After hearing about the recent shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling I started asking myself what I might be able to offer to the community in terms of creating an opportunity for transformation. Soon I was supplied with an answer and a subsequent confirmation. On Thursday afternoon as I walked down Pearl Street in Downtown Boulder, CO I noticed a considerable number of mixed couples of nearly every combination. As I walked pass each one I found myself wondering whether or not they would be discussing the shootings that night. I was especially interested in how the black and white couples would handle that issue. Not too soon after having these thoughts, I came across a mother and daughter holding a “free hugs” sign. The mother is white and the father of the daughter was clearly black. For a second I thought about stopping to hug them, but I initially kept walking.
A few minutes later after leaving the bank I decided to ask them why they were holding the sign and they expressed that they, “had to do something to show that love is bigger than all of this.” And with that I hugged them and walked away reflecting on how this woman and her daughter, who looked just like a brown version of her mother, chose to do something, anything to shine a light on the illusion perpetrated by our society that says, “fear is stronger than love”. Suddenly, the sadness that was looming over me turned to hope as I thought of how they offered their bodies as a living billboard for transformation. Even though they were being passed by scores of people who were more interested in shopping and street shows, they smiled into the sea of people and made a difference to me and whoever else was blessed by one of their hugs.
After meeting them I could feel an idea brewing in my consciousness about something I could do to shine the light of love. By the time I came across another mixed couple, I knew what it was. I just came up to them and asked if they thought holding a discussion about race through the lens of people in mixed relationships would be of service. They said “absolutely”. The husband of the next couple I asked called it “an innovative idea” and another couple said if they weren’t just in Colorado visiting they would definitely come. This got me excited, but I still didn’t really know if I wanted to put myself out there like that. Honestly, you never know who will take such an event as an opportunity to spread dissension. But then the next day I had an experience that told me that it was something that I had to do. Without going to deeply into it, I witnessed a mixed couple struggling to talk about this issue and I could almost see the wall coming up between them as the man almost in tears walked away and the woman’s heart closed down.
Of course if you’re in a relationship, you know that this can happen over any issue. But the hope of an intentional relationship is that it can–through love–overcome this tendency to find a place of agreement. But, if two people in an actual relationship can’t talk to each other openly about these issues, how much more difficult might it be for people who for all intents and purposes have no interactions with each other? It seems like the cooperation we need in order to shift this insanity is next to impossible doesn’t it? But what if those of us who are already breaking racial, cultural, and other social barriers through our romantic relationships can learn to intelligently articulate what we are learning in our very cells? After thinking about it a little, I started to suspect that we might be surprised to discover that this world might be able to shift a lot faster than we can imagine. The way I see it, the love we need to heal this world in not in short supply. It is just not shared.
That’s why with the cooperation of the church where I serve as Associate Pastor, The First Congregational Church of Boulder, I will be hosting a discussion on race through the lens of interracial and intercultural relationships called Mixed Feelings on Race? It’s my hope that this event will plant the seeds for more of us to learn how to leverage the work we’re doing in the privacy of our homes for the betterment of the planet. If you’re in the are local to Boulder, I’d love to see you there. If you are outside of this area and you have access to a place to hold a similar dialogue, I encourage you to do so. Like that mother and daughter showed me, all of us can “do something to show that love is bigger than all of this [hate, fear, guilt, etc.] We don’t have to do it all. We just have to do what we can.
Facebook link for this event – https://www.facebook.com/events/978892222208123/