I stretched out across the massage table eagerly awaiting the touch of a healer’s hands. The sage and sandlewood ignited my spirit as if I fell prostrate in a house of prayer. I remarked awkwardly to my friend about my butt hair and half Yetti heritage. We laughed some and then the silence overwhelmed us. I wanted to fill the air with conversation or prayers. I probed beyond funny and the weather to deeper questions. I would ask and Leslie would respond. Then silence as her hands offered therapy to my aching bones. I asked Leslie why she and Melvin moved to Atlanta. She talked about searching for a place “safe for us.” A place safe for blacks. I didn’t realize that the answer would be a teaching moment. I have considered myself a Christ follower for a long time. One who reached out beyond socially devised lines to include the marginalized. Yet the comment “safe for us” begged me to consider my privilege and the deep empathy I currently felt for blacks in the south. My parents never worried if growing up in Douglasville or Atlanta Metro would be safe for our family because of our skin tone. I never thought about going anywhere and if it might be “safe for me” as a white person. The silence engulfed me as she prayed over my neck with her finger tips. I wondered if Leslie feared for her children. Her three beautiful, smart, talented children.
“Will my children have to fear walking to the convenience store because of their color?” And then I thought, “What if I adopt a child, will he or she be safe? Will they be seen as criminals or delinquents? Will they be seen as people created in the image of God? If I and Terry adopt a child who isn’t white, will our kids grow up in a place that is safe for them?” I heard her voice. Is there a place “safe for us?” As much as I want our society to be global, equal, and diverse, I know there exist pockets of ignorance and fear. My privilege must always be in check- and I hope we can build a place that is safe for us.
God help us.