I want to help you understand my lament.

I'm hurting, friend. I'm hurting deeply. And I'm being told to suck it up and put away my pain and move on. Rather than call those responses insensitive, I want to help you understand my lament, if I can. 

My heart is so tender, and I'm praying with each word that they will be received in the manner in which I intend. I know a lot of voices are shouting right now. I hope to be a voice that pulls up a chair to chat over coffee and share my heart. 

I occupy a unique space. Here is our family from a couple Easters ago.

I'm white, but four of my children aren't. I was born here into a family that dates back to the pilgrim days, but four of my children are immigrants from Asia and Africa. I have ancestors who fought under the Confederate flag, but I've been targeted online as a "race traitor" for adopting outside of our ethnicity. I easily pass as having no disabilities (though I live with chronic conditions that are invisible yet can be disabling plus I have minor physical disabilities from childhood abuse), but I'm raising children who live with autism and cerebral palsy and HIV and visual impairments, including one who uses a wheelchair. My husband and I are straight and fit into accepted gender norms, but we have dear friends and neighbors who aren't or don't. I'm a Christian, but last year a Muslim friend of mine and her son waited at the preschool until we arrived to walk in with me and Zoe because she was afraid to walk in by herself after the Paris terrorism attacks.

And I occupy one common space: I am a woman who, like 1 in 6, has been raped. I am a woman who was sexually harassed in my workspace and whispered about when I filed a grievance against the man in power who objectified me. I am a woman raised by a father who doesn't "read books by women because they aren't any good." (And I'm a writer, so the hurt is doubled there.)

I am grieving. Many are reading this as being a sore loser. But that's not how I'm feeling. I have voted in five presidential elections, and my candidate only won one of them. It's not new for me to watch election results and see that it didn't go the way I voted.

But I've never felt this way before. And I want you to understand my lament. I want to try to help you grasp the depth of and heart behind this pain.

Before that, let me be clear about what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that I feel this way because the candidate I voted for wasn't elected; that's not the basis of my feelings. I'm not saying that I don't trust God; I do. I'm not saying that I reject anyone who disagrees; I find beauty in our diversity of all forms. 

What I am saying is please don't dismiss my pain or put a timeline on anyone's grief. Hold space. In the words of James 1, please be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to become angry. 

(And if you're wondering, I've confessed to God and others when I've fallen short there too. I'm not pointing to a speck in your eye while I have a log in my own. I promise. And I wrote these words today instead of yesterday because I couldn't ask others to repent yet then without words dripping with my own sinful arrogance.)

I'm not going to list every way Trump acted or spoke in hurtful ways about groups to which my family belongs. This post isn't about him. He is our next president. I am praying for him. I'm even rooting for him. I genuinely hope none of the grave concerns I have about his leadership, character, and policies will be accurate. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

But I believe Maya Angelou is right when she said, "when people show you who they are, believe them." This post isn't about who Trump is. We've known that for a while. This post is what the votes of white evangelicals have shown me about who they are. 

I don't believe most people who voted for him did so because of his expressions and actions of racism or ableism or xenophobia or misogyny or sexual assault or religious discrimination. I'm not saying that's who you are if you filled the bubble by his name. I want to think the best of my neighbors, so I'm telling myself you were driven by other reasons. 

But? Whatever your reasons, a vote for Trump required a rationalization. 

What he said about "the blacks" is terrible, but...

What he said on mic about sexually assaulting women is awful, but...

How he mocked several people with disabilities isn't okay, but...

His statement that immigrants are rapists and criminals was out of line, but...

I could keep going. I think you get the idea, though. In order to vote for Trump, something mattered more to you than his mistreatment or discrimination of certain groups. Whatever followed the "but..." is why you voted for him. Maybe it had to do with the economy or the Supreme Court or his anti-establishment vibe or [fill in the blank]. I trust that you had your reasons. Some policy aspect of his was compelling (or of hers was so awful to you that you felt like you had to vote for the person with the best chance of stopping Hillary).

But here's the deal: Your policy stance followed the "but..." Our personhood preceded it.

So to me, here is what I hear:

What he said about Patience, Philip, and Patricia is terrible, but...

What he said on mic about sexually assaulting someone just like you were assaulted is awful, but...

