A Den of Thieves

My Blackness had never felt as heavy as it did the day I realized my kids would be Black. To clarify, it’s not that I didn’t know, I just didn’t know. My race has always been a topic of debate. The term afro-latinidad was something that didn’t exist growing up. It took me years of learning, reflection, prayer, and therapy to fully embrace and love the color of my skin. I was bullied into hating it for so long that unlearning those negative ideas was a challenging feat. It was an awakening I wish I could have done two decades ago but completely life altering, nonetheless.

When I first realized I wanted to marry my boyfriend I would daydream about bringing my rustic bohemian outdoor wedding dreams to life. I thought about my dress, my ring, the venue, the food, and entertainment. I didn’t think much about the after. We had passing conversations about how many children we wanted, carrying on the family name out of respect for his family, and making sure we gave homage to my Latino roots. Our plans and timeline have changed quite a bit due to the pandemic and that left a lot of time for reflection on my part.

As the world around me collapsed and the Black community roared furiously at the countless injustices happening daily, I was forced to open up a space to really bring my emotions to light. What could I teach my child about being Black? Coming from a woman that was too ashamed to even say the words out loud, how dare I? Although my partner is a very understanding man, this heaviness was not equally borne. I felt so lonely.

I brought my concerns to my family, hoping that they would somehow console me. They’re usually my go-to for important discussions and concerns that I can’t handle myself and yet, they didn’t understand.

“It’s not our place as a church, Katherine.”

“Church and state can’t mix. This is a political problem.”

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church needs to be on the side of the law, and what they’re doing isn’t lawful.”

I felt nauseated. I felt nauseated at the fact that they didn’t get it.

“What’s it going to take?” I screamed.

“What’s it going to take for you to care, to get angry, to yell and scream for justice? How many more Black people have to die until it is the church’s place? Or your place for that matter? What if it was me?”

I was so confused. They knew oppression, they lived it and experienced it. Just a few days prior, at my dad’s job, a man called him a racial slur for not handing him a power cord quickly enough. It didn’t make sense.

I made it my mission to open their eyes. I made them watch videos and read articles about the statistics on police brutality and how racism has been bred in the bones of this country, as well as their own. I reminded them of our roots and our bloodline. The same bloodline that was washed away by the colonizers that tried to make our land their own.

I was surrounded by people that loved me, yet I felt so alone in my emotions. The institution that watched me grow up, that had a hand in raising me, didn’t understand me and their silence was deafening. Who is this Jesus we preach about? Who is this Jesus I was raised to confide in and honor? Because the Jesus I know would be flipping tables.

I didn't prepare for this part.

I didn’t prepare for what it would be like to have difficult conversations with my future children about why their skin might make them a target. I prepared to tell them the stories I grew up hearing from my own parents about Jesus the healer, Jesus the martyr and advocate. The truth is that this Jesus, my Jesus, has always been and will always be everything I have always imagined.

My Jesus weeps with the loved ones of the innocent Black lives lost in the streets, in grocery stores, in their homes. My Jesus hears my plea for a better world for all children. It is always his place, it is always his concern, it is never political, and it doesn’t take a lost life for him to step in.

 

Katherine Gonzalez is a 2nd year graduate student at La Sierra University. She is pursuing her M.A. in English. During her free time she enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10966
5 Likes

Slavery was abolished 150 years ago but discrimination in the hearts of many in our country is just as deep rooted as it was before the civil war, I have relatives who’s hearts are scarred with this disease. If I say nothing, I become complicit.

I am an entitled white person. I have never had to take a competence test in order to vote, or forced to sit in the back of a bus, auditorium, theatre or anyplace else. I have never had to wait in a line for 10 to 12 hours just to vote while white people across town were in and out in a matter of 10 minutes. I have not had my children taken away from me at the boarder of any country. I am not as vulnerable to the Coved virus because I have not had to go to work just to make enough to keep myself and my family alive during this pandemic. I am also not as susceptible to dying from it because I am undernourished or devoid of adequate healthcare. I don’t think I have ever been suspiciously watched as I entered into a store, or made to defend my credentials going from one country to another or questioned as to my competence in any employment position. I have never been questioned as to why I was “caught” in a very white affluent neighborhood. I never had to worry that some crazed woman would suspect that I stole her cell phone or that some cop would shoot me while I held my cell phone. No one would dare put their knee on my throat for 9 minutes. I have never had to flee a murderous genocide country risking my life in leaky overloaded boat leaving certain annihilation, only to be turned away at the boarder, saying it’s not our responsibility. Well guess what…it is. I could stretch this out for a few more pages, but if you don’t get the point, you never will. Just scribble racist across your forehead.

This is 2021 and yet there continues immoral practices that have tried to suppress people of color, or religion from being allowed to vote or even enter this country. Newt Gingrich recently railed against the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia for making it too easy for people to vote. And you’re right, he didn’t say “keep minorities from voting”, but did he really have to? Only a fool would argue that it wasn’t a raciest proposition. Voter suppression is not a political problem, it is a moral problem. It is not political, it is just plain sin, period.

If any of this fits, you’re going to be questioned about in the judgment. If God asks you, what are you going to say? I don’t think the Ebenezer Scrooge response “aren’t there workhouses, isn’t there enough prisons” is going to get you through the pearly gates.

8 Likes

Thanks, Katherine Gonzalez:

This is a great essay. Thanks for it.

My parents are Black people of Caribbean descent, raised in a Spanish-speaking, Central American country. They move to the U.S. before my siblings and I were born. We kids received a racial education that was, perhaps different than yours.

That is, my parents never backed away from racial discussions, or “spiritualized them away,” as it seems your family may have done. They just didn’t bring the subject up. So, we children had to learn about race as “Americans”; dealing with this culture, in the manner that it stylized racism.

I don’t think that you’re looking for advice with this essay. However, what I will add, because you haven’t mentioned it, is that, often, Black people back away from a discussion with their children about race because they want to maintain the lightness and innocence they perceive in their children for as long as possible.

Comments, like the ones you’ve shared…

… make me think that your family may be people who know the sting of race very well, but who use their faith as a dense foam to protect them from the impact of it.

That is, none of these statements, above, address race. They merely, nonsensically, evade it. For example, all problems are political; e.g., hunger. But no one would ever put hunger as being beyond address in church.

I think, to the degree that you are Christian and reasonable, more of your family may, in unexpected moments, share the racial humiliation they’ve experienced, and the way it has honestly made them feel.

As for your child, I’ll say this: They will remember every word that you told them, and they will live what they see you live. So, as far as teaching Blackness is concerned, tell them the truth, and live what you know is true.

HA

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