For Love of Little K by Robynn
I just spent a couple of hours catching up with my friend Kimmery. Because of the nature of the summers we’ve both had we haven’t seen each other in forever. It was fabulous to visit her in her new place, see boxes mostly unpacked, pictures already hung on the walls. She is settling in.
Kimmery is my friend. I love her deeply. She’s actually famous in our town for wearing the #4 K-State Wildcats basketball jersey when the Lady Cats were in their prime (2000-2004). Recruited from a high school in Nashville, she left her mama, her younger siblings, her community to move all the way to Kansas to play basketball.
A year ago she earned her PhD from Kansas State University in Family Studies. She’s one of the most determined, hard working women I know. And she has heart. Dr. Newsom cares deeply: for her clients, her family and her friends. She’s loyal and long-lasting.
More importantly, Kimmery, is the mother of nearly 2 Little K. If she’s determined as a professional, she’s also devoted as a mother. She loves well, sacrificially, completely. Little K is disciplined and bright. He knows right from wrong. He can count to ten forwards and backwards. The little stinker already knows many of his ABCs.
Kimmery made coffee and gave me a tour of her place before it brewed. She offered me breakfast. She hadn’t slept well the night before and she was exhausted. It was a slow going morning for her. She was late getting to eat. I chatted away as she fixed herself an omelet and washed a bowl of grapes for Little K. I told her about our move, how the kids were settling, what I was working through in my attitude. After she sat down she shared some of the struggles she was facing with finding child care. Her daycare provider was suspended. It’s a tough story with complications and human complexities. We spoke of her mom, who’s been working hard to get her GED, but who recently found a job.
And then I asked Kimmery what she thought about what’s going on in Ferguson. She bristled some, sat up straighter, and asked me if I really wanted to know. I told her I did. I thought I did.
What followed was nearly forty-five minutes of her sharing her responses to what happened in the past ten days in Ferguson, Missouri. She nearly cried when she described what upset her the most. After Michael Brown was shot six times, two of those times in the head, he lay there in the street, uncovered, on display. His own mother a mere yard away was prevented from coming near the body of her dead baby for “investigative purposes”. Kimmery passionately pleaded with me, “Where was the ambulance? Why wasn’t he covered? Why didn’t someone call 911?” She said all she could see was pictures of dead black men and women hanging from trees, lynched and left on display, while white people stood around and watched. She told me story after story of similar things where black men and women were immediately assumed to be guilty and were mistreated simply because they were black.
Connor and I were chatting yesterday evening. He wants to go to Ferguson to join the protesters. He wants to skip school and go. In his mind this is history in the making. One person can make a difference he told me with the passion of youth. It’s an issue of civil rights. It’s not right what’s happened there.
With tears in his eyes he prophetically spoke a powerful truth, “Racism is still an issue mom. If anything it’s worse now than it’s ever been because people say it’s not an issue.”
At one point in the conversation she pointed over to Little K, who at the time was flinging his head back and forth on the couch. He was babbling jibberish and squealing at the educational program on the tv. Kimmery, pointing at Little K, said, “How am I supposed to raise him? Knowing he has a target on his back from the moment he’s born.” That’s when I could hardly contain my sobs. I’ve known that Little K man since he was born. When he was barely two months old I watched him once a week while his mom taught class. He’s been in and out of our home ever since. At church he reaches for me. I snuggle my head into his neck and he giggles. Tears ran down my face. How can Little K be the black man shot down? But that’s Kimmery’s greatest fear. Michael Brown’s mother in an early encounter with a television camera after her son was shot, railed at the reporter, “Do you people not know how hard it was to raise him? To keep him off the streets? To get him to graduate from high school? To get him enrolled in college”. Kimmery honestly can relate to that heart breaking mother’s lament. She gets it. She faces it. She fears it.
I drove away from Kimmery’s house with my heart stuck in grief. My spirit was in convulsions as I agonized with my friend. I didn’t know how to process Kimmery’s anguish. I didn’t know how to respond, what to do, where to take it. I cried so hard I should have put the windshield wipers on. I could barely see.
And I took my heart to Jesus. I took Kimmery there too. I scooped up Little K on to my shoulder and I marched him over to Jesus too. I had no place else to go. Deep inside, where there was a very small quiet spot, I heard the whisper of a tiny verse from the ancient old letter St Paul penned to the pockets of the faithful in the community of Galatia. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus…” There is great gospel truth in that tiny line of scripture. This is what life is supposed to be like. This is why Jesus came: to eliminate the lines, to erase the boundaries. This motivates me to work toward those equalities. I take on civil justice issues. I take on the freedoms of women, I take on the immigrant’s story because these are the things Jesus took on. He intended that his message and his love would communicate across boundaries and slowly, slowly eliminate them.
