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SheaMoisture and My White Privilege

As a white mom to a little Black girl, learning to care for her hair over the past couple years has been a big deal.

The Black natural hair world is really cool! There are countless bloggers and vloggers who teach hairstyles and share tips on the best products. Not only do they look at the science behind the ingredients, but also the ethical side, with a big emphasis on supporting Black owned businesses.

We had recently switched to SheaMoisture brand at the advice of friends and Phoebe’s hair really liked it. I was thrilled, because the product had a lot going for it. The company is partially Black owned, uses natural ingredients, and is easy to find in any store. It seemed like our hair routine was set for awhile.

And then SheaMoisture released their latest commercial:

My Black friends were offended. The people in Black haircare groups were offended. Black Twitter was offended.

And they had good reason to be. The ad for a company that has been supported and promoted by Black women for years, put a heavy focus on white women (who already have a million products marketed to them). And it made white women’s dislike of their own hair comparable to how Black women’s hair is systemically shamed in our culture. (I mean, Black people can legally be denied a job for wearing a standard Black hairstyle… but tell me again how you don’t like your hair color.)

I listened to Black women express pain over being brushed aside. I heard them vow to never again buy from a company that was so quick to sell out their loyal customer base for a dollar. And I agreed with them.

But I had finally found something that worked on my daughters hair…

I 100% knew the commercial threw Black women under the bus, but I sat there rationalizing why I could still buy their product:

“I don’t know what to use instead. I can’t spend a fortune trying other products. Phoebe’s hair health is more important. When she’s older, she can decide what products to buy. SheaMoisture is so accessible.”

Guys, I was literally saying, “I can put my own convenience over the concerns of Black women who are being marginalized, because this doesn’t directly affect me.”

I know better. But this is what a lifetime of white privilege teaches us. And it takes a lot of deliberate soul searching to unravel the layers.

So this isn’t really about a haircare product. It’s about my reluctance to be inconvenienced in order to stand with those that our society typically ignores. If I can’t sacrifice my comfort in something as simple as not buying a product that bypassed Black women (especially when I’m raising a Black woman in my own home), how do I ever expect to speak up when I see other forms of oppression?

We’re all familiar with Bible verses like Isaiah 1:17.

Learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

But what if it is uncomfortable? What if seeking justice means we need to have difficult conversations? What if correcting oppression costs us more money? Do we still do what’s right or do we rationalize why it doesn’t really matter?

So I won’t be buying SheaMoisture any more. Even if it seems like “just hair stuff,” it’s actually a big deal, because I need to work on my heart and shake off some attitudes I hadn’t seen before. And thanks to this great list (click here), I’ve got some options to try!

 

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How to Respond to Racial Unrest

I grew up thinking racism was dead, outside of a couple of backwards thinkers in the deep south somewhere. I mean, the Civil War ended slavery and the Civil Rights Movement ended racism, right?

If only.

The more I read history, I see how little we’ve really changed. Our laws may be different, but our hearts are still hard towards each other.

As a country, we have been in a heightened season of racial unrest for a while. There is so much sorrow, which ever way you examine the situation.

But our hearts. Our hearts are what I can’t stop talking about.

There are people who would walk old ladies across the street, who would shovel their neighbors sidewalk, who would buy a single mom some groceries, who would fundraise for disabled veterans. But when they see a struggle that is outside their own homogenous community, their words become harsh and ugly.

Guys. Calling someone a “thug” is name calling, not too far from the “N-word.” Calling people “animals” is pretty close to calling them “monkeys.” When we see a grieving family and our only comment about their loved one is “they got what they deserved,” there is a hardness in our heart. When we say, “Those people…” we’re reinforcing the very attitudes that kept segregation alive for so long.

In my own little social sphere, I find those expressions almost nonexistent in a few distinct groups:

  • People of Color (meaning anyone non-white).
  • Teachers and social workers who serve multi-ethnic communities.
  • People in interracial relationships.
  • Adoptive families, especially transracial ones.

Why? Because they either experience life as a non-white person or they love someone who experiences life as a non-white person.

When we love someone, we see things through their eyes. We have compassion for their struggle, even if we don’t understand it.

If one of my girl friends comes to me with a story about a guy that just dumped her, I don’t say, “You brought this on yourself,” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it when he called you fat.” Nope. I’m all, “Let’s get a taser and go after him!” (more or less.)

When you love someone, you have their back. Love changes everything.

There are so many Black people that are hurting right now. They don’t live in Ferguson or New York or Baltimore. They aren’t on the streets protesting. They would never dream of setting things on fire. But they are afraid to live in America. Their hearts are broken for their community.

They are in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces. And when we spit out, “Just a bunch of thugs, got what they deserve,” their hearts break again. Because when we say, “those people,” it includes them too.

I don’t care how many Black people we claim to know. If we don’t love them enough to take the time to understand their perspective, we have no right to tell them how they should feel about events across our nation. If we don’t love them enough to grieve with them, we’re still missing it.

Let’s lay down our defensiveness about an opinion shaped by our own experiences. Let’s lay down our need to be right. Instead, let us choose love.

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Martin Luther King Day, Adoption, and Brotherhood

A few days ago, I posted this:

I want to expand that thought a little.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the other freedom fighters of the 50’s and 60’s changed America. But it’s even closer to home for me.

