Engaging Ferguson

In my previous post, I mentioned the email conversations I've been having since Sunday's sermon. Here is another I wanted to share. It comes from another friend. As you'll see from the reflection, she is in a multi-racial relationship with an African-American man (whose name I have changed). They recently got celebrated their engagement.

At least from my limited experience of being 1/2 of an interracial couple in a state that, within our parents' lifetimes, had miscegenation laws, a lot of what you said resonated with me. Jim is from the inner-city, from a neighborhood that with the recession became increasingly impoverished and dominated by drug trafficking and gang violence. He intentionally wears glasses most of the time when he's in middle class white America to look intellectual and "safe" and also smiles a lot, while in the "hood" (his term, not mine) he wears contacts and scowls. His parents taught him early on how to interact with police officers. Where we live now, he's cautious not to walk behind white women at night, especially not with a hoodie on. And the fact that he and I are together makes things more complicated. While being with Jim usually only earns me a few nasty looks and a couple of very confused pizza delivery guys, there are real risks associated for Jim. When Jim and I are together anytime, and especially after dark, it needs to be clear in every interaction that I'm there by choice and Jim isn't hurting me.

Jim and I are hoping to have children within the first few years of marriage. When we have children, our society will never see them as white--the "one drop" rule still persists, de facto. I hope and pray that I have sons who are like Jim in the important ways. I'm scared that one day, lighter-skinned though they may be, they'll find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. As a (future) parent, I want to prepare my children to face that possibility in a way that's realistic and yet neither quashes their sense of the imago dei within themselves nor their hope for humanity's fulfillment of God's designs for it. Lucky thing I have some time to work on that. ;)

But at no moment of our relationship, from deciding to date to deciding to get married, have our races been a major factor. The challenges of being an interracial couple have always seemed secondary to what God is doing in giving us this love for each other. It's an odd moment, I've found, going through this engagement process in the midst of everything happening in Ferguson and elsewhere. While my newsfeed on Facebook is full of people more informed than I am posting articles and expressing opinions about Ferguson and other instances of racialized violence, I'm busy posting engagement announcements and pictures. In a way, that's perhaps my own internalization of the narcissism of our age, but in another way, it makes me think about our calling to live as hopeful people in this season of Advent. Yes, Ferguson is real, and ugly, and heartbreaking, and it's part of a system of racial oppression we're called to dismantle. But I hope and pray that in some small way, Jim and my relationship--and family--can embody the reconciliation God has already accomplished in Christ, the reconciliation that I believe is even now breaking in as the Kingdom of God comes closer at hand to us. It's hard to see that hope right now in the world, but the love inside me tells me that it isn't misplaced. (Or maybe that's more narcissism.)