In her own words: When I first began experiencing racism
As we work to better understand the role we play in our congregation and our community in identifying, challenging, and changing behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism, St. Paul member Cherie Blackwell explores how she has encountered racism, as a white woman married to a biracial man.
Adrian and I met at the Galesburg Public Library in 1998. Our meeting was unexpected, unplanned, and my unanswered prayer. This is when I began experiencing racism in my life. I was exposed to race growing up. I was respectful and kind, but completely unaware and uneducated on the realities of the black experience.
By no means do I experience even a fraction of the racism many of our brothers and sisters in Christ experience. I have white privilege. However, I am treated differently alone than when with my husband. Our family is most impacted by racism in subtle ways that are based on stereotypes.
Here are a few questions we’ve been asked, assumptions that have been made, and examples we’ve encountered as a biracial family:
■ The police have stopped us when we were driving by and looking at real estate properties. They were responding to a complaint that we were stealing identities from the trash.
■ No, we do not play loud rap music and have rowdy parties in our backyard.
■ We should not have to prove we paid for event tickets by humiliation or being physically grabbed before entering the event.
■ My husband has not always experienced equal access to job opportunities.
■ The police visited our house to deliver government paperwork in advance of my husband’s city council meetings. He’s one of the elected council members for the city of Eldridge. The police were not at our house to investigate domestic violence.
■ We are the frequent victims of late-night trespassing at our home, including ding-dong ditching by approximately 20 kids. These acts often include racial undertones.
Embracing diversity requires constant learning, reflecting, and trying not to be defensive when becoming aware of how white privilege may contribute to racism. It’s hard to hear that we may have unknowingly and unintentionally contributed to systemic racism. Hearing the voices of individual stories will greatly expand our understanding and compassion.
What can you do to reduce racism in our community?
■ Learn more about white privilege and systemic racism.
■ Read books, watch movies, and attend sponsored discussions.
■ Be mindful about race. Watch your words and actions.
■ Avoid denial, defensiveness, and justification when listening to other perspectives.
■ Take responsibility to teach your children how to respect differences.
■ Love your neighbor as yourself.
Our family is open to conversations, questions, and discussions to facilitate a deeper understanding and hope for the future. Count us available to you if we can be helpful in any way toward this understanding and hope. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7.
Cherie Blackwell is a life-long member at St. Paul Lutheran. She is married to Adrian and they have two daughters, Adrianna, 15 and Amira, 12. Their family enjoys church activities, walking, playing games, reading, spending time with family, and the outdoors.