Book Review: Raising White Kids

Book Review and Give-Away! (see below)

Jennifer Harvey,  Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017), hardcover, 306 pages.

raisingwhitekidsThis is a must-read book for white parents, educators and adults — and even if you are not a parent! The dominance and ignorance of white America has contributed to the racial tensions and injustice today. This book will help you unpack where you can and should change.

As a pastor and former educator, I know first hand that there IS a difference in how children are treated in the classroom. Non-white children frequently receive accelerated classroom disciplinary action, are less likely to be offered classes of academic challenge, and not given a “pass” for bad behavior choices.

As a white, suburban-dwelling wife and mother of two white children, I also know that despite our efforts to expose our children to a variety of experiences and people, we were far from perfect (and frequently made many of the parenting errors mentioned in this book!)

Since the election of our 45th President, I have become acutely aware of the disparity and prejudice faced by persons of color, particularly immigrants, undocumented workers and Blacks. Add to that a lack of intentional intersectionality in the public arena, from Congress to Cub Scouts, and the reasons for racial tension between us are clear. From criticisms of The Women’s March to the #MeToo movement1, the disengaged and unaware actions of white Americans have not helped the situation.

And I am one of them.

This book is written to help white parents in the challenges of parenting in an increasingly diverse, increasingly divided America. Racial tension is here. Chanting slogans and wishing  divisions would go away will not help. There is a lot left to do to dismantle racist thinking, and proactively work against racist laws and their enforcement.

Several of the vignettes shared by the author, Jennifer Harvey, parallel some of my own parenting experiences. She recounts innocent questions from her child in a public space about a person of color, and not always rising above her own anxiety to help them learn from their questions and their experience. She also brought to mind instances where, in encouraging my children to be respectful of others, I did not engage or teach them about systemic racism.

Harvey’s book is laid out with “Takeaways” at the end of every chapter. These would make great discussion points for a book club or honest conversation between white and Black parents. I wish I had her wisdom in hand when my children, now in their 20s, were in public school!  The “Takeaways” also help clarify the main points of every chapter (for those of us who need a review on a regular basis.)

There were two main areas that I found most helpful. First, Harvey is careful to explain why this is not about “equality” but about injustice. She identifies the main problems with “color-blind” parental approaches, which do not combat racist practices and biases. Instead, she emphasizes race-conscious parenting, suggesting that white parents notice and name issues of race “early and often,” and use age and developmentally-appropriate words and methods. As Harvey explains, the “color-blind” mindset allows a child “to just keep breathing in ‘society’s smog’ without benefit of a face mask.” (p. 35) Raising race-conscious children helps them see how and why our words and actions are perceived as racist.

The real and most truthful questions, I think, are what our children are going to teach us if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to make it possible for them to do so. And what might they teach us if we then slow down and listen to them when they try?
from: Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey. (p. 256)

I hesitate to highlight one chapter over the others (because I gained some significant knowledge from all of them), but I especially appreciated Chapter 4: Do we have to call it Racism? In this chapter, Dr. Harvey helps shape the conversation about racism by encouraging parents to explore kids’ experiences through naming, acknowledging and examining them, and remembering that we are on a journey of self-discovering and change. She suggests not just teaching about racism, but being explicit about “white peoples participation in racism.” (p. 160).

The book includes several pages of resources, some of which I have personally used, and others that I have added to my links. There are also books, organizations, curricula, and organizations which will help you in the ongoing work of raising color-conscious, caring children and impacting your own engagement with our world. (Care to read the Forward? Check it out here!)

As a pastor in a predominantly white congregation, finding ways to have this conversation is now increasingly important. We cannot ignore the ways our society has crafted a schism between white America and persons of color. Living out The Gospel demands we hold one another accountable for the ways in which we treat one another, and in particular, the ways in which we do not honor the Imago Dei (image of God) in one another. Racism, at its core, is refusing to honor a human being created in God’s image, even though they may go through life and look/cook/dress/worship/speak differently than we do.

God help me. Change starts with me. And you.

Now, about that GIVE-AWAY! Would you like to read this book? I have a copy to share and I’ll pay the postage if you live in the continental US. Comment below or on my Facebook page or Twitter (if we are connected that way) and I’ll draw a name on March 10th!

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1 The #MeToo movement was created by Tarana Burke in 2006 and she deserves the credit for organizing and empowering girls and women of color to fight back against sexual harassment. It was co-opted by white women, who have since credited her with beginning this work.


Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America. Jennifer Harvey. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017. Hardcover: 306 pages. ISBN-13: 9781501856426

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The 63rd Day

It’s the 63rd Day of Christmas. I counted.

I’ve changed vestments from Advent to Ordinary time to Lent.

