A New View on Race From a Mother’s Heart

As the mother of three black sons, the tragic death of George Floyd cut me deep. As I watched Floyd cry out for help and struggle to breathe, I couldn’t help but think… that could’ve been one of my sons.

It doesn’t matter that they’re from a middle-class, two-parent home. It doesn’t matter that they’re educated and articulate.

People see their black skin first.

Racism is real. I’ve felt its sting. I’ve been trailed through stores. Shop owners have asked to search my purse. Tellers have eyed me with suspicion when I’ve withdrawn my own money from the bank.

I know humiliation, but I also know truth. I refuse to let the actions of a few taint my view of the world. George Floyd’s death was unjust, tragic and unnecessary. Still, I don’t believe most white people are racist.

Regardless of the poor behavior of a few, all white people aren’t “the enemy.” For the few times I’ve felt discrimination, I can think of many other times white people have been loving, fair-minded and sacrificial for me.

My parents grew up in the Jim Crow South. They grew up drinking from the “colored” water fountain, riding in the back of the bus and entering establishments through back doors.  We’ve come a long way, but we can be better.

As the mother of black sons, I had to coach my boys on society’s unwritten rules for Black men. What they should and shouldn’t wear, how to treat others, how to act with dignity, and how to speak confidently. I also taught them they’re not victims, and a victim mentality will limit them economically and emotionally.

They accused us of trying to “control their lives.”  Little did we know, we’d be living in one of the most racially-charged atmospheres of my lifetime.

I can’t tell them race doesn’t matter after the death of George Floyd. I can’t tell them race doesn’t matter when they’ve been repeatedly pulled over by police who are “randomly” checking vehicles in the predominately white areas we’ve lived in.

I can tell them where I stand.  First, they’re responsible for themselves, their families, and their communities. Second, they’re bound by the rules of society and the law, which I know they’ll respect. I’ve raised them to be men of character and integrity.

I can tell them their father and I believe America is the best place in the world. Is it perfect? No. Even so, they have an opportunity to be beacons of hope and examples of what is best about this country.

This isn’t about “poor” me. It’s about reality. My reality and reality for my sons. But it’s a reality we can change. After the buildings have burned and the haze has cleared, my sons will have to figure out how to move forward in a world that sees color first.

Many people want to stand up against racism but aren’t sure how. As Christian leaders, authors and speakers you can help bring about change. Here are nine steps you can take to change attitudes, hearts and minds and begin binding up the wounds of our nation.

  1. Instead of trying to be politically correct, focus on being biblically correct.
  2. Know history, but don’t be manipulated by it.
  3. Identify a safe person and ask questions to open dialog.
  4. Talk to your children and shape their perspective.
  5. Listen without taking offense.
  6. Challenge your paradigm and help someone challenge theirs by getting outside your comfort zone.
  7. Examine your thoughts and attitudes in relation to God’s word.
  8. Support programs and organizations that are rooted in biblical principles and uphold American values.
  9. Encourage personal responsibility, regardless of color.

We don’t have to find new solutions for racism. Jesus has already given us timeless ones. Judge others by their character not their color. Treat everyone–regardless of race, social stature, or religious affiliation–with respect, compassion, and dignity. Allow others to see the fullness of Christ by being the best you can be.

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32 Comments

  1. Marijane Jones on 2020-07-01 at 1:04 PM

    Sheila, Thank you for your words of wisdom in this emotionally charged issue. As a white woman I have not had the experiences you have had but as a women in ministry I have experienced some discrimination which has been hard to deal with. However, it is nothing compared to yours. I was reading in Exodus about the issue of generational sin and trauma. We are the fourth generation from slavery and I believe God will bring healing to our nation through our generation. That is my prayer. Blessings to you and your family.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-07-04 at 10:00 AM

      Marijane,

      Thank you. Please don’t discount your experiences. Discrimination of any kind is hurtful. I, too, God will heal our land.



  2. Renee on 2020-06-18 at 1:07 AM

    Sheila, you say to “Judge others by their character, not their color” but I am afraid white people are not allowed to do that when it comes to black people. I am not trying to be confrontational but: George Floyd was a repeat drug offender (5 arrests for drug related offenses) , a violent man who had (not that long ago) been in prison because he broke in to a pregnant woman’s house and put a gun to her belly. Now here a few years later he was once again high and “out of control” according to store workers who made a 911 call to the police. So, am I allowed to “judge him by his character” ???? Not according to today’s “rules”. Should he have died?? NO!!! Was his death “unjust, tragic and unnecessary.” I can agree with that, but am I to ignore his character and say that it had nothing to do with what happened to him??? IMO, it did play a part. Do I think it was ok for a police officer to put his knee on Floyd’s neck?? Absolutely NOT.

    So, what do I teach my “white” sons??? I taught them the same things you did … how to treat others, how to act with dignity, and how to speak confidently. Also to be careful, because sadly , no matter their character, they will be told that they are racist just because their skin in white…. and that they are where they are because of “white privilege”..NOT the FACT that they are where they are because of hard work and being of good character.

    I work in a public high school, and the vast majority of kids I get close to are black….I have several who call me “mom 2”. I have kept up with several of them after they have graduated, and just 2 days ago I ran in to the mom of one of my “babies” who was so excited to see me that she had to call her daughter that instant to tell her that we ran in to each other. She thanked me for being there for her daughter when the family was going through a hard time. We both cried as she called “our little girl” so we could talk. I love this young lady as if she were my own and I fought for her when she was treated horribly by a few very racist people. But we cannot “cure racism” by saying that all whites are racist (whether they realize it or not) instead of dealing with the people who ARE racist.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-21 at 11:56 PM

      Renee,

      Thank you for your heartfelt, well-thought out response.