How he mocked Zoe and Robbie and you isn't okay, but...

His statement that Patience, Philip, Patricia, and Zoe are rapists and criminals was out of line, but...

Can you pause for a moment and empathize with how that feels?

You can say I'm being too sensitive. You can tell me I'm taking it too personally. You can try to dismiss my feelings. (You wouldn't be the first.)

I'm writing this because I want to help you understand my lament, though. I do. But it is sensitive and personal and rooted in some valid feelings. So trying to help you understand means I have to be vulnerable and open myself up to criticisms from the cheap seats. 

My heart was broken when I realized Trump had won. I didn't have much time to work through my feelings, though, because I'm a mom. Our kids had been being told by classmates that they would be sent back to Uganda if Trump was elected. I had been responding with truth and compassion, but I also didn't think he'd win. When he did, I had to struggle with how to find the words to help her feel secure and prepare her for how to respond when those kids said anything that day after, emboldened by a Trump win. (This is the same child who had a classmate yell, "go back to Africa!" at her last year after Trump's campaign had taken off with racist undertones.) I coached her white sister through how to respond and how to have her sister's back. I walked them in to the elementary school, and I spoke with my kids' teachers to make sure they were aware of these concerns. 

And then I walked back to my van and wept. 

And then I went on social media and was told that my grief came from being a sore loser, that I was being divisive by sharing my hurt, and that I was more concerned with the gospel of Shannon than the gospel of Christ.

And I wept some more. 

I don't think most of my white Christian brothers and sisters intended their votes as racist or ableist or misogynistic or anti-immigrant acts. But? Overwhelmingly, white evangelicals voted for Trump, deciding that their "but..." reasons trumped discrimination against our family. This isn't an isolated event, though; our previous church supported the adoption of black children but then members became critical of me and my faith when I began speaking out about racial injustice, and every week I hear from families who are asked to leave their church because their children's disabilities are too much to accommodate. That makes me feel like the church - at least the white church - isn't for my family, if their political priorities are more important than our personal pain. 

I knew how to handle it when my daughter didn't feel safe at school. But the church - especially the white evangelical church - does not seem safe to me right now for my family. I'm not sure how to handle that. I am listening to try to learn and love better, but what I'm hearing is often hurting me more deeply. I want to understand you, but I'm being wounded in the process. I really don't know what to do with this.

Right now, I'm feeling like the man left beaten and bloody by the side of the road, while my religious neighbors pass on the other side. A sizeable chunk of my white Christian brothers and sisters - maybe you among them - voted for a man who unapologetically disrespected so many groups to which our family belongs: immigrants, women, people of color, those with disabilities, and sexual assault survivors. It's good that my faith in God is firm, because right now my faith in his church is shaky.

I'm still for the church. I'm just not sure the church - at least the segment that looks like me - is still for me. 

And that's why I am lamenting. 

At 8, our girls are no longer surprised by hate, racism, and violence.

"The girls handled the conversations better than I would have hoped. As we talked about 9 black brothers and sisters in Christ being killed in a historic church, they took it well," I told Lee as I put on my blush Sunday morning.

My makeup brush dropped to the counter with his reply: "How sad."

He continued, "At 8, our girls are no longer surprised by hate, racism, and violence. They shouldn't handle it well. None of us should."

No, we shouldn't. But for my friends in the black community and allies like me who have been listening and learning, we grieved last week but we weren't shocked. While so many white friends see this as an isolated event, we see a pattern.

We hear Trayvon called a man whose hoodie made him worthy of death while the man who killed him is considered justified, even as his story since then has shown a pattern of hotheaded violence. We hear Mike Brown called a man and a thug and a menace and even a demon and Ferguson not race-motivated, even as we hear data that speaks differently. We hear Dajerria called a woman at 14, and we hear people continuing to defend the officer's actions even after he apologized and admitted he had overreacted. We hear about John Crawford being killed in a WalMart for holding a toy gun after a white couple made a 911 call in which they lied about what was happening to make him sound threatening. We hear Eric Garner blamed for the police brutality that led to his death because he resisted arrest and was selling loose cigarettes, nevermind that neither are capital crimes. We hear Tamir Rice called "a young man" by the police chief even though he was only 12 when officers shot and killed him for carrying a toy gun in the park. We hear white friends express that it's easier for them to believe that Freddie Gray severed his own spine than it is to believe that officers acted dishonorably. We hear them say "who?" when we talk about Aiyana, the seven-year-old girl who died when an officer discharged his weapon into a wall as she slept on the other side. We hear silence when Kalief committed suicide as if three years at Rikers without trial and with abuse didn't likely contribute to his mental state. We hear ourselves ask how differently the story would have played out if no one recorded the shooting of Walter Scott, and we pretend we don't know the answer.

