Take a Stand

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Love people and their differences the way you would want to be loved.

"But you're not black!" said my neighbor's child to me while I was discussing politics with his mother. I did not cringe when he said this; I have had many years to practice my "strong face." My mother, whom I have so much respect for, is white. My dad, the thought-provoker, is black.

Mixed. Biracial. I choose the “other” box when encouraged to provide race information. Growing up in a class surrounded by white children, I stood out.

In my younger days, friends would compare their skin tone to mine after their Florida vacation, but my skin was still darker. I remember in middle school the nagging suggestions to “straighten your hair, straighten your hair” and comments like, “I wonder what your hair would be like if it were straight.” But it is not straight. It is as curly as curly gets. I remember a bus ride during fifth grade when the driver turned on a rap station, briefly, and my friends asked me if I knew the song, because that was my music.

Being black in a sea full of white can be exhausting. 

I have a sweet baby boy, who is innocent and full of life. This little boy has stolen my entire heart. He makes me proud. He makes me humble. He makes me patient. I have so much love for my son, who is brown and beautiful too.

He is so much like your children or the children you know. Warm. Compassionate. He does not like to miss out on popcorn and a movie. He loves book after book at bedtime. He loves with no limits. He is kind and full of hope. He is so much the same! And yet, he is different. 

I pray that my son, with his brown skin, stays safe. 

My son, who loves his hooded sweatshirts, will not have the same luxuries as his fellow classmates. This little boy will face a different reality when getting pulled over by the police. When he becomes a teenager, I hope that he does not do foolish teenage things, as his punishment will be much harsher. If he decides to grow his hair out and wear an Afro, please do not call him a thug, or think it. When he’s walking at night in a nice neighborhood, I pray he does not scare you. 

I need a safe space for this young man to grow up. I need him to come to church on Sunday and be able to weep with his fellow church family for the black lives lost at the hand of police officers. I need him to be able to come to God's house and talk about his frustrations about being a black man. I need him to be loved. I need you to embrace him. I need you to look at him and not be afraid. I need that for him. I don't want him to grow up in a church where we cannot discuss racism and injustice. 

So don't be silent. Don't sit in your pew and squirm when someone prays for justice for black people. Be empowered. Stand firm. Love people and their differences the way you would want to be loved. 

I have such a strong hope that by the time my son is old enough to endure the burden of being black that we will have changed the world. 

How strong would we be if we all came together?  

Take a stand. A stand to not be silent. A stand to speak out. 

If you think you do not know anyone affected by racism, then think of my son. Think of how important he is to me. How important he is to God.

About the Author

Marissa Spearman is a member of Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich. She works as a referral coordinator in a pediatric office. She enjoys spending time outside with her son and dog.

See comments (2)


Your article pulled out all the usual missives but it fails to convince. As you can see from my picture I obviously am a Black man. I'm a lot older than you and so I found your account of what it is like to be Black today to be interesting when I think back of what it was like to be Black way back in the day.

You talk about being a lone Black person lost in a sea of Whites. Well when I was growing up in the late 60's-70's it just so happens that although I lived in an inner city Chicago all Black neighborhood that both I and my brother went to school with Whites from the time that we were little. Both of us attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music in Downtown Chicago and we were invariably the only Blacks in any of our 3 Saturday morning music classes of; piano, rythm and harmony. We both attended Reformed grammar and high schools where the majority of students were White. And we attended Dordt College which was also majority White.

I will never say that the White Dutch Christian Reformed dominated grade school and high school were without their racial tensions because they weren't. What I would say is that I felt a lot safer at my dominantly White schools than I did in my inner city Black neighborhood. You also have to remember that this was duing a time when it still wasn't culutrally cool to be Black and when interracial dating was still anathema to most Whites and many Blacks. I recall that as Black people living in the ghetto that listening to the White radio stations like WLS was frowned upon by our fellow Blacks and Whites weren't supposed to listen to Black stations. The line of demarcation between Soul and Rock was a real one back then.

Today Black and White young people listen to Drake, Pharrel, Beyonce', twerk, call each other Bro, etc. The cross pollinating of White and Black youth culture is all encompassing. Yet Black people have recently told White women that they can't wear hoop earrings and accused them of engaging in culutral misppropriation.

The author talks about her hair being spoken of as an object of Whte cuiritosity. However the author fails to explain whn Black women have so eagerly embraced the wearing of wigs, none of which are a reflection of the natural hair that Black women have. Black women are not amongst the biggest buyers of hair in America nad that hair is mostly of Asian origin. The desire by Blacks to have "good" hair is seen everyday on Jerry Springer when the Black women get into fights and their wigs begin to fly.

I believe that today we can see that none of this is any longer true. What we have had since the 80's is what I call a ghettoization of American youth culture which has encompassed even the White race. Rap is now popular amongst Blacks and Whites. The Kardashian sisters seem to all have jungle fever and I believe even their mother has jumped in on the experience. The percentage of Black/White marriages is higher today than it has ever been.Both of my daughter-in-laws are White and my boys have been warmly embraced by their in-laws. I compare this to what happened to me when I asked a White famale high school classmate out and she responded by saying that her parents would never approve.

Being Black today is now cool whereas being White is now the subject of universal scorn from Blacks and other non-White groups. The hatred for Whites is encapsulated in the misleading phrase "White privilige". Even the Banner has recently run an article with that title. I could never imagine a Banner article titled " A History of Black Community Failure" being allowed but that is what White privilege is really saying. It is all about how Whites have unfairly managed to manipulate world events to their advantage while trampling under the accomplishments of other etnic groups. If you took the time to do some research you would find that White privilige is a myth and that the world owes a profound debt to White European Judeo/Christian culture.

You talk about being worried for your son's well being should he be stopped by a policeman. I think that if you were to make a serious effort at researching the validity of your biases that you would find out that Blacks vis-a-vis Whites are actually not more but less likely to be victims of police shootings. I can tell you who is most likely to victimize Blacks and that is Blacks. Black commit over half the homicides in the U.S. Black childern have an extremely hgith abscence rate and this is even though they can least afford to miss school.

If you raise your son with a chip on his shoulder as you obviously have on yours then he will see the world as you do. He has a choice to refuse to view himself as a victim and to live on his own 2 feet. Believe me there is no White person who has an interest in keeping you or your son from accomplishing what you want. It would not be in their self interest and they have nothing to gain through oppressing you. They would much rather see both of you able to live on your own than to be unemployed, uneducated and living on welfare.


Thank you Marrisa for sharing your story but also sharing your worries and while some will try to convince you that you shouldn't feel this way this is your story and your worries. Do not let anyone try to convince you that what you feel and experience is unfounded or should be dissmissed. Until all church members realize that there is systemic racism and injustice in our society it will be difficult to have the conversations that will change attitudes. I too wish for church members to struggle with what racism and injustice looks like and feels like from the other side.

Two of our four children are black and we worry for the days they will be out on their own outside of our white bubble. My oldest son was pulled over once while driving by himself through the mid-west and given a warning and it is sad that I have to I wonder if my black son would be given the same consideration.