      I appreciate your heart and hope you had a chance to read my letter to the end. If so, you understand I do not believe all (or even most) white people are racist. Race is a complex issue surrounded by hurt and history. There are no simple answers. We can start by unity in Christ, which crosses all cultural and racial barriers.

      It sounds like we have much in common. You have a big heart and have done a fine job raising your sons. We both have a deep love for our children and believe hard work and good moral character are important.

      I understand why the concept of “white privilege” may be troubling for you. I, too, have struggled with it.
      My view is not a common one. If you want to hear what I have to say on the subject, check out this panel discussion in which I address “white privilege.” Feel free to fast forward to the question on “white privilege.”

      It is my heart that we heal as a nation, leave the past in the past, and live in unity.



      • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-23 at 8:58 AM

        Renee,

        The question on “white privilege” begins at 38:26.



  3. Lori Wildenberg on 2020-06-13 at 9:10 AM

    Thank you for your story and wise words. I appreciate your 9 action steps. ❤️



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-21 at 11:09 PM

      You’re welcomed, Lori.



  4. Sheri Hawley on 2020-06-13 at 7:23 AM

    Thank you for your honest and clear message. I especially appreciate the suggested action steps.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-21 at 11:10 PM

      You’re welcomed, Sheri.



  5. Joanne Schneider on 2020-06-12 at 4:00 PM

    Sheila, I would hardly have believed what you said about being followed – and questioned – in stores, had not an amazing “light” black pastor I know shared how this happens to him. Keep sharing your experiences – it’s the only others will know – THE truth about what it is like to be “Black” in America.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-21 at 11:14 PM

      Joanne,

      You’re welcomed. While I shared painful stories to make a point, please understand I believe I live in the best country in the world and my good experiences as a Black American far outweigh my bad. Thank you for your caring heart.



  6. Jill Savage on 2020-06-12 at 10:14 AM

    So powerful. Thank you so much for these important words!



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:25 AM

      You’re welcomed, Jill.



  7. Debbie Wilson on 2020-06-12 at 10:12 AM

    Sheila, this is excellent. Your 9 tips should be taught in every home.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:27 AM

      Thanks, Debbie. Christ is the only solution.



  8. Julie Thomas on 2020-06-12 at 9:59 AM

    This is so good, thank your for sharing this with us. We have two adopted sons from Haiti and have seen first hand the pain and evil of racism. Your words speak hope to my weary soul this morning, thank you.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:33 AM

      Bless you, Julie. You have a unique task and perspective in this situation. I know your heart aches for your sons.



  9. Shannon M Popkin on 2020-06-11 at 1:05 PM

    Love this, Sheila. Thankful for these practicals you have us – especially #1! YES – while we need to do a better job of listening to each other, what we most need is to listen to God. He is the One who produces lasting, heart change–starting with me.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 9:52 AM

      Thank you, Shannon. Christ-focused solutions are the only way we will heal this nation. My faith has been the motivating factor in my perspective and in what I have taught my children. There’s a fine balance between teaching them how to protect themselves while teaching them to love those they are protecting themselves from.



      • Shannon on 2020-06-15 at 5:31 PM

        True… I would love to hear more on this, and how you’ve found that balance as you parent!



  10. Carol Kent on 2020-06-11 at 11:01 AM

    Sheila, this is no doubt the most important blog Speak Up Ministries will post this year. Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability, and for your willingness to help all of us to take action steps in the right direction. Have I mentioned how much we appreciate you?



    • Laura Ciampa on 2020-06-11 at 2:49 PM

      This is the best list I’ve seen so far… thank you for making sense. I can use this to change me…. in the right direction…



      • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:07 AM

        Thanks you, Laura. I am humbled by how God is using my experience to help others.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:04 AM

      Thank you, Carol. I appreciate all you do in the realm of Christian writers, speakers and leaders. I have learned much at SpeakUp. One of the things I learned—through witnessing your show vulnerability in your own situation—is honest conversation and vulnerability help people understand and examine their own hearts in relation to their situations. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. When they understand, they are more likely to come alongside. I wanted to give people a window into my heart and offer a message of hope.



  11. Maree dee on 2020-06-11 at 9:49 AM

    Sheila – Your words are helpful. I love your list of how to stand up against racism. We all need to do our part. I have been blinded far too long about racism and open to learning and being a part of the healing. Blessings, Maree



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:09 AM

      Thank you, Maree. The beautiful thing about Christ is we can let go of the past and move forward in the commitment to do better. Amen?



  12. Susan on 2020-06-11 at 12:03 AM

    This is so beautiful. Thank you, Sheila, for sharing these words. Christians need this reminder to seek to do what Jesus did: lead with Love.



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:16 AM

      Thank you, Susan. I have been humbled by how God is using my experiences to turn others toward Him.



  13. Athena Dean Holtz on 2020-06-10 at 10:29 PM

    Oh Sheila, this is so good! I know not all whites are racist, but so many of us are simply ignorant of what you face every day … constantly judged based on the color of your skin. Thank you for addressing this in a healthy, biblical way … we need more voices like yours! THANK YOU!



    • Sheila Qualls on 2020-06-12 at 10:24 AM

      You’re welcomed, Athena. Being easily offended does not help the situation. Thanks for your thoughtful words and truth.



  14. Bonnie Emmorey on 2020-06-10 at 9:02 PM

    Sheila, your words of wisdom are greatly needed right now, and I pray that racial healing comes to our country.



    • Sheila on 2020-06-10 at 10:05 PM

      Thank you, Bonnie. I am optimistic. Focusing on what we have in common instead of what divides us opens dialogue and brings healing.



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