And then we hear people ask again and again and again and again and again and again if maybe the murderous act of terrorism in Charleston was an assault on religion rather than race, even when the news was already reporting that the shooter said he wanted "to kill black people."

And then we hear Dylann Roof described as a young man with a blunt sugar-bowl haircut - even though he's older than Trayvon was and Mike Brown was and Tamir Rice was and Dajerria is, and they were all described as adults - and a loner and quiet and a misguided youth and a sweet kid and someone who probably has mental health issues, and we're not surprised. This is the usual minimizing narrative when the criminal is a white male, who might be described as smart or soft-hearted as we point fingers at bullying and failed mental health supports and childhood mistreatment and mental illness whereas we tend to point fingers at the criminal rightly and even the victim wrongly when he or she happens to be black.

(See this for more commentary on these disparities.)

And then we hear the judge handling Roof's first court date calling the shooter's family "victims" in this situation, which didn't sit well by itself but became even more concerning when paired with this judge's having been reprimanded in 2003 for using the n word from the bench. (For good reason, the judge has been removed from the case now, and we were a little surprised and thankful upon hearing that news.)

And then we hear Roof's name and see his face again and again, while the faces and names of Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson aren't known as well by most of us.

We feel like we're listening on a loop while no one else notices that our ears are bleeding.

Rather than denying the patterns and preparing rebuttals, would you be willing to listen to us? To sit with our words before you respond? To consider how the lived experiences of others might differ from your own? To question why you're willing to listen more to me as a white woman than to people of color saying the same things? To celebrate the testimonies of forgiveness, yes, but also to continue to recognize the tensions of racist patterns that require such mercy to be extended again and again by our black brothers and sisters? To decry vandalism and violence in riots, yes, but also to try to understand the resigned anger behind the actions, the feeling that drastic acts are necessary to get white attention?

Would you consider learning those names I listed above like we have?

“In the meantime, Black folks will continue to go to church. We will worship and restore ourselves and mourn. As we have done after Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Medgar, Jordan, Tarika, Martin, Emmett, Eleanor and so many, many more. We will console and pray and hope that this sleeping country up wakes up. That others – self-aware, non-black folks – will see the full horror of Charleston and desire to exorcise the demons of our history and present culture.”
— — Joshua DuBois, We Need To Talk About White Culture

Then the next time this sort of things happens - and I sadly expect that there will be a next time, just like my daughters do - maybe you'll see the pattern too. Maybe you'll join us in being sad but not surprised.

And maybe you'll begin asking with us, "What can we do to change this?"

(I'm not going to answer that question here. No, this isn't a cop out as much as it's a cop out to expect every blogger to tell you what you should do in response. Simply put, I think the answer will be different for each of us. But doing nothing and saying nothing isn't going to bring about change, so DO SOMETHING and SAY SOMETHING. Please.)

my past and present are sometimes at tension. that's okay. #takeitdown

Some ancestors on my mom's side arrived in this country around 1620.

All of them I can trace were white, though (like many families) we have rumors of some Native American ancestry somewhere (and like many white families, those rumors are probably bogus).

As well established and well-to-do land owners, many of them owned slaves.

I know some of those ancestors fought as part of the confederacy, following articles of secession that explicitly argued for three of my children to be considered property instead of people.

If my grandmother was right, I'm somehow related to Jefferson Davis on her side of the family.

My dad is a history buff who participates in reenactments of multiple time periods, including as a Confederate solider (though he's pictured below attired as a Quartermaster Sergeant from the 2nd Seminole War, circa 1837).

photo by Mark Rodriguez

Almost every member of my family can look back on most periods of history as "good ol' days" even if they were times in which my multiracial family wouldn't have been tolerated.

