Episode 9

Moms Speaking Out on Racism

When George Floyd cried out for his momma with his dying breath, this momma heard him in my soul—every momma should. It’s time we all do something about it.

Four moms, two races, one question: “As a mother, what role are you playing in reshaping the race narrative going forward?”

So, grab a cup of coffee and some courage. Join us for this candid conversation. Because our children are crying out for help.

And it’s time we answer.

#motherhoodunmaskedpodcast

Many thanks to my guests:

Kirsten Oliphant, author and host of the Create If Writing Podcast

Akeia Rossiter, associate pastor at Capital Christian Fellowship, Lanham, MD

Charlene Benjamin, of The Messy Sisterhood, for real women, living real lives, who need a real God, airing live Thursdays at 9AM EST

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From Listeners Like You…

I listened today to this episode. It was powerful, practical, encouraging, hopeful, real and so much more. It made me tearful at points but ultimately left me feeling hopeful, and I desperately needed that. Thank you for doing such brave work and for bringing others to the table and doing so setting a tone for essential conversations. ~Anthea


Recommended Reads and Resources

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD

White Awake by Daniel Hill

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart

A Language of Healing for a Polarized Nation: Creating safe environments for conversations about race, politics, sexuality, and religion by Wayne Jacobsen, Arnita Taylor, and Robert L. Prater

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Is Christianity the White Man’s Religion?: How the Bible Is Good News for People of Color by Antipas Harris

Documentary Series…The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Want more Motherhood Unmasked? Click HERE!

Episode 9 transcript

What happens when four mothers of different races and life experiences drop the mask to discuss our roles in reshaping the race narrative going forward? Listen in.

Welcome to episode 9. If you’ve been following this podcast you know this one is much longer than my others—and with good reason.

The horrific death of George Floyd just two weeks ago is a graphic reminder of what happens when we cover our ears, close our eyes tight and wish things away.

That approach doesn’t work for an infected wound and it certainly hasn’t for this country’s raging infection: systematic racism.

And as a black woman with a black husband and two teenage sons who also recognizes that a mother’s influence impacts generations, I felt COMPELLED to create a space for mothers to join me in sharing how they’re using their influence to shape their children’s views of people who don’t look like them.

I asked a few friends of mine to do just that. Some declined because of fear of not having done enough and being judged for it.

The fear of public opinion is the bane of our current existence; it’s also the reason this hate has festered in our nation for hundreds of years.

So, at the risk of being judged by other moms of every hue and perspective, 3 friends of mine—two white, one black—sent me their recorded answers to the same question.

And I’m sharing their answers in this episode.

Kirsten lives in the suburbs of Houston, as do I. She’s an author, podcaster and mother of 5. And she’s starting off the conversation.

“”I’m Kirsten and Vanessa has asked me to answer the question, “What role am I playing in reshaping the race narrative of this nation going forward?” And this week I feel like a lot of time and attention has gone into me thinking about what this means for my platform as a podcaster and and author and someone in the online space. But perhaps the most important platform—not to discount the small corner of the internet I have. But the most important platform may be my home. And the 5 little people in it and how my husband and I together are really shaping what they think, and how they feel and the things that they know. The information that they have.

And I think my husband and I have actually had a lot of talks about this together and I’m thankful that he is a partner in this. He had a really good conversation with one of his best friends who’s black. Who had not really shared some of the things he’d been through and they had a really honest conversation that I think opened his eyes. And so we’ve been having a lot of conversations at home and the three things im really thinking about—you know—first there’s like the awareness of all of this. And I think both of us have been somewhat aware but are becoming increasingly more aware, not just of you know the sort of slight racism we felt like we understood and knew was there but to the more systemic and systematic racism that has existed and that we have benefitted from and been a part of and that is something that is an important part.

And moving from awareness, there comes education. And that’s something that’s important for us and then is important for our kids as well. and the last thing is action. What are we doing? Like aware, we know things but what are we doing about it. And this goes for us and our children. What are my husband and I doing? How am i as a white woman, how am I not just being a mouth? Not just being someone who’s making a Facebook post but actually making a difference in the outside world. How am I modeling that in front of my kids and how am i talking to them? And so I think that those same sort of cycle of three needs to happen with our children as well. Bringing awareness to them because even though you know I watch they actually play with more people of color than probably I did when I was younger because of where we lived or other things. And they don’t notice as much as I think even I did. Like I feel like I can see the difference, but that’s not enough.

