Reimagining the Good Life with Amy Julia Becker

S3 E5 | Why I Wrote White Picket Fences

July 21, 2020 Niro Feliciano Season 3 Episode 5
S3 E5 | Why I Wrote White Picket Fences
Reimagining the Good Life with Amy Julia Becker
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Reimagining the Good Life with Amy Julia Becker
S3 E5 | Why I Wrote White Picket Fences
Jul 21, 2020 Season 3 Episode 5
Niro Feliciano

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When it comes to the enduring legacy of racism, what place is there for forgiveness, humility, and healing? On today’s episode, Amy Julia’s friend Niro Feliciano interviews her about how she came to write White Picket Fences and what she has learned in talking about social divisions over the past few years. {This episode originally aired on Niro's podcast—All Things Life.}

Show Notes:

Niro Feliciano is a certified cognitive therapist and is the co-founder of a multi-specialty mental health group—Integrative Counseling and Wellness Group in Wilton, CT. Follow Niro at, on Facebook at Niro Feliciano, The Incidental Therapist, and on Instagram at @niro_feliciano.

In our conversation, we talk about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community,” which you can read more about here, and we talk about how Black authors topped the New York Times bestseller list.

We also discuss talking to children about racism, privilege, and current events, which you can learn more about from my interview with Patricia Raybon and my interview with our children.

We mention the shooting of Philando Castile, as well as Head, Heart, Hands, which is an action guide to accompany White Picket Fences, and our family’s Civil Rights tour.

I mention Osheta Moore's Dear White Peacemaker podcast.

Finally, we mention two Bible passages: Micah 6:8 and Isaiah 20.

This podcast season is called White Picket Fences, and it is based on my book White Picket Fences: Turning Towards Love in a World Divided by Privilege. Learn more about White Picket Fences! Also check out free RESOURCES to accompany White Picket Fences—action guide, discussion guides—that are designed to help you respond. Learn more about my writing and speaking at

Connect with me:

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

When it comes to the enduring legacy of racism, what place is there for forgiveness, humility, and healing? On today’s episode, Amy Julia’s friend Niro Feliciano interviews her about how she came to write White Picket Fences and what she has learned in talking about social divisions over the past few years. {This episode originally aired on Niro's podcast—All Things Life.}

Show Notes:

Niro Feliciano is a certified cognitive therapist and is the co-founder of a multi-specialty mental health group—Integrative Counseling and Wellness Group in Wilton, CT. Follow Niro at, on Facebook at Niro Feliciano, The Incidental Therapist, and on Instagram at @niro_feliciano.

In our conversation, we talk about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community,” which you can read more about here, and we talk about how Black authors topped the New York Times bestseller list.

We also discuss talking to children about racism, privilege, and current events, which you can learn more about from my interview with Patricia Raybon and my interview with our children.

We mention the shooting of Philando Castile, as well as Head, Heart, Hands, which is an action guide to accompany White Picket Fences, and our family’s Civil Rights tour.

I mention Osheta Moore's Dear White Peacemaker podcast.

Finally, we mention two Bible passages: Micah 6:8 and Isaiah 20.

This podcast season is called White Picket Fences, and it is based on my book White Picket Fences: Turning Towards Love in a World Divided by Privilege. Learn more about White Picket Fences! Also check out free RESOURCES to accompany White Picket Fences—action guide, discussion guides—that are designed to help you respond. Learn more about my writing and speaking at

Connect with me:

Thanks for listening!

Note: This transcript is generated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

0 (4s):
Hello friends. This is Amy Julia Becker, and I'm the host of love is stronger than fear. Today's episode is different from what we've been doing, because today I am the one being interviewed. I wanted to share with you this interview with my dear friend, neuro Feliciano, neuro is a psychotherapist and a speaker, and she interviewed me a few weeks ago for her podcast. All things life. I wanted to share this conversation with you because it offers my reflections on our current moment alongside the story of how I came to write white picket fences.

0 (37s):
And since we're talking about white picket fences, in some way on each episode of this podcast, I thought it might be helpful to get a summary of the book of what it took for me to write it and what I've learned in these years since its publication. So I hope you enjoy this conversation between two old friends about forgiveness, humility, the harm of racism and the possibilities for all of us to participate in healing.

1 (1m 4s):
Well, Amy, Julia, I think you know how excited I am to have you on the spot.

0 (1m 8s):
Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here too.

1 (1m 11s):
So crazy though. Right? When you think about us and we've been friends now for how long, 30 years, that's, we're old, that's all.

0 (1m 20s):
No, I could have friends for that long,

1 (1m 23s):
You know, and, and I mean, we weren't just friends. We were like best friends. You know, we spent all our time together at 14, 15, we lived in the same place. But to think about the plans that God had for us later, I mean, decades down the line, right?