I could drive away from Kimmery’s house. Kimmery cannot. She is beautifully black and she’s raising a black son to manhood. Somehow, and I have no idea how she’ll even begin, she has to learn to live above her fears. Somehow, and again this seems impossible to me, she has to find the space to shake off suspicion and truly live. But I don’t know how she possibly can but for the remarkable peace that comes from Jesus who delights in her colour. I commend her to his care.
For the love of my Little K we have to keep talking about this stuff. It may make us flinch inside. It may stir up anger or resentment or confusion. Those of us who are white need to own that there is privilege in that. We need to see what’s happening around us. No more denial. No more overstepping or abusing our freedoms. Let’s be honest. Let’s communicate across these boundaries as well. Please, for the love of Little K.
For further reading please see this excellent article Dear White Mom
What is your response as you think of inequalities and race?
Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/shake-hand-handshake-agreement-369025/
21 thoughts on “For Love of Little K”
It’s clear to me now that I’ve been going about this the wrong way. I focused on Ferguson because my husband is an officer and the officer’s character was being attacked before anyone even knew what had happened. That seemed unfair and un-Christian to me. Now I feel that my character is being questioned. This will be the last time I post here, but let me tell you how I really see it.
Racism in America is like an onion. You have to keep peeling back the layers to find the core problem. Why did Mike Brown not get out of the street when told to? Was it because he had been treated like a second class citizen his entire life and was fed up with it, deciding he just wasn’t going to be treated like that on that day? Why was the officer so quick to pull his gun? Was it because he had been told that the neighborhood he worked in was dangerous, full of gangs and drugs, and he needed to be especially on his guard? Why did Mike Brown bully the shop owner and steal something? Was it because the shop owner had always treated him and his friends like criminals, expecting them to steal something, and Mike decided on that day that since the shop owner expected it anyway, he might as well prove him right? Why did the shop owner treat young black men as potential criminals? Was it because every time he turns on the TV he sees news programs, TV shows, and movies that portray young black men as drug-selling, pimping gang members, rather than showing young black men doing good things for their families and neighborhoods? Why does the media persist in these stereotypes?
Because racism exists on such a deep level and is so deeply engrained in this society, that only the people directly impacted are aware of it, with everyone else claiming that racism went out with slavery and the Jim Crow laws. It didn’t go out. It just went into our subconscious and needs to be dug out bit by bit and dealt with.
That is all. Thank you.
To Dr. K, this post was not about you – I hope you know that. You treated me with respect and patience and I so appreciate that. I enjoyed our discussion and again want to say that you helped me to see things differently. Thank you.
I just wanted to say that it took extreme courage for Dr. K to let someone share her thoughts and fears on a blog post. As a believer, Robynn is right, it is up to her to give her fears to the Lord, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a legitimate fear felt by many many mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends of black men in America. It is unfortunate that (maybe?) it becomes an argument about whether the particular police officer or police officers in general are racist because its always impossible to know the sins of another man’s heart. That line of thought is a little bit like questioning whether that speck is a real splinter in our eye, and still missing the huge log. The fact is that while we need great Christian police officers who operate with the love of Christ, they are still operating in a flawed system: a flawed law enforcement and criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates and inflicts violence upon black men, who are no more likely (empirically and proportionately) to commit crimes, and a flawed cultural system in which this disparity is justified by attitudes based on a false assumption that black people commit crimes. This racism is pervasive. There is a reason for the fear and that reason needs to be addressed and changed on a cultural and institutional level. Its not about Ferguson, but about systemic and institutionalized racism all over. Like Dr. K said, it gets “justified” by people who haven’t experienced it when they try to explain away specific examples of injustice, but it can’t be ignored on the grand scale. Its good to see members of the church standing against injustice, rather than trying to justify it. Thank you all for sharing.
I love you, Robynn, and your friend sounds like an amazing woman, but this post makes me cry for the opposite reason. She says people always assume the black kid did something wrong. But the very same thing is done to the white police officer. He is automatically branded a trigger-happy racist before anyone even knows what actually happened. As the wife of a white police officer, I can tell you that neither he nor any other officer I know drives around seeing targets on the backs of every black youth they see. That’s not what they are trained to look for. They are trained to look for certain behaviors, not skin color, and they pull over plenty of white people too. You (not you personally, Robynn) can call me naive and ignorant of the black experience all you like, but until both sides stop the stereotypes and branding, this will never end! And for the record, I do not in any way defend the actions of this officer. Something went horribly wrong here, and answers are needed, but the knee-jerk reactions have got to stop!