Martin Luther King said:

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”

“I have a dream that… one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Dr. King’s life and words resonate with our family, because his ideology simply reiterates what Scripture has been telling us for thousands of years.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” Revelation 7:9

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

The equality of all races is not a politically correct trend. It is a basic human issue. It is a spiritual value.

For our family, transracial adoption is a way we are able to tangibly live Dr. King’s dream of walking the earth as brothers.

Can I be blunt? We have no desire to whitewash our Black kids. We don’t want to save them from Blackness. They do not need to be rescued by a white family. That type of ignorance makes me sick to my stomach.

Instead, we are honored to have our children’s heritage mingled with our own. Our ideals are reshaped as we welcome their culture into our family landscape. They don’t conform to us. We all conform to each other. Isn’t that what true brotherhood is about?

On this Martin Luther King Day, I am grateful for the legacy and sacrifice of Dr. King. I’m grateful for the words he put around an uncompromisable value. I’m grateful that he helped lead the fight for brotherhood in America. And my heart is full with the brotherhood that we can live in our own home.

I don’t believe the fight is over, but I’m glad someone was brave enough to help it begin.

Thank you, Dr. King.

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New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, because self-discipline isn’t my strong point. So why set myself up for failure, you know?

Really, I don’t remember resolving to do ANYTHING in 2014.

But still…

  • We completely changed our diet to a mix of Paleo/primal/low carb. Which means we cut out most grains and processed sugars, and as much processed food as possible (except last month, because CHRISTMAS FOOD). We’ve never felt better, so it’s worth it!
  • I dyed my hair for the first time. Not voluntarily. The grays forced me. It basically looks exactly the same, but requires more maintenance now. Yay.
  • I started putting cream in my coffee. And then someone told me to use heavy whipping cream. Guys. I have no words.
  • We got another baby. Read the whirlwind story here.
  • I started talking about racism, for better or for worse. But the small measure of talking I’ve done is far outweighed by the amount of learning I’ve undergone and continue to press into. It’s a fascinating, sorrowful issue that has gripped my very core.

newbaby2And not one of those things is going away. We will continue to eat paleo/primal. I have to keep dying my hair, because the gray is only going to grow stronger. Cream is my favorite ever. Babies are for life. And racism is still alive and well.

I couldn’t have seen any of this coming (except the hair dye) when 2014 started. I couldn’t have resolved any of this (except to maybe eat healthier). The truly important parts of my year, the parts that change me the most, were completely out of my control.

So for 2015, there are no resolutions. But there is more faith.

Because 2014 grew my confidence:

In a God who knows I’m made of dust.

In a Savior who has experienced what it’s like to be human.

In a Jesus who guides, even when I can’t see what He’s up to.

My own self-discipline will only take me so far (not very). But trusting Jesus seems to lead my feet to places beyond my own simple expectations. If I try to guess, I’ll probably get it wrong. So I’m just going to rest in faith that He has a path already mapped out.

2015 should be interesting, guys. Just like always.

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Hey White People, Let’s Talk About Ferguson

When we adopted our son, who is African American, I began to quietly read blogs, books and news related to his culture. A lot of new ideas opened up to me, many of which I’m only beginning to grasp. It’s humbling to learn how little I may understand the perspective and experiences of my fellow Americans.

In light of this, I’ve been very troubled by some of the responses of white people to the events transpiring in Ferguson, MO.

Our Black fellow-Americans are finding a voice to let the nation know that, to an extent, this is their every day. Every day they are afraid of being guilty until proven innocent. Every day they are afraid of suspicion based on their skin color or hairstyle. Every day they are afraid that they are viewed as less than human. Every day they are afraid someone will shoot first and ask questions later.

They are telling our nation this and saying, “Now do you see?”

Unfortunately, I don’t think we are listening very well.

Instead, we’re talking. We’re making excuses and dismissing their feelings as either paranoia or that they are “doing” something to bring this on themselves. We’re trying to point out the problems in the Black community (which is not our job). We’re trying to explain away what law enforcement’s intentions might have been (again, not our job).

I think we are tempted to diminish their concerns because we’ve never personally felt what Black Americans are describing to us. So we invalidate their experiences in our minds.

I flew on an airplane a month or so after September 11th. It was a scary. There were military personnel with machine guns stationed in the airports and you could be searched at many different points, even as you boarded the plane. Though I knew I’d done nothing wrong, I was nervous every time I came to a security checkpoint, because if I forgot I had a nail clippers in my purse, I might find myself getting strip-searched in a holding cell (at least that’s how my 18-year-old mind played it out).

Friends, this is what Black people are telling us they feel EVERY DAY. We need to listen.

As I see the pictures of the extreme military-style police presence in Ferguson, I keep thinking back to the civil rights movement, and how the police in Birmingham turned fire hoses and dogs on the peaceful protestors. When the images from that day hit the newspapers, it shocked many in our nation into action.

But I wonder how many others read the newspapers and thought, “Well, that’s their problem. They shouldn’t have been marching anyway. If they had just complied with law enforcement, they wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”

And yet in the broad scope of history, we look back and think, “Why did people just stand by and let this happen? What was wrong with us?”

This is why we must listen more and speak less. We don’t understand the struggle, because we haven’t lived it. But we can humbly learn from those that are finding their voice, as the nations’ eye is on Missouri. Maybe we won’t know how to help solve the problem today or tomorrow. But if we listen and learn, our hope is that our country’s dark history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

Photo Credit: “Birmingham campaign dogs” by Bill Hudson, of the Associated Press. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Birmingham campaign via Wikipedia.
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