Wednesday, November 26, 2014

For the Love of Ferguson

When I was a girl growing up in a very small blink-and-you'll-miss-it town in Wisconsin the only black people I ever saw in Wisconsin were on TV playing for the Green Bay Packers or when I watched The Price is Right with my grandparents.  There were a few trips to Milwaukee as a child where I saw people of color out the car window, but that was the extent of ever knowing someone a different color than my pale flesh.

My grandparents and the other older generations still carried with them the vernacular of their formative years.  I remember several times watching The Price is Right with my grandparents.  I remember when an overly excited (at least from a white person's view of excitement) woman of color would win on that show and my grandfather saying something like, "look at that colored woman carrying on."  His tone was never judgment or disgust, but he thought it was funny.  Looking back, what was probably funniest was the white people looking uncomfortable around the overly excited one.

When I married my husband and moved away from my small Wisconsin town and began to see parts of the country where there were lots of people of many shades of color, my viewpoint began to expand and I was no longer looking outside a car window onto a street but I was hearing their voices, hearing their laughter, watching them buy groceries in the same grocery store I was in.

I remember going back to Wisconsin to visit family on occasion and sitting in my grandparent's living room, watching TPIR again and on those occasions when a woman of color showing her excitement and joy was on stage and my grandpa saying again, "that colored woman sure is excited," and me saying to my grandpa, "they poop and pee just like we do, grandpa."  And my grandpa laughing and saying, "well, I guess they do."

As we moved around the country, and my world stayed 99% white, my children started going to school where their world was not the white world I grew up in.  It was a world of many different shades.  I remember when my oldest daughter was in first grade and everyday she came home from school telling me about her friend Deandra.   "Deandra this" and "Deandra that" were the dominant themes of our conversations after school.

One day when I was in her classroom volunteering she proudly introduced me to her friend Deandra, who was a child of color, and NOT the white girl I assumed she was.  That afternoon when my daughter came home from school I said to my daughter, because I was a culturally raised white girl and my daughter was leading a new trail through my culture, "You didn't tell me your friend Deandra was black."

To which my blond haired, blue eyed girl who was coloring at the time and never looked up at me said,  "she's not black, Mom, she's brown."

A generations wide paradigm shifted that day, led by a girl who saw not black and white, but pinks and brown and tan and yellows as she colored a picture of children in her classroom.

After that conversation, or should I say the lesson learned from my girl, I began to pray for a friend like Deandra.  A friend that maybe was brown, maybe was black, or maybe purple.  I didn't care, I just began praying for a friend that I enjoyed being with like my girl enjoyed being with her friend Deandra.

It took several years before God gave me that blessing and before He could do that He had to show me another side of the color spectrum that was important to know before I was given the privilege of having a friend of another color for my purely selfish reasons.

He began to bring me women of color who sat in circles with me around the Word of God.  We studied His word together, we listened to each other's prayer requests, we prayed for each other.  And as God wove our hearts together around His Word, He wove shades of color into my heart that began to see His human creation not as black or white or Hispanic or Asian but as beautiful children, all with flesh and bones and hearts and muscles and pain and heartache and griefs and joy.

We were different colors on the outside, but our hearts had the same need on the inside.  Him.

Then, when I thought I was done learning my lessons on racial divides and saw from a much broader view than TPIR or my car window, and I was waiting for my friend to arrive, He put me in nursing school, smack dab in the middle of black, white, tan, male and female.

Let me tell you how trying to survive something like nursing school will quickly kill any remaining cultural prejudices you may have as you don't care who knows what, you just need someone to help you understand blood pressure and infection processes and will someone please help me figure out how to operate this (*)^%*% glucometer!

I needed help and God sent it and it came in color!

When I was pinned as a Registered Nurse I stood next to people of color who had felt the same stressors, had the same fears of failure, but we had made it.  I didn't see my fellow students as that black girl, but I saw her as my colleague, my classmate.  I was proud that we had made it together.  I wasn't proud that I had overcome my cultural prejudices, I was proud that we had made it together and we were nurses!

I had forgotten my prayer for a friend who was a different color then me, but God hadn't.

And I didn't get just one, I got a bunch.

My very first nursing job, God brought me my first friend who was not white like me.  And along with her came a couple more.

They make fun of me for the way I talk and for the way I tell them to slow down so I can understand the way they talk.  We laugh together as we laugh at each other and tell stories of our parents and our school stories and our childhood shenanigans.  I've learned so much from them, as women, as healthcare providers, as nurses, but mostly, I've learned from them as friends.

God has richly blessed me, He answered my prayers much broader and wider than I ever thought I needed or wanted by bringing them into my life. (They'll love to read that part).

My life is better because we're different.  I'm not better because I'm white and they're not less because they're not.  I'm better because I know them and I am loved by them.  They have my back and I have theirs.

Jesus taught me not to see skin color anymore, but to see character.

These are my friends.

Yes, this one made a mess at my house!

I will never know the struggles they have had as a person of color and they will never know the struggles I have as a person of pale color.  But we do share and know the struggles of being women, of being nurses, of being mothers, being daughters, being wives...of being people.  We all poop and pee the same way, our blood is the same color inside our bodies.

Oh that you and the rest of our country would know the joy I have in the blessings God has given me to call a brown person my friend.

Peace to you, peace for Ferguson, Missouri and the communities on all sides.

But mostly just


1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful post. I went to school with people of all colors and then had the great privilege of the last twenty years of work where I again became friends with people who did not look like me and what a blessing that has been. Wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving.