Letters to My Sons: On the Loss of Innocence and Racism

Racism was a somewhat foreign concept for me. That may sound odd, or even ignorant, but it is true. I grew up in a home where basing an opinion off of someone’s color of skin was unthinkable. Everyone was equal. That wasn’t just a saying growing up for me. That was a way of life. I realized racism still existed, but it genuinely existed outside of my world.

College brought on complications. I remember a young man who lived in the room next to me. He tried to bring a gun with him to school because he was a black man who was now living in the south. It was protection for him against those who were white. I remember feeling uncomfortable in my interactions with him. He was so used to being discriminated against that he assumed I must be racist since I was white.

Obama’s election added to the confusion a few years later. I saw black friends rejected by their families for not voting with their race. I heard the racist comments made. The kind of comments you only heard in the movies to signify the bad guy. Again, I just never grew up around this and I felt a piece of innocence continue to die.

I had someone ask me if the Bible spoke against interracial relationships. I was surprised by the question. Scripture was full mixed race marriages, and it was normal to see where I grew up. The innocence continued to seem to die.

I turn on the news to hear of a young man so filled with hate that he would perform a heinous act of terrorism. His goal to kill black people, and instill fear in their hearts. I have a friend/co-worker who is a black man. I respect him a great deal. As we discuss this terrible act I can see a haunting thought in his eyes. There are people out there who would shoot him just because of the color of his skin. The innocence from my upbringing shatters.

I realize something in that moment that I do not know what it is like to be a black man in America. I will never experience the struggles and feelings. I do not have to wonder why someone would shot me because of the color of my skin.

What happened this week can leave people shaken. Innocence can shatter, and we wonder how change can take place. How can the meek and humble being noticed to invoke change? Where is God in those moments?

That is when I think back to my upbringing. That is where God was. In a situation where I was raised in a family that valued his truths of love and compassion. A truth that all of humankind was made in his image. The innocence may shatter, but the convictions of those truths can produce hardness of a diamond. Cared for and crafted in a loving home, but refined in determination through the trials the world thrusts upon us. Evil seems to lurk around every corner, but God engulfs us with His presence.

I cannot change the world over night, but I can start with a small action. I can raise my children in a home that is focused on the redemptive power of the gospel. A home that preaches the equality of mankind. It can be a home where my children will have every opportunity to fall in love with God and his truths. My children will receive the care and tenderness for all of mankind, but will go through life as I pray the pressure will bring out more diamonds.

So I sit here in my son’s bed writing this as he falls asleep. Perhaps this is a letter to my children on racism in a way. Boys, I will give you the innocence I had for as long as I can. The innocence is needed because it gives us purity. Not an innocence built out of ignorance, but out of hope that we can strive for something better.

The hard truth is that men in this world will ty and shatter that innocence. Don’t lose heart. Use it to refine your convictions, and drive your actions for a purpose that is counter to their evil. Actions that make you a lover of good. If all else fails remember C. S. Lewis in his words of Christ work in this world. “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bates his teeth, winter meets its death. And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

Tonight my children sleep with a dangerous world surrounding them, but I pray their dreams are bright, there childhood filed with hope and love, and that it will go on for generations, and spread to all they meet. It won’t stop everything, but I can do all I can to spread the hope and truth my parents shared with me.

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