In rural Maine, conversations around race seem remote, theoretical, and (frankly) like somebody else’s business. Colorblindness is nigh unto snow-blindness here: whiteness all around and a certain sightless condition that follows hard after it. Raising sons in the 90’s with a narrative of color blindness involved earnest conversations on the way to Portland or Boston, thankful for the opportunity and mindful of the privilege.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m invited into a completely different way of seeing the world in which we take note of the colorful array that God created. The challenge, then, is to exchange the privilege of not noticing race for the greater privilege of taking note.
Cara Meredith is one of the voices I have listened for as she navigates her own way toward seeing color and blazes trail with her words. A white woman married to a black man, Cara is raising two mixed-race sons, and she shares this emergence from her own white bubble in The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice. She has one eye on the future for her two children and the other cast back into history which has been shaped toward justice by the influence of her father-in-law, James Meredith, the first black man to graduate from the University of Mississippi in the early 60’s.
Navigating the Obstacles
Navigating a collision of cultures takes courage and the way is often unclear. Walking a “road paved with apologies and lessons yet to learn,” (209) Cara’s memoir calls readers to hear the “tramp, tramp, tramping of feet” toward justice, and she points out the narrow places and perilous potholes in the road:
- Fear — The unknown — the risk of stepping onto unfamiliar ground — is enough to keep all of us in our safe corners. The power of love calls us to a brave knowing and a new awareness of the stories of others. Will we overcome fear and pray along with Cara?
“Lord, give me the eyes to see and the ears to hear the pain and the hurt around me.” (68)
2. Differences — The Merediths found that their differences required an awareness of their lenses of racial understanding. Rather than chalking them up to temperament or gender, Cara made the brave choice to lean into James’s unique pain as part of her healthy partnership in their interracial marriage.
3. Swooping — Cara’s ministry to youth extended the love of God across boundaries of race, but it became clear to her that this had nothing to do with “swooping in to save a brown girl’s experiences of racism and hate.” Opening her ears, she began to listen in a new way to evidences of the real and material effects of race.
4. Ignorance — Like many readers, I smiled at Cara’s edgy description of James as her Hot Black Husband (HBH!). I thought the “little caramels” was a cute designation for her sons. Only after hearing the real names of black and brown victims of racial injustice did Cara realize that her nicknames robbed her family members of their dignity.
So she apologized.
She admitted that her good intentions had been cancelled by a lack of understanding.
Confessing our ignorance may be the first step toward awareness.
Beginning to Notice
“According to one study, out of about 3,400 books analyzed, people of color accounted for only 22 percent of children’s book characters.” (152) This statistic became reality on Cara’s own bookshelf, and noticing led her to action. She wanted her boys to see illustrations that included faces like their own, strong protagonists who reassured them that theirs was also an active role in their own stories.
For all of us, noticing may require some homework to chisel away the granite of our solid “knowing”. As we make room for paradox and uncertainty and live our way into a new and clear-eyed knowing, we will find a fresh way of seeing the world–with all its many colors.
Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Subscribe to Living Our Days to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.
I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.