Before he retired, my daddy ran the jail system as a major in our county's sheriff's office and served at one point as the president of the American Jail Association.

And I'm the mother of black, white, and Asian children.

My past and present are messy and sometimes at tension with each other. Yours probably are too, albeit in different ways.

I've been blogging and posting elsewhere lately about the conversations we need to be having about race and progress and privilege. As we have these conversations, we don't have to hide our histories and deny the tensions therein. No, let's pull it all out of the shadows and into the light. Let's all bring our collective lived experiences to the table, joining together in the kind of beautiful harmony or tapestry that can only exist when diverse members intermix.

As we do, perhaps our grip on our own histories might loosen as we realize the other side of that experience. Mine certainly has, which is why I - as a descendant of those who raised the Confederate battle flag - join with the voices calling for it to be taken down and only displayed in museums with other relics of yesteryear.

on privilege vs. guilt

A couple months ago, an old high school friend posted a status message asking anyone who thought white privilege was real to unfriend him. I didn't. Instead I commented something like this, "I definitely do, though I'm not going to argue with you. I think it's possible to remain friends even if we disagree, but if you don't, feel free to do whatever you think is best."

He unfriended me.

I'm not sure why discussions of privilege are so upsetting. Consider a few examples...

Zoe can't walk because of cerebral palsy. Patu can. Patu possesses a privilege Zoe doesn't have. We could call that ability privilege.

A couple of our children possess the privilege of having grown up in the same family their entire lives, being raised by both biological parents and being loved and provided for every day of their lives. The rest of our children don't have that privilege. We could call that family privilege.

When I moved into my apartment in college, I assumed at first that the top shelves in the kitchen were broken because my roommates hadn't used them. Then I realized I, at 5 foot 7, had the privilege of being able to reach all the shelves while Kristina, 5'3"ish, and Lisa, just shy of 5 feet tall, didn't. We could call that height privilege.

In college, some friends took lighter course loads while they worked part- or full-time jobs to pay for tuition. My parents provided that for me. We could call that an example of socioeconomic privilege.

Do you notice what's absent from each of those examples?


I don't expect Patu to feel guilty because Zoe can't walk while she can. I don't expect Jocelyn and Robbie to feel guilty for their family privilege. When I realized my height privilege in the apartment, I chose to use the top shelves for my stuff and leave the lower ones for my roomies to show honor to them, but I didn't feel guilty over it. As I had more time for service projects, study sessions, and ahem parties in college, I felt thankful for my privileges rather than guilty because of them.

More often than not, when I see white friends arguing against white privilege, they bring guilt into the argument. But recognizing privilege is meant to spur us into action not guilt. If your reaction to privilege is, "What am I supposed to feel about this? Are you saying I should feel guilty?" then you're missing the point. Instead we should ask, "What good can I do with this privilege?"

That's what Jocelyn did recently. When we went shopping for makeup for their dance recital, she was upset that the first store carried lots of shades of foundation that matched her skin but only one per brand for her black sisters. "Mommy," she asked, "don't they know that black people come in lots of shades too?" She noticed her own privilege and didn't feel guilty. Instead, she asked if she could write a letter to someone, and this week we delivered her letter to the store manager asking for them to expand their makeup offerings, just like when she and Patience wrote to Mattel about their concerns for Barbie's lack of diversity.

Bear with me, please, for one last example. When I swam in high school, I became good friends with my teammate Haley. When our coach gave instructions, he regularly failed to look in Haley's direction even though he knew she was Deaf and relied on lip reading to understand. Knowing my privilege, I'd turn to Haley and repeat the number of laps, time intervals, and kind of stroke to use. I didn't feel guilty, but I used my privilege to even the playing (er, swimming?) field, though it would have been better if the coach had been considerate enough to allow her to see his lips in the first place.

Please, let's stop arguing before we even stop to listen. Please, let's honestly evaluate what each one of us brings to the table. Please, let's strive to do good to others above all else.


Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.
— Proverbs 3:27

What would it look like today for you and me to set aside our defensive responses about guilt and instead consider how we can use our privileges - whether they be based in race or gender or religion or ability or economics or height or family resources or something else - to show honor to someone else?