0 (1m 40s):
So many different aspects of our lives together, including just even being like physically in close proximity as adults, when we, for so many years did not live nearby. I'd love it.

1 (1m 50s):
I know it's so true. And especially at this time where the conversation looks like it does right now. Yeah. Yeah. What I, what I told Amy Julia, before we jumped on this call is that she's like my expert on white people. I go to you and, and not just because you are a white person, but you're such an educated and informed resource for me to gauge other perspective, this other perspective that I might not have. So I so appreciate that. And I think we're all appreciating that right now with white picket fences, your book, I mean, your book, your book, you were ready.

0 (2m 28s):
Well, it is a funny thing because yeah, so I wrote this book, white picket fences that came out in 2018. So almost two years ago, and you know, it was definitely a book that people read and we talked about and got to do a ton of speaking. But at the same time, it was a bit of an under the radar, you know, kind of like inside baseball, you know, if you know it, you know it, but it was not something certainly that was rising to the top of the charts. And I would have said a couple of months ago, like, okay, it's, it's done its like I'm ready to work on the next book.

0 (3m 2s):
And then after George Floyd was killed and the protests began, I started to see on social media, just people recommending white picket fences. And you actually, I talked to you and you said, you know, I'm really praying that this book would, this would be the moment where people really find out about this book. And the last couple of weeks, there has been just a really increased interest in the book. And I'm so grateful for that to feel like, yeah, I was, I guess I was ready. I was a couple of years ahead of a lot of other white people.

0 (3m 33s):
Not long ahead, not decades ahead, but a couple years ahead, as far as really thinking through what does it mean to be a white person and what does it mean to be a person of faith like to not live? I know that I don't want to live in shame and guilt and fear, but I also know I don't want to live in denial of harm and injustice. And so what does it mean to reckon with this in a way that like honors the, my parents and the places I've come from and the people who've loved me and brought me up and the complicated people that all of them are as far as, especially when it comes to questions of race and justice, but all sorts of things.

0 (4m 13s):
And then what does it also mean to name all of the things that have been wrong in our country, in my history and my personal life. It was a long, hard process and I'm certainly still a part of it. But I think a lot of white people are actually more interested and feel more compelled. Like I really have to face this and I want white picket fences to be a guide that says, you know, if you take the bandaid off and you look at the wound, what that's gonna allow you to do is clean it out and let it finally heal, you know, for you for other people like this is pointing us and not just, we don't want to skip to healing, but at the same time, like that is where we're headed.

0 (4m 59s):
We're headed towards hope and healing. And right now we're stuck in so many of us like either denial and apathy or guilt and shame, and let's not stay stuck there. Like let's do the work to get towards healing and wholeness. That's my hope.

1 (5m 16s):
That's such a great analogy. And I want to talk about that for a second, but let me just mention you are minimizing the interest in the book. It is sold out on Amazon. It is sold out on Barnes and noble and you wrote this when,

0 (5m 28s):
Well it came out in October of 2018, right?

1 (5m 31s):
Right. Like almost a year and a half ago, right? Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, if, if anyone, if you're listening to this right now, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. And we're going to talk a little bit about the book, but I love the analogy of the bandaid of taking off the bandaid and looking at the wound and what you just said, we, we need to go to healing, but we can't kind of jump to healing. There's a process before we get to healing or in that's involved in the healing.

1 (6m 2s):
Right. And, and I notice in the church, we talk a lot about forgiveness first. Right. And which is great. And I think we're all called to forgive as people of faith. But can you talk a little bit about why forgiveness actually doesn't come first in this process unless God has given you that heart to forgive, you know, supernaturally, right.

0 (6m 23s):
I think there are two things. One. So for white people may be somewhere along the way. There are going to be individual situations where we have some forgiving to do, but mostly it's finding ourselves in a place of needing forgiveness and that's a place of humility and of actually of helplessness, because we certainly know that we can be forgiven by God, whether that is for our just kind of implicit participation in just and racist systems or in overt things that we have done that have harmed other people when it comes to race and justice.

0 (7m 3s):
So there's a place, a position of humility and helplessness in front of our other Christian or non-Christian, you know, fellow human beings and that's uncomfortable and that's hard. But then there's the place that even when forgiveness is offered, that doesn't mean that reconciliation is happens, right? Like, so there's a couple of different. So there's first like lament confession, repentance. Like I see that something has gone really, really wrong here and I've been a part of it.

0 (7m 37s):
And I want to acknowledge that and actually reckon with it and experience the harm of that. Then there's receiving forgiveness, but that gets you back to zero. You know what I mean? Then there's the work of repair and the possibility of reconciliation, right? Like that's a long road. I mean, I feel like we certainly know that we have forgiveness from God and it is a gift of God that we are able to forgive one another as human beings.