Erin, thank you for your honest response. I know your heart in this and I love and respect you and your white police officer husband deeply. This is such a complex issue. It’s painful from every angle. I actually didn’t trust myself to write about the recent events in Ferguson. I knew I couldn’t begin to sort it all out. It was my interactions with Kimmery and seeing her heart and her fears bubble to the surface in front of me that broke my heart. I so agree with you that knee-jerk reactions are not the place to begin. It’s going to take lots of conversations, lots of honest interaction, lots of taking responsibility and all of that marinated in the peace that I believe only Jesus can pour down on us all before we can even begin to understand the problem. I firmly believe that he is the only one qualified to erase the lines dividing us. Jesus have mercy on us all.
Erin, I appreciate your honesty and the ways in which you have disseminated you message. However, the experiences of most Black men in America, not only by police but societal expectations and assumptions are the reasons for my angst. Maybe your husband is not an officer that assumes all Black men are aggressive and guilty of crimes; the reality is that there are many who are. The story in Ferguson is not about the actions that caused the officer to shoot but the necessity of shooting Michael Brown 6 times. Until you have had the experience of being Black in America, there are no words that you can say to express your ability to relate to my fears for my son. Once again, thank you and I thank your husband if he is providing true service to ALL of society as an officer. Please be more sensitive to the reality of some, even if it is not the reality for you.
K – I am physically shaking as I type these words because as a white person, I don’t feel like I’m given the right to even have an opinion, and I’m terrified to speak directly to you. Please forgive me if I am about to show myself to be even less sensitive than before. I do not have any idea what it is like to be black in America. I have a biracial daughter and I have read everything I can get my hands on to try to prepare her for what this society will throw at her. She is only 10 now, but I am already preparing to tell her that the way she talks, the way she dresses, and the way she styles her hair could cause shop owners to follow her around their stores, expecting her to steal something. She could be called names that I don’t even know yet. People will make assumptions about her without bothering to get to know her first. I know reading books is not enough. She will ultimately have to find her own way of dealing with it.
I do know something of what it is to be a police officer through my husband. He happens to have been a trainer in the department himself and has shared much of his studies with me. Police officers are not automatons with no feelings. They experience the same physiological reactions that anyone does. If he feels his life is in danger, adrenaline will begin coursing through him, leading to the “fight or flight” response. If there is a gun in his hand he will begin to shoot and will keep shooting until he no longer feels threatened. Because automatic pistol triggers are extremely sensitive to pressure, he will shoot many times without even realizing it. IF the ferguson officer was in that situation, feeling his life was threatened (and I don’t know if he was), the fact that he shot six times is not surprising. This is a singular event that does not explain or justify any other shootings that have happened in the past, but it may be the case here.
I am still shaking as I imagine you reading this with your blood boiling and thinking that I still don’t get it, and maybe I don’t, but no one ever talks about this stuff and it needs to be known. I hope and pray that your son never has to deal with any of this. It breaks my heart that after all this time, we still can’t figure this race thing out. I was once lectured to in a store by a black woman for calling my daughter “biracial” ( I had asked her for tips on how to care for her hair). She told me that I should never call her biracial because there are no races. There’s just the human race, and she’s just a girl.
Hi K & Erin – thank you both for your honesty in this space – and for what I believe is graciousness on both your parts. In the midst of all the pain and misunderstanding of the past couple of weeks I appreciate this. Both of you share the burden of trying to explain deep prejudice to your children – prejudice that will affect them to different degrees throughout their lives unless there is deep change and repentance for past hurts and responsibility taken for future actions. My prayer is that conversations like this may allow for greater understanding and a better world for your children. For what it’s worth I’ll add this quote: “For a serious offense, such as a betrayal of trust or public humiliation, an immediate apology misses the mark. It demeans the event. Hours, days, weeks, or even months may go by before both parties can integrate the meaning of the event and its impact on the relationship. The care and thought that goes into such apologies dignifies the exchange. For offenses whose impact is calamitous to individuals, groups, or nations, the apology may be delayed by decades and offered by another generation.” Adam Lazare
To my dear friends Erin and Kimmery….. I am so humbled and grateful to see you both interacting in this space. I can see both of you agonizing over your words wanting to make a connection to the other. I can see both of you deeply desiring to raise up your children with out fear and with grace. I can hear both your hearts attempting to bring your faith into your individual agonies. I love you both. We have got to have these types of conversations. We have got to keep talking. It’s the only way we get glimpses into each other’s hearts, each others hurts and fears, each others strengths. Thank you for starting that conversation here.
