WHEN EQUALITY ISN’T – Guest post by Leslie Holdegraver

I saw this blog post from Leslie Holdegraver and wanted to share it in light of the events going on in our nation.  In a culture of outrage where we are quick to take up an opinion, let me encourage all of us to listen and have compassion toward our brown and black skinned neighbors and friends, and to consider that there are issues in this that we may not understand unless we take the time to hear.

This past week has been painful.  The world lost a man named George Floyd to the evil actions of a police officer.  The video lays out the situation in black and white; there is no gray, no “but wait…you can’t see the whole story.”  And the nation has responded.  And now the critics are responding to that.

I will not claim to have the answers here.  I am a white, middle class woman living in Midwest suburbia. I know that my understanding is limited.

What I do understand is the Mama Bear anger that I feel because my two beautiful, brown-skinned daughters can’t live in the same freedom that I do.

For the last 13 years, I have navigated to the best of my ability raising my girls to be confident in who they are, knowing they are loved and cherished just for being them.  On the flip side, there have also been daunting lessons on how they can’t really behave the same way as their white groups of friends growing up in West County schools because they will not be viewed the same way.

I have heard all of the “arguments” while raising my girls that were intended to be encouraging to me (I think):  “but your girls are different,” “but they sound or act white,” “but they’ve been raised differently.” And the list goes on.  Each one of those comments is like a knife to the gut to me.  Is my response supposed to be “thank you?”

Having white parents does not protect my black children from the injustices of the world, but it has opened my eyes widely to the prejudices, stereotypes, and racist actions of others and has made me take a good long look at myself and how I view anyone who is different from me.

Before my girls joined our family, I read and listened to so much information on raising black children in this country of ours.  In addition to wanting them to adjust to a new country, a new language, a new culture, a new family, new foods, new sounds, and new rules, another layer of consideration had to be right up there at the top: how to navigate life in a primarily white society.

This is reality.  It is not an overprotective mom trying to shelter her kids; it is a loving mom wanting her kids to be seen for who they are, but knowing they won’t always be and trying to instill the skills they might need to make it home that night.  That became increasingly clearer the older they got.

When they were little, we navigated things like “Why do people always comment about my hair or want to touch it?”  “Why do people say we look just alike and they can’t tell us apart?” (when they obviously don’t)

As they got older, we dealt more with things like these (and this is a shortened list):

  • Making sure when you’re in a store that your hands can be seen and it doesn’t look like you’re putting anything in your pockets or your purse.
  • Being uninvited to an event at a friend’s house because someone else who was going to be there was openly racist and would probably make you “uncomfortable.”
  • Talking about “innocent” middle school and high school pranks that their friend groups want to do, but the consequences it could have on my girls if they got caught.
  • The unfairness that their peers would likely get a swift reprimand and then excused for “being teenagers,” but my girls would probably experience worse.
  • The discussions about how to behave if pulled over while driving and knowing that at least a couple of times being pulled over was unwarranted.

To my white friends who are reading this, does this seem equal to you?  We can’t shout that all people are equal in the US when black children have to be given a different set of rules growing up.

I am a firm believer that all life is valuable because each life was created by our God.  It is time that we treat each other as such — all of us.  Each life is precious and worthy.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalms 139:13-16

When you find yourself responding to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter, remember this: Until society believes that the lives of my daughters and their future children are just as valuable as their white mama, we’ll keep saying #BlackLivesMatter because the #AllLivesMatter mantra is a lie until this is true.

Enough is ENOUGH.

We have to do better.

To my fellow Christians, check yourselves.  Make sure that your words and actions are truly reflecting the way Jesus taught us to treat others.  This is not about self-preservation or your knee-jerk reaction and defensiveness; this is about truly loving and caring for ALL of God’s children and honoring Him in that way.


2 Responses to “WHEN EQUALITY ISN’T – Guest post by Leslie Holdegraver”

  1. Heidi Hubbard says:

    Well said, Leslie!

  2. Carla Moore says:

    Leslie, thank you for sharing from your heart.