I’ve had the flu, traveled to a conference, and worked too many hours, and have been so tired that One More Chore wasn’t gonna happen. The Christmas tree stayed up.

Then February came. It was time to watch The Olympics as any dedicated couch potato would do, and lead the Ash Wednesday service. And a family member had minor surgery.

But that was not enough! I procrastinated on tax preparation (that’s almost done) and ignored the vacuuming until the dust bunnies picketed me. I have several sewing projects piled high. To keep my mind sharp, I am reading three books at once. My ability to find things to do except for that one task I MUST do is legendary.

How do I know this? It’s simply that, finally, on the 63rd Day of Christmas, we took down the tree. I think that to celebrate my birthday in June, we’ll put the boxes away.

I just wanted to let you that besides making procrastination an art form, I’m a real human being who loves Jesus and hates certain chores.

As you were.

The week that “flu” by

It’s Friday. How can it be Friday???

I have slept, shivered, sweat and snuffled through a whole week. Sunday in the night, I started shivering (with a quilt, electric blanket and very warm cat on me). Hmmmm…. something is not right… By daybreak I knew I had the flu. It didn’t take a flu test at an urgent care to tell me that, but it did get me a script for Tamiflu, and permission to sleep without guilt.

So I did.

Completely. Utterly. Slept like a log. For freaking days.

Somewhere around Wednesday, I realized I stank and needed a shower, so I took one. And slept the rest of the day. Thursday, I changed the sheets on the bed. And slept the rest of the day. (See a pattern here? I’m a slow learner… but I eventually figured it out.)

When little bits of energy would bubble up, I would answer emails from my supervisor… feeling frustrated that I couldn’t help with the workload. But I was told that everyone who has come down with this bug has been out at least a week. A week. So I should stay home and get well!!

Thank GOD I have sick leave, I thought on more than one occasion. Thank GOD I don’t face a penalty at my job for actually being sick.

The week has been full of productive things like emptying boxes of tissues, sweating through pajamas and having weird dreams. As in…

I dreamed that Ken and I stopped by to pick up some things for our beloved Gardener and partner. They needed a delivery of supplies, including a cow. Yes. A lovely black and white Guernsey cow, which we were able to buy off the floor at Lowe’s and take to our car. And she very nicely climbed in the back of my Subaru, placidly knelt down, and we drove her out to their place, while she hung her head over the seat and chewed her cud.

OK, that never happened. But I woke up just a little confused because I could still SEE the cow in my dreams… standing in Lowe’s… getting in the back of my Forester… hanging out very comfortably…

WOW. That Tamiflu is some really good stuff.

My brain is starting to work a little today, and I’ve been thinking about how this illness will help inform my pastoral work. (It’s an occupational hazard.) So here goes…

  1. Absolutely NO precautions are 100%. I guarantee you that I was exposed to the flu by the guy behind me on my flight last week who was coughing and sneezing and announcing to his seat mates, “I feel like crap.” “I feel like I was hit by a truck.” He probably exposed the whole airplane with his airborne snot factory projectiles. Thanks. Dude. Even so, WASH YOUR HANDS. COVER YOUR SNEEZE. Don’t be a jerk.
  2. Stay Home Guilt-Free. There is nothing more helpful for getting well than not making someone feel guilty for staying home when they are sick. Seriously. My boss said, PLEASE stay home. Get well. Most people are out a week.  Now I was certain that I would be back at work by Thursday. Or Friday at the latest. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Nope. Nope. Nope.
  3. Getting well takes energy. It also includes eating well. It also includes not being asked to make decisions about eating and drinking when you don’t feel well. Lesson learned: Offer. Would you like orange juice or water? Would you like soup or toast? My family gets the A+ on this one.
  4. Lower your expectations. Not only will the laundry not get done, but the ill person won’t care. The dishes will sit in the sink. The bed won’t get made. The reading project you were going to work on? FUGGEDABOUDIT. Sleep. Seriously. SLEEP.
  5. Ignore useless advice. Someone proudly said that they didn’t get these bugs because they always wash their hands and eat well. PUHLEESE. I am “religious” about hand washing (ahahaha — get it?) and I got this thing anyway. Some bugs are just very contagious. And I eat fairly well, even green vegetables thankyouverymuch. (With the exception of things which are gross like Brussels sprouts. Because there’s no way those stink bombs should be food.) And I take probiotics and yada yada yada. Save it.
  6. Stay home until you are well. (See #2 above). It is my firm desire to preach on Sunday… but I’m not there yet. It’s only Friday… I hopefully will be better… and not touch anyone who is immunocompromised if I do go to church.
  7. If you have dreams about cows riding in your car, you are still sick. Stay. Home.

Yeah, I’d rather have had a more “productive” week. But I will settle for being healthy, instead.

I think I’m on the mend.

