We Got Game

July 1, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

I am white. So white, in fact, that my college buddies, upon seeing me in my swimsuit, dubbed me Flo, short for florescent.

Their mockery did not scar me even though I remember it vividly almost thirty years later. I’m sure their ridicule has nothing to do with the embarrassing fact that I dye my legs before wearing shorts or skirts in the spring.

I teach in a district where several of my classes are ninety percent African American, nine percent Hispanic, and one percent white – and I have been that one percent in some classes. Jumping right in during the first week, if not the first day, of school, I address the conclusions we might draw based on appearance. What does a middle-aged, white woman wearing a dress purchased in the eighties have in common with a teenaged, black guy sagging his jeans to his knees?

Students respond well to laying the cards on the table. The issue re-emerges several times throughout the year, most notably when I try to use a term like gangster. (Don’t ask me why this term is relevant so often. I can’t explain it.) My pronunciation of this noun engenders great hilarity, with repetition and exaggerated, drawn out versions of the syllable er. So, I adapt and say gansta. Now the students are rolling on the floor. Nothing opens up a conversation like a little self-inflicted derision.

I share with my kids how my friend Michelle Stimpson’s book, Boaz Brown, opened my eyes to my ignorance. Some of her characters, who were professional, educated, Christian African Americans, struggled with prejudice—against whites. Of course, I knew I was white, even without my college friends’ insulting label of Flo, but that detail remained in my subconscious, rarely crossing my mind. I have discovered that both African Americans and Hispanics seem much more aware of their race. In fact, as a minority in my environment, I, too, have become more conscious of my color, or lack thereof.

The differences in culture among the races have also become evident. Acknowledging these undeniable distinctions does not constitute racism; de-valuing them does. I have found that frank, respectful discussions free all parties to learn and adjust their lens on life.

This possibility indicates progress for our society. We have not arrived; tact is still required and always will be. But I look forward to the day when no race feels defensive, when we can use descriptive words related to ethnicity and skin color just like words related to height and eye color without hesitating lest they seem racist. I look forward to the days when we embrace each other as we embrace this scripture: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29 NIV).

Hmm. Yes, I see the irony of an author writing an article about being comfortable with who we are yet planning to continue with the silly, vain habit of smearing iodine-colored lotion over her pale skin to subdue its luminescence.

Comment prompt: Do you have an encouraging story in our battle with prejudice?

About Jane Thornton

Jane Thornton, English teacher, wife, and mom of two almost grown children, strives to break free of the automatic boring label attached to those roles. Her two suspense novels eagerly await a willing publisher, and her articles search for inspiration in the humor and tears of life.
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3 Responses to “We Got Game”
  1. Great article, Jane! I shared on my Facebook page.

    I love my friends, regardless of race and color. I love the uniqueness God makes in all of us!

    Blessings and hugs,

  2. I posted about it on my Facebook profile, too.

    When I look all around our environment (nature) and see the wonderful colors God used, I understand why He created different colored skin. We should celebrate our differences … and our commonalities equally.

  3. Lee Carver says:

    I SO agree with your words, “But I look forward to the day when no race feels defensive, when we can use descriptive words related to ethnicity and skin color just like words related to height and eye color without hesitating lest they seem racist.” I used to teach in Corpus Christi in a school which was 92% Spanish descent, 8% black, with less than 1% Caucasian. I didn’t speak Spanish then, which created some awkward and/or funny incidents. They were wonderful high schoolers, though, and I loved those three years. I also learned that I could not too-casually refer to a race or color as if it didn’t matter. My open attitude wasn’t sufficient to guarantee equal reception of my words. That was 40 years ago. I wonder how it is in that school today.

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