*A repost in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
She asked my son an honest question, and he gave her a surprising answer: ”Noah, why is your mommy White?”
As I’ve written about before on this blog, my family is multi-ethnic. Melissa and I are White, our daughter is White, and our two sons are Black. We live in a fairly racially diverse neighborhood (Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics), and our children attend racially diverse schools.
My youngest (pictured below) was asked the above question a year ago when he was in 2nd grade. He was just 7 years old. My wife happened to be volunteering in the classroom that day. One of my son’s Black classmates heard him call this visiting White woman “Mommy.” So, this classmate quite understandably asked him what she had been wondering, “Noah, why is your mommy White?”
Noah’s answer was immediate and matter-of-fact. He simply replied (actually, not so simply), “That’s not a question that Martin Luther King, Jr. would ask. It’s the content of your character that matters, not the color of your skin.” Wow.
My 7 year old son could have simply answered, “Well, I was adopted by a White family. My parents are White, my sister is White, and my brother and I are Black.” That’s basically what Noah’s teacher was expecting him to say. What he did say, though, revealed that he was living within a much larger narrative—within the same basic narrative in which Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived.
The month before, Noah’s class had studied Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. Martin Luther King, Jr’s story so gripped Noah that he began to think about life differently, more deeply.
My son reminded me of something profound that day.
We have been given larger narratives in which to live, narratives that have the power to transform the way we think, talk, and live. Unknown to me (and his classmate), Noah had begun living within a larger narrative that was changing the way he viewed the world and how we are to live within it. Martin Luther King’s story was changing the way Noah thought about race relations on a very practical level. That day Noah reminded me that the narratives we live by really matter—a lot. He was the teacher and I was the student.
Since that day a little over a year ago, I have thought a good bit about how the meta-narrative of God’s Gospel-work of adoption within human history should change the way we think and live each day. “There is,” after all, as J. R. R. Tolkien writes, “no [story] ever told that men would rather find was true” (“On Fairy Stories”). Thank you, Noah, for reminding me of the importance of living within the right narrative.
If you are interested in learning more about how God’s story of Adoption can transform the way we live within a broken world, join us March 22-23 in Athens, GA for a T4A theology boot camp called LIVE in the Story. Registration is just $25 per person for this 2 day event. Learn more.
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