Deep Peace

John Rutter’s setting of the Gaelic blessing, “Deep Peace” is playing in the background. I have finished some writing, some house cleaning, put away the laundry and reviewed my calendar for the week… and have a few moments to just sit and Be.

At the silent retreat last month, I had opportunity to do some journaling and praying. My prayers were answered, though not how I expected. Not at all. And yet as I re-read my journal entry, I realized the words were still true:

In God’s silence, in God’s seeming inactivity, so much is going on. Just like the frozen pond in winter, with the peepers and fish buried deep in the bottom muck, things may be still, but they are forming. Within me, there is also — a deeper, cognitive, spiritual and intrinsically peaceful level of change in my soul. 

Would I have known the depths of a yearning for this as-yet unknown Call had I not been still enough to hear it? The quiet is unforced, just as God’s leading, not changed by my wishes but shaped by God’s wisdom.

There is comfort in knowing this… deep within, All is Well. There is so much NOISE in keeping Silence. Well, non-noise, really. And in all of this non-noise, there are reminders of life and hope and peace… surrounding and filling me. There is so much to hear that I can only BE in it.

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I know this Deep Peace, though I have no way of explaining it… only being IN it. Though I still wrestle and complain, (and yes, ask my ‘WHYs’ and ‘WHY NOTs’) I still walk in a place of abiding Love.

I share all this because, I suspect that you, who stumble onto this blog, have your own questions and doubts just sitting there, too. And I believe, down to my toes, that even with unknown answers, it is Enough to just Be. Here. Now. In the Presence of the Divine…

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

Christmas in the Emergency Department

Not your usual Christmas feast!

I have to be honest. This pastor’s Christmas joy was a little flat this year. But inspire of how I felt, there was a lot of joy in the middle of the mess.

This Advent opened in a true Spirit of anticipation. I was aware of my own sense of waiting and longing. It collapsed around me when, during the week immediately preceding Christmas, I found out that I was not selected for a new ministry opportunity. It stung like hell. It was (and is) heartbreaking, but it is also for the best. Recovering slowly from my disappointment, I discovered I was not really up for the last minute Christmas shopping and planning.

On top of that, our church is facing a challenging financial twist which not only affects our church as a whole, but eliminates the salary for my (very) part-time job. I am serving, for now, in a volunteer capacity.

The usual hilarious disorganization of a Christmas Eve service was compounded by the Choir Director leading despite a bad case of laryngitis, and choir members inexplicably deciding to make other plans and miss the candlelight Christmas Eve service. By the time the service started, I was finally in sync, enjoying the people in our congregation, and our celebration of Love arriving on the Earth in human form.

Just to keep things interesting… In the early hours of Christmas morning, a GI virus and its complications meant that I spent Christmas Day in the ED with one of our beloved daughters. The rest of the family put the turkey dinner and gift-giving on hold.

As I sat with our daughter, watching over her, I had a new appreciation for the staff who work on holidays. I have worked many of them in years past as a chaplain. It is hard to keep your spirits up when you know you are missing your own family’s celebrations. The ED staff, was, to a person, kind, caring and helpful.

But I also thought about the families who had a disappointing Christmas that day. My hospice families who tried to celebrate in the middle of loss. I remembered the families and spouses of those in the military, and first responders. Their Christmas celebrations were impacted, too, and in far greater ways.

Today our daughter is on the mend. We cooked the turkey and all of the accompaniments. The cranberries and stuffing, potatoes and carrots graced the table too. (We won’t talk about my gravy… it was, as per usual, disappointing.) The cookie dough will get baked… eventually. Flights to holiday celebrations are being re-booked for a healthier day.  And all is well.

In the middle of the mess that is life in the ED, I was reminded that the message of the Christ Child is the center of my Faith. In impossible situations, with unlikely companions, despite all odds, God breaks through with another “I love you” and a “Hallelujah!”

I don’t want to make it an annual event, but I am grateful for God’s speaking through the clanging of culture, sickness and politics to declare: 

“Don’t be afraid!
Look! I bring good news to you
wonderful, joyous news for all people.”

Luke 2:10

 

Let ev’ry heart prepare…

What do pastors do to prepare for Christmas, you ask?

We vacuum. We untangle Christmas lights. We find missing hymnals and restock the pews. We set up an ironing board so that the choir can “freshen” up their robes.

We resuscitate poinsettias that someone forgot to water. (And compost the ones that don’t make it.)

We refresh the greens in the sanctuary and figure out where the tapers are for the candlelight service.

And we pray for our congregants and our visitors, that the Light of the world will shine through in new ways.

And then, we go home and put our feet up for just a minute… before finishing that next round of baking, wrapping, and cleaning. ‘Cause Christmas is coming!!

Merry Christmas!!