Becoming Aware: I Care

From history we learn that Harriet Beecher Stowe was a small, unassuming woman. Many have thought this of me and then the idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover” played in their head. If you’ve read the first three parts of  this blog Becoming Aware, you understand where my fierceness was flamed. If you’ve heard me speak, you know that Christ is the source of my passion. Likewise, the Lord was the inspiration for Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She was the daughter of a preacher and no stranger to pain and loss. As a young mother, her son died from cholera; a tragedy that helped her understand the plight of slave mothers when their children were taken from them.

Most certainly, she had witnessed plenty of runaways while living in Cincinnati directly across the Ohio River from Kentucky, a slave state. Using her talents and the inspiration of the Word of God, she wrote a novel about her firsthand knowledge and interaction with abolitionist papers. Although it was first published as a paper, it soon became a book and sold 300,000 copies within a year.  Why so popular? She captured the points of view of all involved. From the unsaved slave to the Bible-believing, well-intentioned slave owner and from the self-righteous abolitionist to the black Christian, each one had a perspective and that perspective was his or her reality. And, I believe being led by the Holy Spirit, Harriet Beecher Stowe was able to thread all of those perspectives together to show how the system of slavery was unjust.

Ahmaud Arbery had a perspective. Ahmaud’s mother, Wanda Cooper, has a perspective. Ahmaud’s shooters, Gregory McMichael and his sonTravis have perspectives. One of the original prosecutors has a perspective. The police chief has a perspective. If you add all those perspectives together, the common denominator is that racism is unjust.

It has been 170 years since the Fugitive Slave Act and we still have people hunting down others created in the image of God because of the color of their skin.

In Gen. 1:26-27, God said:

Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” He made humankind in the Trinity’s image and likeness.

God, the creator of the universe, patterned every human after His personality and receptivity while we remain inferior to His precise nature. He doesn’t need us, but He chose us to be His representatives.  Every generation after Adam and Eve are created imago Dei.

A proper understanding of creation,  a vertical relationship toward God and a horizontal relationship toward others, empowers us to follow the greatest commandment: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

When a person loves God completely, unconditional love overflows into loving one’s neighbor.

God’s perspective becomes our perspective.

He asks each of us on behalf of each other: “What do I require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

My family 2015

 

 

 

Becoming Aware: My Fear

I vividly remember the night I became aware of the Klu Klux Klan. As a third grader, I was up late watching the news when the horrific images of current events flashed on the screen. By this time in my young life I was living in the projects and well aware of the danger this could pose to my neighbors. But, in my young mind, it was going to happen to me.

Two years earlier, I would have never thought this. I would have felt saddened by the news report for “those people” but it wouldn’t have made me lose sleep like I did that night. It wasn’t long after I moved to the projects that I became aware of my mother’s race. Sitting in a reading group with students I barely knew, a boy (I can’t even recall his name or face) started hurling racial slurs toward me about being Chinese. Little did he know I was Korean; little did I know that my mother looked different than others. His remarks stung. I denied them. As the new girl learning to fight to survive not so much the school but the new neighborhood, I was ready to combat his attacks. But more than that, as a person who was noticeably different, at least by my mother’s appearance, I felt singled out. He put me on display and the teacher did nothing to protect me.

I was so disgusted by his ignorance and the teacher’s lack of empathy that I acted like I was physically sick to go home early. Emotionally, I was sick. Walking home alone in the middle of the day, I kept asking myself how I never noticed my mother’s appearance. I was well aware that our single-parent family was different than some of  my school friends who had fathers and lived in actual houses instead of a small apartment above a printing press, but I never realized she looked different.

Though I was cognizant of my social and familial status at my previous school, no one ever called me out for not being like them. Mind you, this was still in the city and there was diversity yet I lived unaware. Even growing up in bars and sleeping in corners of parties where no child should be, I didn’t see my mother’s race. I didn’t become aware until I was treated differently because of it.

Deedra’s mother at the most contented time of her tormented life.

 

Becoming Aware: It’s Clear

You’re Korean? Most of you are as surprised as I was to learn that! Many people are because my sister was the one blessed with my mother’s physical attributes. As a matter of fact, I can vividly recall the day she came home from school ranting about her 6th grade class picture. Aside from being a tween (a word not yet invented), I couldn’t understand her disgust. It was beautiful as far a school photos go. She didn’t like it because her friends said she looked Chinese. By this time in my life, as a college freshmen majoring in Elementary/Special Education, I encouraged her to embrace her uniqueness. She didn’t look like anything but who she was designed to be.

The awareness of eternal value regardless of external differences had been a journey for me, and I was pained to know that she would have to learn that for herself.  My path to discovery began the day I sat across from the boy stretching the corners of his eyes to make fun of my ethnicity.

It’s ironic that living in the projects taught me to see race and to ignore it. From my best friend to my boyfriend, Jimmy Mac, and from my drug suppliers to those I drug around to stake my territory, they all looked different from me. But, I wasn’t aware.

There’s a saying that becomes clearer as you age: “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” That could have applied to my new situation, but for me, the adage became “you don’t know who they were until they’re gone.” You see, due to the my mother’s limited ability to care for us and the ever-increasing danger of the community, we relocated to be closer to the only relatives we had. I moved into the projects afraid and I left the security of that insecurity resilient. Once again, moving to an income-based apartment complex, I was ready to become queen of the mountain. However, I quickly realized the communal setting was not what I was used to. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.

No, wait. I think this is far more like Kansas than I’ve been used to.

As a ten-year-old, diversity became crystal clear to me when there wasn’t any.

My beautiful sister She found her path!

Becoming Aware: From Sincere

Deedra graduating from high school

Moving from the projects to a small town was drastic. I had to morph into country mouse while city mouse was still very alive within me. The only way I could make this happen was through one constant: school. It had become my sanctuary and not only because of the free breakfast and lunch! It was the place I could be a kid like everyone else. In my elementary years, it was about rest and approval. In my junior high years, the approval intensified to achievement. While I have had to die to that unhealthy need in my adult life, it formed relationships with teachers and created mentors   that I appreciate still today. Aside from that, it made me eager to learn.

Growing up without diversity bothered me. Fully aware that my mother looked different than everyone else and not being able to forget my experiences from the inner city, American history became personal for me. This was magnified by the excellent teaching of my 8th grade history teacher, Dan Wells.  From that class, I learned many Americans realized  slavery was not just a system of labor and began to debate whether or not it was morally right.  In fact, the issue of slavery would be a political undercurrent decades before the Civil War and not completely settled for many years after. But, the part of history that stuck with me that year and forevermore was the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. The Constitution mandated that slaves who fled to free states must be returned to their owners. In short, the Fugitive Slave Act kidnapped free blacks and pressured Northern citizens to serve as slave catchers. Citizens taking the law into their own hands.

Another effect  of the Fugitive Act was the strong antislavery reaction. Those who could say slavery was wrong from a distance were now faced with the decision of participating.  What would they do? Would the use their rights as citizens to petition the national government for overstepping the limits of the constitution? Would they present theological arguments? Would they use whatever voice they had to change the injustice?

The Fugitive Slave Act provoked one woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, to draw attention to slavery by writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.