If you think that Douglas and I have not struggled with issues of race because we are an interracial couple, you would be wrong! When I think, “Those white people….,” I have to remember, Oh, man, I am married to a white man and that not all whites think the same. When he says “the blacks,” my blood pressure rises a few notches. But he never says anything negative about black people; it’s just that he understands there’s a difference in the ways people are treated that he calls “hidden racism.” So, I guess I am the more racist between us, maybe because I was born in the South and suffered the pain and fear of segregation, and he was born in California, in maybe the whitest town in America.
For example, take the way we met. On an Internet dating site for Christians, I placed my profile, and originally only accepted emails from black men. But one night, after I had lain stretched out on the floor with my arms reaching toward God praying mightily for for a mate who loved God and wanted to work for His glory, who loved to travel, and who loved football (I was a season ticket holder for the Atlanta Falcons), I felt in my spirit to edit my profile to receive emails from all races. I changed it, but I was thinking, I would never date a white guy.
Then, I received an email from the site stating that someone was trying to reach me, but I had to pay $24.95 to get the email. I prayed to God, “Father, you know that I do not have money to waste, so should I open this email?” Feeling like it would be the right thing to do, I paid the money, and got the email. When I saw he was white, my first thought was, “Oh, man, I just lost $24.95!” But, I read his profile, and it was wonderful, with so many aspects I wanted, but I still was not willing to date a white man, mainly because I remembered a black male and white woman being killed while walking down the street in Chattanooga in the 1950s or 1960s, and that fear stayed with me. But, I sent him an email that said something like, “I did not want you to think you were rejected, but I think you sent this email to the wrong person, although I like your profile. I hope you find who you are looking for.”
He sent me a couple of emails back, stating that he did not care if I was smarter or made more money. I emailed back that those were not the issues. Finally, he told me that he knew I was black from my profile picture (Oh, yeah, I forgot that part!), and that my race was not an issue for him. After many weeks of instant messaging and emails, we agreed to meet for dinner, and from the first moment we sat down and talked, I knew that he was special and that I would not let his being a white male keep me from enjoying his company. We were married eight months later, despite my oldest son’s objections, and after 14 years together, 13 of them as a married couple, he still calls me his “pearl.” He says black pearls are rare and valuable, and I just giggle and blush (although it’s hard to see).
Douglas’s ability to see me as a human being beyond race reminds me that God sees us all as His creations, and that we are all made in His image. If we could all remember that fact, we could heal some of the pain of the isms of our lives. In Acts 10 is the story of how God helped Peter overcome his belief that the Gentiles were inferior to the Jews, and, therefore, not worthy of Peter’s friendship or God’s Holy Spirit. The day after Cornelius, a Roman army official, had seen an angel of God in a vision advise him to summon Simon Peter to his house, Peter also saw a vision of the sky opening up and something like a large sheet coming down wherein were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice told Peter to get up, kill, and eat. But Peter said that he had never eaten anything impure or unclean.
The voice then says to Peter, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” After the same vision was repeated three times, the sheet disappeared, and Peter wondered what the vision meant. Then, the men came from Cornelius, and the Holy Spirit advised Peter to go with them. When Peter arrived, he found Cornelius and his whole household waiting to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Peter reminded Cornelius that as a Jewish man, he was not supposed to associate with a Gentile or enter a Gentile home. but, he said to Cornelius, “But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.”
While Peter preached to Cornelius and his household the Good News message of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection for “all who were oppressed by the devil,” the Holy Spirit fell upon all the Gentiles who were listening to him. Then Peter baptized Cornelius and his household, after there were no objections from the other Jews who were astonished to see the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on the Gentiles, too.
For me, it is not the differences between people that results in racism, sexism, ageism, and other isms, it is the perception of difference and a lack of understanding that in God’s eyes, we are all the same. We have constructed race in ways that fail to recognize our similarities, instead, too many of us dwell on how we differ, making some feel superior and rendering others as inferior. The perception of difference caused people to question Peter’s actions, but Peter said to those who criticized him, “And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
Douglas and I do not dwell on our differences, although we still laugh at him asking me how much I got for allowance as a child. He was raised in a wealthy home with two college-educated parents, and I was raised by a single mother who never finished the eighth grade, so allowance was not in my vocabulary. Clearly, we were raised differently, but it is our common elements that make our lives work together: our mutual love for God, our commitment to work to help people see how much God loves them, and our belief that every person has value and worth in the eyes of God and is deserving of love and respect.
Douglas is a person who sees people as human beings, without judgment or condemnation, and he is helping me be better at it. He reminds me everyday when he tells me he loves me that nothing God makes is impure or unclean. If we could all get to that level of understanding and love, all the isms in the world would disappear and love would hold us together.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for Douglas’s ability to see me as someone he can love, and thank you for opening my heart to see past his whiteness and my fear, so that I could accept this wonderful man of God as my husband and Christian brother. You see the divisions among us in America today, and I just believe that it saddens you. I remember that the Scriptures say that if a person says that they love God, but hate their brothers and sisters that you created, then they are liars. Help us see that we are the same to you. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.