What would happen to race relations in the U.S. (at least) if Americans of African descent sometimes tried to identify with the experience of a white person? It may happen more than blog posts after racially charged incidents suggest, but the theme of many an African-American pastor after the Michael Brown shooting was that white people need to empathize with the experience of African-American men.
Well, sometimes, an African-American does see the world through the eyes of a white man (or boy). How could that happen? Well, in the case of mixed-race couples who reproduce children who look white, an African-American parent will need, as Trillia Newbell reminds her readers, to consider the experience of white folk in the U.S.:
Because he is white-looking, I fear my son will grow up in an environment that is hostile towards white males. I do live in the south where racial tension and strife have plagued our history. So what if we end up doing just the thing we’ve fought so hard to stop? What if we, black Americans, begin judging other brothers and sisters solely based on the color of their skin? Could my son be thought of as an ignorant, uncaring, privileged white male? There is a good and needed call to repentance, action, and – at the very least – acknowledgement that there remains a problem in America regarding racial reconciliation. We haven’t arrived—far from it. And yet I wonder how it feels to be a white male in America today. There are some who have indeed acknowledged that racism continues to rot the hearts of men and women—even those within the Church. There are many who feel a weight of responsibility that could prove to be useful, but there are others who I believe feel a weight of responsibility, guilt, and fear. I want my son to know about our country’s history, to realize the sin of man, and to not retreat when faced with difficult and heart wrenching situations like that of Ferguson. But I don’t want him to walk around feeling guilt, shame, and fear.
If a mother can empathize with a son in this way, what about an African-American pastor who ministers to white and black people? Does a minister of the word, no matter what his background, need somehow to lay aside his own experience based on race or class or nationality and minister to the people in his congregation whose experience may be very different from his? It makes sense that a mother looks out for a son. It also makes sense that an undershepherd looks out for his sheep whether they are white or black.