And so for us it’s bringing awareness to them and I had a talk with my oldest son who’s 12 about white privilege this week and you know he, it was interesting because he got it. You know it wasn’t a surprise to him but he was like, “Oh yeah we did learn about slavery but I hadn’t thought about that. That makes complete sense the privilege that we have.” So bringing awareness to them and education. You know we’ve been reading, we’ve been watching and ordering books to educate ourselves and how do we speak to our children about this. And what’s hard—and this is not a, I really don’t want this to be a woe is me—but it is hard coming from the outside and wanting to know what can we best do to support people of color in the Black community because I feel like there are a lot of mixed messages out there. Because it’s a diverse community. It’s not that everybody’s totally unified and so there are some people who are telling me that you need to speak, and some that are saying you should be silent, and some that are saying silence is complicit, and so it is really hard.

And we’re grappling with, you know, what, what do people want? How can I best serve and what it was actually service, not just speaking, you know, again, making some kind of post that you know is just making it look like I’m a partner? So we are listening and trying to figure out and we’re being really honest with her kids. And I think that, that’s something that’s really important and we’re being honest about ugly stuff too. And all of this is really ugly. It’s ugly what’s happening in our nation and it’s not just one of those things that we can point outward and say it’s ugly there but we have to say what’s in our lives, in our hearts is also ugly and having to deal with that. And having to deal with that and be honest about it. So, I hope that there is some impact from what we’re doing and really it’s about bringing this awareness to our kids. Educating them and helping them to not just know that racism exists but to actually know and be aware and take anti-racist actions just the same way my husband and I hope to do that and model that in front of them.””

I love how Kirsten mentioned her home as the most important platform she has in a culture where we’re encouraged to pay more attention to our appearance on social media than the substance of what’s shared at home.

But I’d like to speak to a point Kirsten made that I’ve heard often in my circles and on social media. She mentioned grappling with how to help in a way that’s welcomed by the Black community. Because the truth is, like any people group, we’re not uniform in thought any more than we are skin tone.

So I think sincerity is where we should the focus. Because when you move beyond talk and take action based on what’s on your heart to do, it goes a long way in demonstrating your desire for positive change.

And because the Black experience is not your experience, it’s wise to stay open to redirection should you misstep along the way. But just like a car goes no where while parked, we won’t make progress in dismantling a system of inherent bias if you stay silent in public or at your dinner table.

It takes a willingness like Kirsten’s to do what’s right without guarantees.

Next we’ll hear from Akeia: a mother of 3 in DC who is also an associate pastor of the multiracial, multicultural church my family and I were members of prior to moving to TX.

“The first aspect of the role would be my personhood, myself, that I myself have an awareness or understanding of what I’m feeling and what is going on inside of my head and inside of my heart. And I get to journey through that by reading a diverse grouping of books, by engaging with various diverse thought leaders, by engaging in different groups and sitting at different tables where conversation and dialogue is being held on many avenues of things that affect people in this world. And so that is very important for me on the personal level. I am aware and I understand that I am my children’s first example. They’re looking to me first for everything so I must exemplify what it is I desire to see in the world. I’m their first example of love. I’m their first example of patience and their first example of grace and of mercy and that means that within myself I need to be shoring up what that is. How am I practicing these virtues and these skills  because they’re watching me? And I don’t want to just be about the talk, I want my life to show that. 

Now, the second part of what I think I’m doing to change the narrative is I am engaging my children. I talk to them about some of the things that I learned. I talk to them about the things that are going on in the world and I want them to be confident and learned and understanding what is happening. And I want them to be able to create and have their own critical thought that they’re able to articulate. And so we spend a lot of time together talking about many things, not only issues of race—though that’s the one on the table right now—about politics, we talk about a lot. And we especially talk about God. 

We talk about how He sees people. We discuss what He expects from us. What He wants us to do with our hurt and our disappointment and how we engage with people who don’t think like us or don’t look like us. So I just believe the dialogue with our children is very important. 

I know what they’re understanding because they are talking to me about it. If there’s something that is coming out of them that they have questions about I want to help answer it and if I don’t know the answer I tell them we’re going to work through this together and I love it! I love that this is the next generation of humans that will help us be a better place. That will help us be a better America. And I want them to be equipped and prepared to do so. My desire is that they are healthy components of what is happening in this society, loving each other and people that are not like them and being bridge and change makers here in the United States of America, in their homes. And it starts, it starts with me. It starts with us around our tables engaging, talking, and praying.”

I wonder if you agree with Akeia as I do when she says our children look to us first as mothers.