0 (8m 8s):
But even that forgiveness doesn't mean, and now our relationship among humans is like totally restored. And I just absolutely trust you and we're going to be great, right? I mean, there's still a lot of work to do in order to repair and to build trust and to listen and to learn and to grow. So I think there's forgiveness can be a shortcut or it can be its own bandaid that, and probably it's not really forgiveness if it's that. But I think that at least in my life I've often wanted to not deal with pain and said, instead of I'm going to really like actually my daughter merrily at one of the things I so admire about her is that I'll do something that upsets, you know, besetting like where I truly will screw.

0 (8m 55s):
And I'll say to her, I'm very sorry, will you forgive me? And she's like, no, I'm hurt. I'm not ready to forgive you. And she's just very honest about it. And I so appreciate that because I just, if someone asks me for forgiveness, I always say yes, like it's like, Oh my gosh, it would be wrong if I didn't forgive you as opposed to do. I really like, do I? And she's usually like, no, no, I got like, I'm sitting in this hurt for awhile and I'm mad at you because you shouldn't have done that. And I hope she's learning, you know, grace and forgiveness along the way, but I appreciate her unwillingness to forgive because of the honesty there.

0 (9m 35s):
And I think that for a lot of us who are white Christians in particular acknowledging pain means sitting in the discomfort of that and uncertainty really of those broken relationships and really needing to plead with God, to come in and help us do the work by the spirit of Jesus to actually repair and heal.

1 (10m 1s):
I think, like you said, in the lament piece, that first piece is just acknowledging that there is a wound, right? Understanding what it looks like, maybe where it came from. And your example with Marilee reminds me, oftentimes when I'm in the office and I'm facilitating sessions either between a parent and a child or a couple, and one describes the situation and the, and the other, or that they were hurt. And the other says, well, I'm sorry, it's not effective until that person understands what they've done to hurt the other person and why they need to be sorry for it.

1 (10m 35s):
Right. Until you have the complete understanding of the picture, you can say, sorry, but still not understand what you're apologizing for. Right. And then, then it becomes a bandaid. So because you're more likely to do it again or participate in it, unless you really understand how it evolved to be the situation it was. So, yeah, no, I love that explanation. And I think, I think that's so important to, as people of faith that we understand that process, right. That we understand the process to get there, to get to the healing, to get to the repair and what has to come before it.

1 (11m 9s):
Yeah, for sure. Let's talk about your book. Okay. So Amy, Julia, my friends who I met at boarding school, a very white environment, right. I mean, they, they tried, we had diversity day, we had a little gospel choir, but it was, it was pretty much white. And that's where you made me your Brown friend and that's great. Right. And, and then went on to Princeton and you do have a background in African American studies. It was your minor, right?

0 (11m 37s):
It was. And I mean, I do wonder like whether, if I had not been best friends with you, I mean, it's not as though you were the one who pointed me towards being African American studies minor, but, but I did really appreciate our friendship obviously in high school, as well as we took some classes together where we did get to read some of African American literature, like it really was literature that got me there. And so I just started taking some African American studies classes and really loved what I was learning there first on just the literature side, but then more broadly, as far as history and culture.

0 (12m 15s):
And so I just kept taking classes and, and learned a lot and it really did shape the way I saw the world in a helpful way.

1 (12m 22s):
African American literature is one of the best teachers you could have. Right. I mean, it's, it's just everything in it. And you actually study with Tony Morrison at Princeton, I know phenomenal, phenomenal. And you sent me a book signed by her one of her books, which I still have. And I remember, and I treasure, but grew up, grew up in North Carolina, then then lived in Greenwich. Right? Yeah. So where did this come from? How, how did you get here? What, what was it that motivated you to write this?

0 (12m 51s):
Yeah, so I mean, a couple of things I've written a couple other books and they have all come out of life experiences beginning with my oldest daughter, penny, who's now 14 when she was born, she was diagnosed with down syndrome and I wouldn't have had these words for it at the time. But looking back on it, I think I had grown up in a world of the, you know, shorthand for it is called privilege. I think of privilege as unearned social advantages. And that was included my whiteness for sure. But it also included having married parents who were college educated and who had wealth, that meant that we had stability.

0 (13m 28s):
I didn't worry about college loans. I was able to have just a assumptions about getting jobs and having safety and security in my life that many people don't have. So I grew up with all of those unearned advantages and sure. I also had struggles and I worked hard and, you know, we could talk about that or not. But when penny was born, she also was born into whiteness and wealth and married, educated parents. And she was born with a disability and a disability that, you know, in the history of our nation has meant exclusion, rejection, untimely death, and real prejudice and bigotry.

0 (14m 7s):
Like she was born into a different history than I was as a person with down syndrome. And, you know, parents, we identify with our kids like that. It became a part of my identity and certainly an area of concern that was not just in my head, but also in my heart. And so for a long time, when I thought about penny, I did begin to think about other people who are marginalized in our culture. And I think for a long time, I wanted to just advocate for her and fight for justice for her and for anyone else who was excluded from being seen as like the full, valuable, gifted human being that they are.

