On August 8th, The Gospel Coalition posted an article written by a 53-year-old white mother entitled "When God Sends Your White Daughter a Black Husband." In the article, Gaye Clark shares her experience of meeting her black son-in-law, then proceeds to share "8 things to remember when your white daughter brings a black man home for dinner."
DISCLAIMER: I do not think Mrs. Clark is a racist. I'm quite sure she is a wonderful mother attempting to share her story of faith, hope, and love in a world that needs those things. (I actually have questions for The Gospel Coalition, but moving right along.) But you see, words mean things and with issues such as this, we need to be more graceful with our words.
So, I have 3 overarching problems with this article:
- Mrs. Clark centers it around the young man's blackness as an issue as opposed to sharing more introspection.
- She does not speak to the nuanced and underlying social commentary on race.
- Theologically, the article presumes God uses black men (and men of colour for that matter) as a testing mechanism for a white person's faith.
So, here are my responses to the "8 things to remember" as listed in the article. I encourage you to go read the article first for more context.
- "Remember your theology."
Agreed, but for some they may need to shift their theology. Remember: churches were once incubators and facilitators of racism (some still are). Yes, we serve a God who created us in God's likeness, but God also loves justice, especially for the marginalized.
- "Remember to rejoice in all things."
Presuming you're referring to 1 Thessalonians 5:18, is my race in the category of good things or bad things?
- "Remember no Christian marriage is promised a trial-free life."
True, however, I would prefer to not center my marriage around others' prejudice.
- "Remember to be patient with family members." Absolutely, but challenge them. Calling out "Uncle Fred's" bigotry doesn't dehumanize him. His prejudice dehumanizes me and people like me.
- "Remember your daughter's ultimate loyalty is not to you or your family, but to the Lord."
I don't want you to be colour blind. I want my wife and her family to love me and be loyal to me for who I am—a black man (although that's not all that I am. See: intersectionality).
- "Remember the groom's family."
Consider being like family to the groom yourself.
- "Remember heaven's demographics."
To our detriment as Christians, we so often ponder what heaven is like at the expense of neglecting a desire for "[God's] kingdom come, [God's] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).
- "Remember to die to your expectations."
No. Live into exceeding and altering your expectations. People of colour are not to be tolerated and suffered through.
Now, here are 3 things Mrs. Clark could've done more in the article (even 3 things you may want to consider as you have conversations):
- Focus on how systemic racism has shaped her own world. Reflect on from whence this disconnect came.
- Challenge the Church to do better in dialogue and action with regard to race issues.
- Share her platform with her son-in-law to openly discuss racial dynamics.
"But Keith, you're not African American, so what is it to you?"
True. I did not grow up in the United States of America. I grew up in The Bahamas—a country where people of African ancestry are the majority. However, I do have African American family, friends, and colleagues. While we may not share many personal experiences, we have a shared history. (See...the ships just dropped our ancestors off to different ports, so...you know. Slavery and such.) If I can listen, learn, and advocate for my black and brown American brothers and sisters, surely you (as a white American) ought to do the same. Some of you may tense up from feeling embarrassment or guilt. Relax. I'm not here to attack you or Mrs. Clark. I'm simply out here delivering a message—a message that, should you choose to receive it, can help change the world.
So, if you are a mother (or father) of a white daughter, here's 1 thing to remember if she happens to brings a guy like me (i.e. a black man) home for dinner:
I am not your daughter's burden.
I would hope for us (and our families) to be blessings to one another.
And you know what? I think God does, too.