-13
For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free…since you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galations 3:27-28
For He is our peace, who made both groups (Jews & Gentiles) one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace…So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household.Ephesians 2:14-15, 19
In Acts 8, one of the first recorded converts to Christianity is an Ethiopian man in charge of the treasury for Queen of Ethiopia. Philip led that man to Jesus, and baptized him. When both men came up out of the water, Philip disappeared, and the Ethiopian man “went on his way, rejoicing!” How’s that for an overt message that everyone is welcomed into God’s family? Before Jesus, the Jews and Gentiles did not intermix. The Gentiles were anyone not Jewish, and were considered “unclean.” But because of Jesus, everyone has forgiveness. No human, who believes Jesus died for their sins and acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and Savior, is considered unclean. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven after rising from the dead, the last thing he told his disciples in Jerusalem was this: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) It was because of the disciples’ obedience that the name of Jesus has been and is declared around the world. Every human from every race is welcomed into God’s family. We as Americans are so blessed that we have the freedom to worship, churches are everywhere, and that Bibles are so easily obtainable. We may take that freedom for granted, even assume the title of “Christian” simply because we were born here. Christianity did not originate here, but in Israel, in the Middle East. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and lived in Jerusalem. Jesus was most certainly not a white man, nor were his disciples.
Whether Jew or Gentile, black or white or brown, no matter your ancestry or heritage, none of that differentiation matters because of Jesus. Identity politics seeks to ram a wedge between everyone, simply so that some can claim higher moral ground or so that others can claim most adversity; and that does nothing but drive us farther apart, cause justified anger and resentment, and cause those of mixed races feel like they have to choose a side, and/or that they don’t belong. We are all God’s children. Jesus provides us all the credentials we need to become family. He is our identity. God designed everything in creation to be awe-inspiring. He created various shades of skin to show off his creativity, not for some man-made hierarchy. We must act like followers of Jesus in showing love and respect, kindness and compassion to everyone. I’m so thankful for my non-white friendships, but I pray for opportunities to meet more women who don’t look like me. I want my girls to do the same. We could all learn so much from each other. This pandemic has really hindered us from being social and even from going to church in-person, but I pray that those I surround myself start to look how everyone in Heaven is going to look; colorful.