Erin, as you can see it has taken some time for me to respond to you. I have needed some time away to contemplate what you have said regarding your experiences. I appreciate your insight into YOUR life. If you feel that you do not have the space to have an opinion, it could be based on what thoughts and perceived insights you offer. You are allowed to have an opinion but if that opinion is insensitive to the current and historical struggle of an entire people in this nation, maybe it is best that you do not voice it. Have you ever been followed around in a store because they were afraid that you would steal? Have you been told as a youth that only 3 of you and your friends are allowed in the convenience store because the clerk couldn’t “watch” all of you? Have you been run out of a gym because your all Black freshman team beat their all White freshman basketball team? Have you been refused a handshake and been told as a therapist that it wasn’t gonna work because “you’re Black and I’m White and you could never understand my world” when they came to you for help? I have.
Although you have a biracial child, you will NEVER know what it is like to be a Black person in America; a place where an armed White man in CA can point his gun at police and others including children, after an hour be shot in the arm and given immediate medical attention. And yet, across the country and history there have been many Black men and women who have been unarmed, threatening no one, but shot dead like dogs. I do not believe the White man in CA should have been killed. However, I do not EVER think that ANYONE is justified in shooting an unarmed anyone 6 times including the coup de gras in the top of his head as he was going down. Once again, the passion with which you disseminate you side of things is appreciated. However, those are your experiences and do not give you the space to trample on mine and those who have experienced institutional racism.
I am at a loss. I never said the Ferguson shooting was justified, or that the boy was a criminal deserving what he got, or that the officer was innocent. I just tried to offer a possible explanation. I never said I understood what it was to be black in America. I never questioned or ridiculed your experiences or your fears for your son. I have never denied that racism exists in this country. How have I trampled on your experiences? On the contrary, I tried to explain that my eyes have been opened (even if only a little bit) through having a biracial daughter and my heart aches for her. Do I have to have experienced racism myself to feel something about it and have an opinion? Though I never have experienced it, I remember the shock and frustration trying to find a baby doll for her that wasn’t blond and blue-eyed and not finding one in any store. Trying to find books with characters that looked like her and only finding a small selection of books that mostly emphasized living with “kinky” hair. Checking the class roster every new school year and seeing that yet again, she is one of only 2 or 3 kids in her class that are not white. As she grows older, characters in books continue to be overwhelmingly white. I know this is wrong and detrimental to her even if only subconsciously. It sends subliminal messages that will likely affect her in unknown ways in the future. However, I don’t share any of this with you to try to prove to you that I know what it’s like at all. I’m just trying to tell you that I see the injustice and it hurts me too because I love her and don’t want her to be exposed to racism just as you adore your son and don’t want him to experience it either.
I don’t know how I have trampled on your experiences and others by sharing my experiences and opinion, but I apologize anyway. However, if I and others are not allowed to share our opinions for fear of being insensitive, I don’t know how this great divide between blacks and whites will ever be bridged. I want and strive to be educated in this and listen with as open a mind as I possibly can, and yet I’m told I will never know what it’s like and therefore have no right to speak. I want to help and make a difference, but how?
Erin, I didn’t say that you said it was justified. Insensitivity is not necessarily a heart-set. However, insensitivity exists and prevails when one attempts to explain away the negative experiences of another. There is no explanation for what happened to an unarmed man. By saying that this could have an accident or to give the benefit of the doubt ridicules my and many other experiences of people of color in this country. That is how you have trampled on my experiences; by attempting to explain a situation where the motive and racism is questioned, you have invalidated the experiences of the family of Mike Brown and others of color. You don’t have to have experienced it to have an opinion; however be aware that as a member of the dominant race your opinion carries more weight. If those whom you have influence over and who look like you hear you attempt to explain what happened in Ferguson or anywhere else where the law or White citizen acted on the assumption that all Black people are aggressive and to be feared, then that will hold the greater influence. Your opinion matters regardless and it matters most when you use it to affect change. I’m thankful that my son does not have to be escorted to daycare by the army as was the experience of Black youth during desegregation. However, the way things are happening, it may be necessary in the future.
