I want to share an experience with you that changed me.
A while back, some adventurous friends of ours asked my husband and I if we wanted to go out for dinner with them. We said yes. The night of the dinner, our friend told us we were going to eat at a great middle eastern place that had super high ratings on Yelp. We were looking forward to this time out with friends, and some great new food. We drove down near Philly and found the spot, a tiny little place tucked into the bottom of a tower of condos. I should mention, this was around the time the tensions over allowing Syrian refugees into the US was really heating up.
The four of us walked in to the restaurant and I quickly realized we were the only white people present. The front dining room was full of men and women dressed in traditional Muslim garb, and some dressed in more western style clothes. It felt like all eyes were on us as we walked through the entire dining room to a back room, where we were seated. I believe there were a few empty tables in the front, but we were not seated there.
Our server was a very kind young woman who turned out to be the daughter of the chef, who turned out to be the owner of the restaurant, who turned out to be a man who immigrated from Syria many years ago. The food was amazing, and hearing the stories from the owner and his daughter were my favorite part. I am so grateful they shared a little of themselves with us that night.
I hear the statement so often, “I’m raising my kids to be colorblind.” Or, “When I look at him/her, I don’t see color. I just see a person.” And with respect, I would like to submit that being colorblind is a.) not something anyone is really capable of and b.) it is not what God intended.
The life experience of a black woman in America is different than that of a white woman. And if I deny her blackness, I deny who God has made her to be. The life experience of a Syrian woman is different than mine. I cannot deny that, it is who she is. I can see the inherent worth in each and every human, created by God in the image of God. Each image bearer has a unique life experience, and many times the color of someone’s skin dictates this.
What we do when we say we are colorblind is avoid the issue. We avoid the differences and we shoot for sameness, but we were not created for sameness. And if, in our differences, there are things that are revealed to me about my own heart or my own heritage that are hard and uncomfortable, I need to sit with that. I need to listen to the person who is not the same as me and hear about their life and shove down the hackles that rise in defensiveness. Because hackles that stay raised become shackles that will lock me up if I am not self-aware and seeking God.
I am committed to listening, to God and to the stories of my brothers and sisters who bear His image.