You are your child’s first and best teacher, but you can’t teach what you don’t know so she’s intentionally reading books and exposing herself to circles outside of her box—to engage the thoughts of people who don’t look or think like her.

Which is the norm for Black and brown people, but to end the systematic oppression of people of color, white people will have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

To get in spaces with people who don’t look like you and hear their story without getting defensive.

And that’s hard work—something my next guest will speak to.

Charlie is a homeschooling mom of two in MD who I met when I homeschooled and was looking for a co-op for my kids and I. She spearheaded that co-op held at the same church I mentioned earlier.

““Hi, Vanessa. Thanks for asking this big question here. So, as a white mom with two young men in my family, how do I move forward and what do we do to change this narrative, this conversation, this reality in our families. And I’m touched by the Lord to pay attention to three things: education, rumination, and advocacy. 

Number one, I feel very compelled that it is our job to educate our children in the truth and the truth of the scripture, as well as, the truth of men. And what has actually happened, not just what makes us comfortable and teaching them to be able to connect those dots and see how what is done by previous generations affects us today and how we can move forward and changing that. So not just understanding the laws and things that were passed in previous generations to limit people which is very important because we—just because we don’t cast that vote, doesn’t mean we don’t live in the reality of that, but that recognizing that that connects to people and that you have an ability to change that. Understanding how laws are made, understanding how your vote is affected. Understanding how you affect all the people in your community when you take a stand for things and how you can affect change in those places and that we are responsible to each other to make change when we see something that’s wrong. 

And by educating people, by educating our children, we also need to teach them how to sit and ruminate in things that are uncomfortable. That we don’t like, that we have to take responsibility for if they’re going to change and not to continue to wash over it and say, “It’s okay all lives matter.” No Black lives matter because Black lives are in danger and we can say that without fear or without misconception that somebody’s not going to value our life because our lives are already being valued, so we know that we have to stand up for those who need it and we need to teach our children and to practice ourselves how to sit in those uncomfortable places. How to sit with that knowledge and say, “Okay how do I best respond?” And seek out truth and change if that’s what God is asking me to do which of course I believe He is. 

And then how to advocate. How to work together to find ways to help. Not take over and come in you know and say, “Here oh I’m here now so I can fix it.”  It’s not really that simple. How do we partner together to make a change so that the same, the same points, the same history doesn’t happen again? We have to learn in advocating for each other to listen. To sit and be a listener with our heart and, again, if we can learn how to ruminate in the things we don’t like hearing, then listening is a lot easier. We’re not listening with a way to respond, and to jump in and say, “Wup up up up up up here’s how we’re gonna…And it’s not my fault! And…” But to teach our kids and ourselves how to do those things. So, education and then rumination, and then learning how to be an advocate. That’s what’s on my heart.””

Kudos to Charlie for keeping with the time limit I gave her while still managing to share so much of her heart.

That’s no small feat.

And I appreciate her insistence on teaching her sons to listen with compassion to black people express the overt and covert injustice we’ve suffered even when that makes you squirm in your seat. Because you can’t address pain, you won’t acknowledge.

And mama, that’s where you and I come in. Like I said before, we are our children’s first and best teacher.

You teach them how to share, how to say please and thank you, and how to treat people.

And my question for you today is: how intentional are you with that last one?

Do you talk with your child about the reality of privilege vs. discrimination purely based on skin color?

And do you share your moral view on that?

Do you challenge their notions about people who look different to them? And if not, why not?

Because if not you, then who will have your child’s ear instead? And what will they teach him/her?

Now, what we shared wasn’t perfect, comprehensive, or politically correct, but I hope encouraged you to have your own conversations around the table with your children.

Any change that arises won’t last without your help. And while it’s not up to you to change the whole world you do have a say about what’s discussed in your world called home.

Many thanks to Kirsten, Akeia, and Charlie for joining me on this episode and for their courage in facing THE toughest issue mothers face in America today.

Talk about real talk about the challenges moms face and the courage to meet them!

There are plenty of resources on the internet to educate yourself and your family about America’s history of oppression from slavery till today, but if you need a reading list to get you started, you can find one in today’s show notes at vinelifefaith.com/episode9

Because what we know for sure is racism is permitted at best, and sanctioned at worst.

And as the primary teacher and nurturer in your child’s life, any silence on the issue makes you complicit.

But you’re better than that—God says so. So since you have the power to impact generations, how will you?

Because remember, when it comes to you being the mother of your children—YOU are the woman for the job! Take care.

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