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Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Disturbing Racist Encounter on the Playground

We had an encounter that took us very much by surprise the other day.
Rusty and I took the kids to Chic-Fil-A for lunch.
We sat outside so they could play in the play area.
Emma and Jax...well, if you know them, you know they never meet a stranger.
They routinely see other kids and Emma will say "Hi, my name is Emma. What's your name? You want to be my friend?"
Sometimes they do, and they will start playing together like they've known each other their whole lives.
So Emma and Jax made a quick friend with another little boy. They sat at their own table with him, and chatted it up about how old they all were (he was five, like Jax, which makes them instantly bonded!) and kids' meal toys, where they go to school, etc. This kid was there with his young-looking Grandma, and she didn't seem to mind.
Rusty and I had Justus and Treston at our table with us.
(Let me remind people who don't know us personally, Emma and Jax are white, and Justus and Treston are brown.)
So the kids all ate at super speed and hit the play area again. Justus, Emma, Jax, and their new friend disappeared up in those tubes where we couldn't really see them, while Treston grazed on the rest of everyone's food, of course.
After a while, Emma came down and just stood by our table for a few minutes, looking sad. She finally told us this:
"That little boy said that he doesn't like brown people, and he won't play with Justus."
We were both stunned. We didn't know what to say.
Then the boys came out, and reported that this little boy was pushing Justus out, pulling his hair, and saying racist remarks.
Emma tried to enlighten him with the history of social injustice for black people, back to slave times, and how unfair and wrong that was.
He was unmoved, I think.
Jax put Justus in a brother head-lock hug and told the kid he was his "bestest brother ever."
That was just cute.
But Rusty and I were frozen.
We were both looking at each other, boiling over with anger.
Justus came down with hurt feelings and declared "That boy be mean, but I not be mean." I would think, of all my kids, Justus would dish it back out, but for some reason he did not. He was sad.
Rusty and I were shaking, and speechless for a moment.
We were both surprised at HOW furious we both felt in the moment.
And then we started gathering up our kids and food to leave.
I had to say something to the Grandmother. I could have knocked someone out at that point, I was so upset, but instead, I calmly went to her and explained what her grandson had said and did and told her that was not okay!
She also gathered him up and left immediately, with no apology to Justus.
I guess it's not surprising that we would face this eventually.
Up to this point, the racism we have encountered has been much more subtle, and the worst of it has been ugly stares, or pointed, awkward questions.
But this couldn't have been more overt, and what surprised me the most was that my kids faced it, not us.
I realized how very unprepared we were! My kids did not know how to handle this, or what to say! We hadn't prepared them.
Our emotions took over. We're regular white people- we've never faced overt discrimination. It didn't feel good.
We certainly hadn't prepared Justus. I hope that will not be a day he tucks away in his mind forever.
But it was an opportunity, once we got in the car, to remind all of our kids how lost people think. Their minds are dark and confused without the Lord. We need to pray for people who are raising their kids to be mini-KKK members on the playground.
As much as I wanted Jax to drop-kick that kid, it wasn't his fault.
He had clearly been trained in this way.
It was a sad and yucky feeling. My mothering instinct was to kick some butt, and then wrap my children up and protect them from that junk.
But that's not reality.
I hope we are better prepared- all of us, next time, if there must be a next time. I realize we need to be talking a little more in our family about what others will sometimes see when they look at our family, and how to answer them about what God thinks of people and family.
Lord, help me love redneck racists! I can't do it on my own!


The Roberts' said...

wow. that makes me really mad. sometimes i dont believe people could still be racist, so i dont ever think about facing that when i think about adopting. AGH! i need to pray about not reacting in anger to dumb people, even now! (plus justus is just so cute so i dont know how racist grandma could be so ridiculous!)

bekah said...

I'm crying for you.

You're babies are so precious to me. Each of them are SO beautiful!

We live in a confused, fallen world.

love you,

Marcus and Meg Asby said...

How did Christ die for us while we were yet sinners? Moments like this continue to baffle me when I think of his grace.

I'm so sorry, little Justus. I love how Emma and Jax defended you.

Arlene said...

I too am so sad for you guys. Justus, Emma & Jax - I am SO proud of you guys for not responding in anger to this kid. Way to just defend and love your brother. Justus, you certainly didn't deserve any of that. I love you guys!

Emily said...

Tell Justus I love him and I love brown babies. Brown is beautiful:)

Mary said...

this post hurts my heart...but what i love is that even without directly addressing this type of situation with your kids, they responded in love toward the other little boy. i can not understand how someone could be intentionally cruel to Justus. he is such a beautiful little boy...i love your family!

lisasmith said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this, that we live in such a fallen place. I love how your kids responded...education about the injustices of slavery, returning love for evil, comforting the afflicted. Your kids are amazing! Thanks for sharing and I pray we can all learn from your experience.

Cindy Seay said...

I'm not even sure what I can say now - except that I cried as I read your post.
I'm so glad we love brown children and that they are my precious grandsons!
My heart is breaking that Justus had to face this.
I love you all,

Nichole said...

I'm sad that your kids had to see that..but I'm glad that they got to come home to truth..that you and Rusty were there to comfort them and to remind them that Jesus is for everyone and that God created Justus just the way he is because he has plans for Justus!

I am very sad for the other little boy too, he doesn't know any better yet..and someone is obviously telling him that this awful way of thinking is truth...I am sad that he is growing up in a home that is so different from your kids, I'm praying that some day this little boy hears about Jesus and his heart changes... I am very proud of your kids for responding in such a loving way.

Anonymous said...

WOW, I cant even imagine, my heart is SO heavy now... I just want to drive up there right now (5:00 am) and give Justus the biggest hugg... Carissa and I have talked about how we wish we could have stayed in CS because we feel it would be easier to raise a multi-racial family there with all the adoption taking place at living hope etc... but we will all have to face the evils of this world, and I think that ya'll have given us an amazing example of how to do so... So thankful for you post, i will forever be challenged by it!- Love and miss you guys! Nick V.

The Mosiers said...

Wow..every time I hear that story it makes me more sad and angry, but it also makes me so proud of your kids for the way they responded. If I would have been with them nothing even resembling love would've come out of my mouth or actions.

Tell Justus I love him and his beautiful brown skin!

Jon & Sally said...

No words. Just love for you guys... and lots of questions for our King.
Thanks for sharing Jenn.
Love you.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for what your children had to experience. This is just one thing that makes me so grateful for our children being raised in the "military." We have had the opportunity to live in many places in different parts of the world and the military is a true melting pot of various cultures, races, creeds, etc. My kids have had the opportunity to be in school and live in neighborhoods with all kinds of different people and because of this, treat everyone as just "people." No color or race enters their thinking. It's a blessing because they will be able to pass this thinking on to their kids!