0 (14m 48s):
But I still had an attitude of kind of like I to make it possible for you to be like me. So I was still pretty centered in all of it, you know, like, and even on superficial levels, like I want everyone to have the opportunity to give their children ballet classes, you know, and it's like, some people don't actually want that opportunity, but, but I do want everyone to have opportunities to have choices anyway, and over time, what I realized was there was so much that I was lacking that penny was giving me and that being in encounters with people with disabilities was giving me that had to do with letting go of achievement and productivity as like the measures of my worth.

0 (15m 33s):
And that had to do with letting go of some of the values that tend to get associated with whiteness and wealth and education. All of which I, you know, I don't think those are bad things, but at the same time, they can lead to a really insulated and anxious anxiety producing a way of being. And penny really helped me to break out of that. So I gotten to this place of recognizing the, what I care about is not you becoming like me, but us being able to actually relate to each other in relationships of self-giving of giving and receiving of recognizing each other's brokenness and caring for each other in that, and recognizing each other's gifts and being able to give to each other in that.

0 (16m 20s):
And so, yeah,

2 (16m 21s):
The book came out of that

0 (16m 23s):
Recognition. So it's not a book, that's like an advocacy book. It's a book that is about what it meant to wake up to privilege in my own life. I just see it for what it was and to see the harm that it did. Yes. In terms of excluding people who are not like me, but it also the harm that it did to me in cutting me off from a world of valuable, beautiful, challenging human beings and how I wanted to help to break those walls down, not just for other people, but also for me and for everyone else who felt kind of trapped within the bounds of privilege, not just those who are excluded from them.

0 (17m 8s):
And so then I looked back and it's like, yeah, I've got this life. I mean, it's a funny life where I grew up in a small town in North Carolina with parents, from Connecticut. And then we moved to this kind of epicenter of what you would think of as a place of privilege in Greenwich, Connecticut. And I went to boarding school and I went to Princeton, but you know, lo and behold, my best friend is a Brown woman and I'm an African American studies minor. And I'm thinking about all these things. And then I have a child with down syndrome. And so it felt like all of those things together gave me a way to talk, to tell my story that might invite other.

0 (17m 43s):
And I was thinking, especially of other white people who were a little bit scared of this topic, I will want it to write right. In such a way that it invited them into the topic and said, I'd love to have a conversation about this. And I'd love to invite you to find your own story where you can in my story. And so I'll offer that to you.

1 (18m 4s):
So good. So good. And, and one thing that you said, especially as people of faith, right? You said you were re you were realizing what you were missing in your life by not addressing this by not acknowledging it and the harm that it was doing to you. I love dr. Nita Phillips said how, especially as people, faith, we believe that we were all made in the image of God. So if we are not seeing a certain people, we're actually not seeing a piece of God that is reflected in those people, because we're also different.

1 (18m 36s):
And, and when we can't see a piece of God as, as a person of faith, I mean, that is our loss, right, where we're missing the truths up a piece of the truth of who God is and what he looks like. Right. And that's harmful to us. So, right.

0 (18m 51s):
And that's, I mean, I think going back to dr. King's work, as far as the beloved community and recognizing the ways in which the white oppressors are being harmed by their oppression, just as the ones who are on the receiving end of that oppression are being harmed by it. Like yes, you know, oppression and violence and injustice, tears, all of us apart. Like it is not something we talk about. I mean, I, I trip up on this sometimes, cause I talk about like the privileges of my life that have benefited me.

0 (19m 25s):
And there is a benefit, like I know that not having the stress when it comes to safety and security and being able to like put food on the table, like that's a real, and that plays out in our health outcomes and it matters. But on the flip side of that, I see the levels. If you, you know, anxiety, depression, substance abuse in wealthy, predominantly white, highly educated communities. And you're like, guys, this quote unquote like privileged life, like it's not working very well because people are sad and they're sick and their kids are on this like pressure cooker that often ends in like terrible acts of despair.

0 (20m 7s):
So this is harming everyone. And I, you know, I don't mean to say the harm is the same, but at the same time, yeah. We might need to give up some like power and prestige and wealth in order for this ultimately to be rectified. But is that not worth it for actually encountering other human beings in the fullness of their beautiful humanity? And like, as you just said, getting a fuller picture of who God is and being able to like participate fully in that.

0 (20m 37s):
I mean, that just seems so worth it. To me,

1 (20m 41s):
It feels to me, you and I talked about this briefly that there is an awakening going on right now and you wrote about it, how an awakening, it's a good thing, but it also can be an uncomfortable thing. So can you talk a little bit more about that? Yeah.

