Last night I had dinner with my Aunt Kaye and my cousin Beth. We met to celebrate my aunt’s 70 birthday. She and my mom are very close; so close in fact that my middle name is Kaye and her daughter’s first name is Christina. As we were talking, she mentioned that when she was in college at Ouachita Baptist in the late 1960’s, she was called to office of the dean of women and asked if she would be willing to room with the first African American woman to live in the dorm at Ouachita. She agreed. She went on to say that she had actually made an appointment with the dean sometime before that to talk about why their school was segregated. This was so interesting to me because my grandfather (a precious godly man) was raised in a time of intense racial inequality and because of that was prejudice himself. I asked her how and why she became so passionate about this issue. Aunt Kaye answered with a simple statement. A statement that was simple, yet so profound, “Because it just wasn’t right.”
Racial equality has come a long way since my Aunt Kaye’s days at Ouachita, but we have still got a long way to go. And now, for me, this fight is personal. As the mother of a black daughter and son, I’m in the ring now, and the gloves are on. Several weeks ago, two of my friends (who also have African American daughters) and I took our girls to a play. As we opened the door of the theater and began to walk through the sea of people, (light-skinned, perfectly dressed people), my face began to heat up and my heart began to pound. We are used to stares and questioning glances, but something about this was different; these looks we harsh, condemning and judgmental. We moved the girls through the lobby and into our seats. Thankfully, they were oblivious to what had just happened, but as I settled in and tried to process what I had just seen, an overwhelming sadness came over me. It’s not the first time and regrettably it won’t be the last that I’ve seen this look on the faces and in the eyes of strangers as they try to figure out our story. And I have to say with my Aunt Kaye, “it’s just not right.”
You see, my daughter who has skin that is darker than mine, is not just any ten year old, she is a priceless gift. I want her to be a godly woman of character, faith, compassion, transparency, joy, forgiveness, passion, purpose and unconditional love. I want her to be judged by what she brings to this world; the changes she is able to make and the light that shines through her into the darkness. And I want my son to be a man of God. I want him to be a man who fights for justice and truth, who knows who he is and Who’s he is. I want him to be a man of honor, integrity, morality, humility and joy; a man who will use the trauma of his own past to change the future. I never, ever want either of them to be defined simply by the color of their skin. I want my children, all six of them, to have the opportunity and the passion to become all that God has created them to be; to live life abundantly, purposefully and with great joy.
So today, as I contemplate what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived and died for, I realize that I am not only grateful to him for his pursuit of equality, I am indebted to him and those who followed for setting the stage so that Jeff and I would even be allowed to bring our son and daughter home.