Black And White: Parenting in a Racist Culture

The Oscar-winning movie Crash has the nation talking about race, but did anyone catch the premiere of FX's new reality show last night at ten o'clock, Black and White? The intent of this six-episode reality show is to start a conversation about race, and it's a great parenting tool for Americans. The difference between the generations was especially striking: the 16-year-old's thoughts (or lack thereof) about being black were nothing like the reflections of his 40-something parents, and the 17-year-old seemed downright savvy about race compared with her clueless "I'm-politically-correct" white mom and her mother's opinionated white boyfriend.

Bakari Kitwana, in his book Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop (Perseus 2005), thinks our kids' generation might be on the brink of something new when it comes to race:
The mainstreaming of hip-hop culture has in part provided a space where American youth, Black and white included, can expore these new ideas together, even if the old racial politics are always lurking in the shadows.
Youth culture judges our generation for not leading the way to Jesus-centered reconciliation, and the truth hurts: we deserve it. If you're white, how often do you talk about race with your kids, or actually think about it yourself? Do you understand the term "white privilege"? And if you're black, how are you proactively and prayerfully equipping your kids to deal with the racism their generation is facing as opposed to what you experienced?

As with sexuality, Christian parents can't afford to be on cruise control when it comes to race. The culture is berating our kids to be tolerant and understanding, but Jesus is more radical than that. He calls us to go way beyond "tolerating" each other to repenting, forgiving, and forging relationships that resonate with intimacy. He alone gives us the tools that this country so desperately needs to reconcile:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2: 14-18, NIV).
In Black and White, two families lived together for six weeks and their Hollywood-inspired conversations focused on teaching each other how to be black and how to be white. Christ-led encounters around that table would be completely different. They would involve listening to each other's pain, confessing ugly truths, repenting of hatred, offering forgiveness, praying, worshipping, striving to know each other intimately and carrying one another's burdens. And they would result in relationships that last a lifetime, not just for six weeks. The problem is that those kinds of conversations rarely take place in the church.

Next week, why not watch the show with your older teens? (Note: it's rated MA for language.) Talk about how it made you feel; honestly assess any differences between your gut reactions. Discuss with them if anything led the two families further up the Ephesians 2:14-18 path. Was the dividing wall of hostility torn down or built up? Ask questions like: "How might our family pursue racial reconciliation in our church, community, country, world?" or "What does it mean to be racist?" If we don't talk to our kids about a biblical view of race, we're letting culture lower the bar.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship provides thoughtful fodder for conversation around the family dinner table (if you're white, start with Carolyn Carney's White Responsibility in Racial Reconciliation), or read Teaching Kids About Race by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil as a starting point.


Spunky said...

Sorry I don't need a reality show to teach my children about race. Time is better spent going out and ministering to the poor, homeless, and down trodden. They'll see quicker than any reality show that love comes in all colors. They'll know we are Christians by our love. We don't need a reality show to confront our insecurities. Go out into all the world and make disciples. When we begin to do that God deals with our hearts and our insecurities.

Mitali Perkins said...

Sound like you are battling racism with your kids already, so you don't need a reality show. But for those parents out there who aren't talking about "ministering to the poor, homeless, and downtrodden," even a reality TV show provides a place to start the conversation and face up to our own sinful attitudes. Thanks for posting, and for your inspiring faithfulness in parenting.

~Mark said...

I had looked forward to this show for some time, but after the debut, I'm gonna hafta watch it with the "V-chip" in place!
Oh how I miss the days of self-censorship...