0 (20m 55s):
I have these past couple of weeks, especially been thinking about, I mean, you know, we have this term of like being woke, which, you know, has its own meanings, but there's something helpful to that of like, okay, what is the experience of sleeping? And then waking up. And especially if you're sleeping restlessly, which I think a lot of white people have been myself included, you know, where it's just like, Oh, I don't have to wake up. Right. Like I could try to go back to sleep. I could like take a sleeping pill. I mean, that's part of what comes with privilege is that sense of like, I can opt out of what's going on in the world more easily perhaps than if I'm, you know, in a different community.

0 (21m 33s):
But anyways, so I don't have to wake up and yet I'm not sleeping very well. And so I want to kind of see what's going on. So I wake up, but I'm disoriented and I don't quite know what's going on and I'm not ready to like start running. Right. And not ready to be at the front of a picket line. Like I am, I just have an LND to have my coffee, you know? So I think there is a lot, there are a lot of people who I think are in a place who we talked about this earlier, but the New York times nonfiction best seller list right now is all with two exceptions books about race and racism.

0 (22m 10s):
Because I think there's a whole host of white people. Who've been like, Oh yeah, I've been meaning to read that book. And the past couple of weeks it's been like, I have to like, that's what I have to do right now. And I think there's a great opportunity for white people to wake up and to learn and to listen. And then I think it's really important to learn and to listen, but then to figure out what does it mean for me to move out into the world in love? Like what does it mean for me to actually respond in my own life, in the places of influence that I have and in the institutions that I'm a part of and not just stay in a listening and learning posture, but also in a gentle and thoughtful measured way, like figure out how to take action.

1 (22m 54s):
Mm Hmm. There's so much going on. And, and I just love that people who I never thought would engage in this conversation are engaging in it and it's uncomfortable, but it is that this is that time. It is an awakening. And I'm going to talk about this a little bit more, but at an I were talking about how he can't, he came home the other day. He said, remember how a long time ago, which wasn't that long ago, it was new year. I was doing an interview and I talked about 20, 20 being the year vision.

1 (23m 24s):
And then we started hearing it in different places. Well, wait, have our eyes been opened, right. It's, it's amazing. Our, our idea of vision was different from what God's idea was, and actually opening our eyes and giving us the ability to see what is there.

0 (23m 40s):
I felt like that actually, I felt like the whole time of staying at home because Corona virus was a really a time of revelation. There was just this slowness and this quietness, especially for people who are able to stay at home, that was really uncomfortable because of what we saw about our family systems or what we saw about ourselves. Like, Oh my gosh, my habits are just not good. Or like where I turn in a time that feels even just like slightly hard is not necessarily healthy. You know, all of that revelation.

0 (24m 12s):
And then now it's like, that's happening on this national level? Not just on these little individual and family level. So I think you're absolutely right. But yeah, what we're seeing, right? You kind of think of vision as casting a dream for the future. And it's like, actually looks like rip back the curtain before we do that. We need to deal with what we've been unwilling to see. And yet, again, going back to that bandaid, it's like, gosh, and if we'll see it, then we can bring it out into the light. And the point of breathing's out in the light is not to point fingers it's to allow the healing to happen and the cleaning and the repair and the restoration and the reconciliation, but it is a long, slow, hard, challenging, but ultimately beautiful.

1 (24m 57s):
<inaudible> I just, I get so taken in by listening to you that I forget my next question. And it's, it's always been this way. I mean, in your writing, you're such a beautiful writer and when you speak there, I can. It's so funny. Cause I know you so well. I, I see what you look like, even though you're not here, I know how your mind works and you're such a deep thinker that there's so much that you offer us in the things that you say. So there's a couple of questions I do want to ask you.

1 (25m 28s):
But one, the question I've been getting often is how do you talk to your kids about this? And you know, the conversations in my house, there have been some overlaps with the conversations white people are having actually ed called me this morning and he had just left and he was listening to NPR and he gave me a call and he said, you know what? I just heard. And it was this man talking about how it's not enough to raise your kids, not racist. You have to raise them to be anti-racist. And I said to him, babe, haven't you heard me say this on like, everything that I've been speaking profit is now

0 (26m 2s):
Welcome in his own. Right. But it connected with it.

1 (26m 5s):
I'm on NPR. And I said, yes. So tell me how you're having these conversations with your kids.

0 (26m 11s):
Yeah. So I certainly had a pretty, I think typical white perspective a number of years ago when I really felt like introducing my kids to the history of racial violence in our country and the present reality of, you know, whether it was a police shooting or other issues, you know, issues and incidents that happened. I really felt like, Oh, they're too young when they get older. I'll tell them about that. And I just, I would turn off the news.

0 (26m 42s):
I mean, I remember when Philando Castillo was shot and I was tearing up in the kitchen and one of my kids walked in and I literally turned off the news because I thought they shouldn't have to hear about that. Right. And a black friend of mine really challenged me and said, I did not have the privilege of not telling my children that we're going to be in danger in this society. And you are raising white children who are going to be that danger if you don't educate them as well. And it took me a while to figure out like, yeah, she probably didn't say it in quite those words because she's like one of the more gracious and gentle people on the planet.