I appreciate very sincerely that we can have this conversation. I appreciate your apology and i apologizes if I have offended you. Your opinion is needed and valued and the things that you are telling me about the heartache it causes you for your daughter needs to be heard by your friends who are White.
I also really appreciate this conversation and your willingness to continue it with me. I have gone from shaking in my boots to calm and peaceful. Thank you! I think I get what you are saying about the dominant race statements having more weight. As a woman, I’m aware of subtle messages in our male-dominated society that most men are completely unaware of and would likely deny if confronted with them. I can only imagine what subtleties you deal with on a daily basis. I was talking with my kids the other day about how in movies and TV, the good guys are almost always white and the bad guys are almost always of color, whether black, Asian, Hispanic, or more recently, middle eastern. That sends a very powerful but subliminal message that I don’t think I ever would have noticed if not for the influence of my daughter.
I really appreciate the patience you have shown me thus far, because I truly want to understand your perspective. I hope that your patience will extend just a little further as I try to understand one thing that continues to bother me here. It seems that to you and others, the facts of the Ferguson case don’t matter. The motives and intentions of Mike Brown don’t matter. All that matters is that a white officer killed an unarmed black teenager. I am guessing that you see your son in Mike Brown and that terrifies you. I see my husband in any officer that struggles with someone who could take his gun and kill him, and that terrifies me. IF Mike Brown was struggling with the officer, and IF he had gotten his gun and killed the officer, we would be having a very different conversation right now. There have been other cases where officers gunned down someone without any logical reason – I’m thinking of the case where the black man was standing in a doorway, reached down into his pocket to retrieve his ID with his hands up and was shot multiple times. Clearly that was racist and inexcusable. White officers beating the living hell out of a black person clearly subdued on the ground is racist and inexcusable. To me, this is nothing like those situations. We may just have to agree to disagree on this, but I can’t overlook that. I will, however, refrain from sharing my concerns with anyone else, now that you have explained the dominant race issue. And, I again apologize for trampling on your experiences. I just don’t know how to get past this point.
I also want to tell you that you are really helping me to see things differently. I will never be able to walk in your shoes, but I feel like I’m getting a better understanding, at least a little bit, than I had before.
PS Your friendship and your church are great models for each one of us to look around and find someone different we can build a deep relationship with. Thanks so much.
Robynn, what a deep and hard piece. My heart aches with the brokenness of our world – such beauty in God’s creation, and in His people, yet such pain and suffering we humans inflict on each other. I think of Pakistani Christians persecuted and discriminated against not because of skin color but their faith. In our city of great culture and history and educational institutions, African American youths attack Bhutanese/Nepalese refugees, to steal a pair of shoes,leaving an old man lying on the sidewalk. And their youth are ready to go out and declare war with knives. And we feel so helpless to do anything to help. May God have mercy on us all!
This is beautiful Robynn! I especially like the verse from St. Paul. I haven’t reflected on that for quite some time. If everyone would take that verse to heart AND practice it what a different world this would be. I just recently discovered Marilyn’s blog and so have been introduced to you. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found the two of you. You both write the most thought-provoking and interesting posts. I actually found myself thinking yesterday, “Oh good. Tomorrow is Friday and we’ll get to hear from Robynn as well. Thank you both for writing all that you do.
Only love communicates across boundaries, Marilyn, and you’ve got plenty of it, thank God. Your son is right: racism never really went away. I suspect we suppressed it with consumerism more than anything else. The Latinos I used to work with faced this too, but not like blacks do, and will. The system crushes them.
Some boundaries are eliminable; some boundaries will never really go away. _To be_ anything means _to be one thing_ and _to have a boundary_ marking the limit associated with one’s own unity, identity and difference from everything one is not. Wipe away the magnetosphere or the ozone layer and the earth perishes; rupture the skin and the organism dies.
But skin is a high-traffic area. There’s a lot going in an out across that boundary, as there is with all boundaries. In this case, there is no eternal reason making that traffic the way it is, only our vice.
This comment has so much wisdom – but I especially like the last paragraph. And I wish I could take credit for the piece but it’s by my friend Robynn who writes every Friday! Thanks Gregory.
Ah, I should have noticed. (I know you have one son whose name I didn’t know, so I assumed…)
You and Robynn write so much like one another! –but then kindred spirits usually end up together.
And all of my “wisdom” is borrowed, so I probably stole whatever you’re praising. But thank you.