0 (27m 20s):
But that was what God got through to me from what she was saying. And it's a sad truth that my kids have an element, especially my kids who don't, I have a disability, like they have some power that they're just going to carry into the world in our society. And if I can at least give them a sense of that as a reality, and if they can learn what it means to love that power that they've been given, you know, necessarily for any sort of good reason by our society, if they can learn that, then I will feel like we've done our job.

0 (27m 53s):
But anyway, so I still, like in the case of George Floyd, I did immediately, or, you know, within a day or two, tell them our kids that a man who was black, you know, it just kind of gave them the basic details. I had been killed by a white police officer and there it was caught on video. And so they could see the video. And I said, no, no, but we can look at pictures. And so we looked at like pictures of George Floyd as not just on the ground round with a knee on his neck, but pictures of him as a dad and as a member of a church and as a friend and as a human being, because I felt like that was really important, but I did show them a photo from that video because I thought it conveyed the horror of the moment and the injustice without taking them through nine minutes of brutality.

0 (28m 46s):
And so that was the choice I made. And then our kids, I think because of conversations we've had up until this point, because we have, and again, this was like long process, but we have exposed our kids through literature and conversation to a wider sense of American history. And we have not shielded them from some of the brutal realities, which included in December, we went down to Montgomery, Bama and Birmingham and Selma and showed them and talk to, to them about some of the civil rights history that we have as a nation.

0 (29m 22s):
And then we talked about like, this isn't something that only, it only happened in this way in the South, but like in the North West, you have things that we need to talk about when it comes to racism and injustice as well. So all of that has over time shaped and formed them into kids who really are equipped to have a conversation about racism and injustice and to think about what it means to be growing up as white kids and in a predominantly white space and what they might want to do in their lives so that that's not how they live or where they live all the time.

1 (30m 0s):
And unless you really show it to them, unless they begin to understand it, they really can't work against it. Right. So I think it's so important that they're able to identify what it is and, and, and how it works in order for them truly to be anti-racist. And that's been a conversation that we've been having a lot with our family and just, and friends, I just to kind of switch gears a little, I, people have been asking me like, what can I do? What can I do? And I've been giving them a soar.

1 (30m 31s):
What I realized is a sort of to do list, and this is not about a, to do list. I mean, this is a process. And, and recently I was listening to a podcast and actually it was Bernay Brown. She was talking about how, you know, we love it to do list because it's, it protects our ego. If, if we followed that to do list and all of a sudden it goes wrong. All of a sudden we can point the finger back and say, well, I did what I was told. And here, now there's an issue. And I'm seeing that that's kind of happening, especially around the idea of making friends, that don't look like you making black friends, making Brown friends.

1 (31m 8s):
And by the way, I've gotten a lot of friend invitations lately. This is, I don't, I don't know if I can handle all the friend invitations. The one, the one thing I'm going to say about that is if you're going to make a friend of color, you have to go into it thinking, how can I add value to this relationship? Because what can I give in the relationship? Because if we're not asking that question, we are then putting the work back on that person to teach us. And that also can be manipulated and dehumanizing on a different level, right.

1 (31m 43s):
To be able to check that box. So I think that's something that's important that I wanted to put out there, especially after I've been giving these to do lists, but can you, can you talk to me a little bit more about your perspective on, on people turning this into a, to do list?

0 (31m 57s):
Yeah. So I have two thoughts there. One just on the specific, like, you know, wanting to have friends who are people of color, if you're white and you don't have them already. And I would say in this moment, like make friends with books and movies first in the sense that like I know from my black and Brown friends, that it's really exhausting to be an educator and to feel as though people are using the friendship as a way to like gain racial understanding as opposed to be pushed, to be friends.

0 (32m 27s):
And there is, at the same time, there are lots of resources that have been written filmed podcast, you know, that are really for that purpose of like, Hey, white people, like, I would love help you understand what it's like to be me or how, you know, we answered that question. I mean, we've talked about Beverly Tatum's book. Yeah. They're all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria. That's a question a lot of white people ask, well, there is a book written to help you understand that, right. There's a podcast I've been listening to right now called dear white peacemakers.

0 (32m 59s):
It's a black woman, Christian woman named Ashita Moore. And she's like, Hey, look, I want to, if you want to be a peacemaker as a white person, I want to help you. You know? So that would be my first thing just on that point in particular is that if you don't already have longstanding like reciprocal and mutual friendships with people with color, like now is not the time to jump to intimacy. Doesn't mean like you can't start friendships or be aware of like, that is a void in your life, but there are lots of resources to try to answer some of those questions that are on out there, but on the, to do list things that is interesting.

0 (33m 36s):
Cause I wrote white picket fences and I don't end it with a, to do list. And I got pushback on that from a lot of people. I'm not going to give it away, but I ended it with a question that is meant to be uncomfortable for the reader to really say, what are you going to, how are you going to respond? And then after I went and spoke about white picket fences for about a couple of months, I realized that although I am with you in terms of like, I'm not just going to give you a to do list so that you can check the boxes.

0 (34m 6s):
There, it is a good thing to learn from how other people have responded. Like that's not a bad thing. The people want to do something. And so what I did was I wrote an ebook it's actually available on my website. There's a resources page for white picket fences, which has, and I called it head heart hands. And it's talking about a holistic response to the harm of privilege. So using your head, your heart and your hands, not one to the exclusion of the others.

0 (34m 37s):
So the head obviously like doing the learning. So whether that is learning history or learning more about contemporary events, getting multiple news sources that have different points of view, you know, all of that kind of thing, but the heart is both in the vertical and the horizontal direction. So the verticals, like what are the spiritual resources that you need in order to sustain the work of healing and of acknowledging harm, because it's hard work. And if we don't have the grounding, love of God to sustain us in that work, then we're going to get burnt out or drained really quickly.

0 (35m 14s):
But then there's this horizontal direct dimension of friendship of listening of not just having like statistics and sociological data points like the head and when we go out into the world, but having real stories like real people. And again, that can happen by reading memoirs, even if, I mean, of course real encounters with real people is important, but you can get stories not only through those personal encounters and being connected to other people who share the same concerns, whether that's gathering people in church to have a discussion or to pray together or gathering, you know, people who want to work on something together, but just not being alone in it.

0 (35m 56s):
I think as a part of that hard work, and then the hands is asking the question of like, okay, what am I going to do? And I do think, you know, checklists can be helpful, but we also are going to have pretty individual contexts where we need to say, how does this apply to me? And I tend to think about that individual level. There are three ways we can respond. One is in that intimate space of like my own life and my home. So changing the books on my kids' bookshelf or changing the way I talk about race with my children, or, you know, deciding to reach out to a person at my school who is a person of color.

0 (36m 34s):
Okay. But then there's like the areas of influence in our lives, whether that is like at a neighborhood party, someone makes a racist comment and I decide that I'm going to speak up when I might not have in the past, or I'm on a local board of an organization or I'm a member of a church, or, you know, and I'm going to actually use my influence to try to get us to pay attention or take action when it comes to these issues. And then there's like the institutional level, which is much more of a collective work of trying to change the actual systems, whether that is the legal system or the educational system or the financial system, you know, that have gotten us to this place.

0 (37m 20s):
So that's how I think about the, to do list is that it's like head heart, hands, and each of those has a couple components to it. So it's really a holistic work of healing that yes, should be. I hope like a blessing to our communities, but that's also like beautifully transformative for any individual who's participating in it as well.

1 (37m 42s):
It is really a transformational process, right? And when, when I think about this whole 2020 and how we've gone through a period of transformation and being able to see more clearly and, and the way that God did it, he started on the inside. We were all taken back in into our homes, into our circles. And we were, we were given a different look at to what the reality really is. And once, once we saw it on the inside, he knew his continued work on the inside, but now it's extended to the outside, which I think is so the way that God does things, he still cares more about what's on the inside, on, on many levels, on many levels, but we've just seen that that process evolve and unfold this year in 2020.

1 (38m 25s):
So one more question for you. And I do want you to tell the story just about your own conversations with God that you've been having over these last couple of weeks, which has been amazing. Now I know so many people and I'm, I'm seeing this, I'm seeing this as this conversation becomes more prevalent in the church. There, there are people who are tuning out, you know, they don't see themselves in it. And in many ways, like we have become consumers of culture. We've been consumer, we become consumers have gotten, you know, how does this relate to me?

1 (38m 55s):
How does this apply to me? How does this speak to what I'm going through right now? Right? And, and as soon as the conversation has now been focused on race, people are getting tired of it. I don't see my purpose in it. I mean, yeah, I know this is a good thing, but I don't relate to it as much as I relate to this other topic that they talk about in church, you know, purpose or faithfulness or whatever it is. And this morning as I was reading it, my devotional, I came across Micah six, eight, where it says, what does God require of you to justly love mercy, walk humbly with our God.

1 (39m 28s):
And that, I mean, that is our call. That is, this is justice. This is at the heart of God. So if we're really pursuing God in our life, and we know, you know, when we pursue God, whatever God tells us to do, he does the rest, right. He just, he wants us to be a beat and he wants us to know him. He wants us to walk with them. And this is at the heart of God. So as I'm seeing this work happen, I'm also seeing, as people get involved in this, as people get closer to the heart of God and get involved in the things that matter to God, I'm seeing their own purposes in their life unfold and develop.

1 (40m 2s):
Right. So, so you have a story about this just about you and your book. Can you share that story?

0 (40m 7s):
Well, I mean, I, so I think with this book, when it came out, it's not again that like, people didn't respond, but it did feel like there was, it was a very local response like that people who kind of knew about it, told their friends and they read it and they talked about it. But there was also for me, just the sense of, okay, after a year and a half, like we're done and the book is we're gonna put it on a shelf. And I did get to a point of actually the spring in part, because of the book, but also because of coronavirus where it was like, okay, all my speaking events have been canceled.

0 (40m 44s):
I had a number of different article ideas that I pitched and they were all rejected. And I remember talking with a friend of mine and saying like, I have all these ideas and I want to put them out into the world. And I think they're true and right. And I just don't know what I'm. And she said, you know, maybe people aren't ready for them yet. And I said something about like, I don't know if I'm being faithful or if I'm being foolish, because if I'm being faithful in doing this, then I'll just keep doing it. Even if nobody responds. But it is hard to know.

0 (41m 15s):
It's hard to tell, to know if I'm just wasting my time. Like, would you please tell me God? Yup.

1 (41m 21s):
Oh, I've had that conversation many times

0 (41m 24s):
Next day. As I wrote that down in my journal, like, am I being faithful? Where am I being foolish? And I had just been reading through Isaiah. And I think the beginning of Isaiah 23, it's definitely in the early twenties, I was reading the message version, which I had not ever read before. And Isaiah, and it talks about how God calls Isaiah to go stand naked in the public square for three years and proclaim this message.

0 (41m 54s):
And I literally was like, okay, so

1 (41m 56s):
I've never read that by the way. Like, I, I miss that somewhere. Yeah.

0 (42m 0s):
I had totally missed it. And I looked it up and like the NIV, which is what I've usually read the Bible that's translation. And it says, it either says stripped or unclothed, like it's not as direct as naked. And then, but I'm like, Oh no, that is what that means. Like, he's literally like supposed to go take off his underwear, like stand in public in order to like call attention to God's message. So AI was really glad that that was not my calling. And then B I also was like, okay. So looking foolish and being faithful are not necessarily opposed to each other.

0 (42m 34s):
And see, I felt like God gave me this like slightly humorous, but answer, which was like, no, no you're being faithful. Like your job is to bring the message that I've given you as best you can to make that as an offering to the world. And you know, that was really a gift to me. And it did really encourage me. And it was, I don't know, six weeks later that white picket fences was sold out on Amazon, which it hadn't ever been when it first came out. You know? So I don't know what's going to happen with all of that, but there was this encouragement as far as like the measuring rod for me in my work as a Christian is not about numbers and it's not about achievement and productivity and success, but it is about faithfulness and fruitfulness and allowing myself to be in a place where I can listen to what God is doing in my life and in our world and, and make an offering into that, into that place.

0 (43m 32s):
And then hopefully whatever got good while I'm doing that.

1 (43m 35s):
Yeah, God, please don't call me to be naked anywhere. But that would be a big one. That'd be a big one, but doing whatever God tells you to do, even if it means it's for one person, right. Or, or even just because God told you to do it, if you see it, your success may not be measured the way that God measures success, right. Success may be measured just in terms of obedience and faithfulness. So yeah. And then what God will do with that is a beautiful thing. And I can tell you, you are impacting far more than one person right now.

1 (44m 7s):
My friend, you are. I can't wait to read your book again. I read it in the manuscript stage when I reviewed it. And thank you for the shout out. I love being in your book and you didn't change my name. You change everybody else's name. I think you showed me, right? My name, change your name and rows and rows. So now I can't wait to read it again. Now just in the, the atmosphere that we're in right now, and also for me to become more educated and having the conversation with a lot of my white friends, I think it's so important, but I just have to tell you, I love you so much and I am so proud of you.

1 (44m 42s):
I'm so proud of you and I'm proud to be your friend. And, and I am. I'm expecting great things from this book. I've already seen them, but I there's no limit on what God can do right now. So I'm encouraged. I'm excited for you. I'm excited for you. So thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

0 (45m 0s):
My pleasure. Really wonderful to be here. Thank you for the work you're doing. And it's like such a joy to be in it together.

1 (45m 10s):
Yes. Well, amen to that.

3 (45m 12s):

0 (45m 16s):
Thanks so much for listening today. I am excited to share with you that next week I will be interviewing Jomar TIS B his book. The color of compromise is about the history of racism and the American church. It recently reached the New York times best seller list. Two years after it was first published, ran Gemara. And I will be talking about chapter four from white picket fences. That chapter is called a history of cancer. And I want to talk with him about why understanding our history is important as we seek to participate in healing.

0 (45m 48s):
As always, if you've enjoyed this episode, please share it with friends rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts and feel free to offer any feedback to Hope to see you next week.