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July 8, 2016

Hey America, This Race Issue Is My Issue

I'm so sad today.

Sad about what's happening in our country with this onslaught of brutal shootings.  Sad that as a white woman with ancestry in the south, I'm sure my generational line contributed to this explosion of hatred and violence that began long ago with slavery.

Slavery that was wrong.

Slavery that we want the black community to just get over and move on from.

Slavery that we've done very little to repent for.

I have a cousin who is a cop. A good cop—an exceptional man. The kind of cop you'd hope was patrolling all streets in fairness and equality. I know because of his integrity, this issue is NOT just about black men and women VS. cops….

This is about ME and the black community….and how I've done almost nothing to pursue racial reconciliation over the course of my life.

I sat this morning explaining to Moses how our white ancestors went over to Africa, chained black men and women in horrific conditions on boats, treated them like cattle, and brought them to our country against their will. I told him how we whipped and beat them, making them our slaves, breaking up families. I told him how we took away their freedom….the same way we took away the Hawaiians land, the way we took the Indians land.  I shared how eventually we did give them their supposed freedom, but still made them sit on the back of our buses and use different water fountains—not letting them have the same rights and privileges as whites.  And though legislation has now put everyone on an equal rights playing field…..I've personally never done anything to say….

Dear Black America

I'm so very sorry.  We. Were. Wrong.
What can I do to right this wrong—not just politically and by writing checks and dropping off old clothes, but personally—and from the heart?
How can I ease the pain of your ancestral torment that our own ancestors created?
And will you please, please, please forgive me?

I live in East Nashville, and right now Lucas Gifford and I are looking for a new home for our expanding family. This morning as we crossed the line between what I've seen as safe and unsafe, looking at a beautiful renovated house in a neighborhood that is slowly buying up the poor houses and kicking out black families (because our presence has resulted in property taxes skyrocketing that many can't afford), I have to admit…

I looked out at the neighbors to my right and to my left…with bars still on their windows and poverty everywhere……

And as a white woman with small children, I was afraid.

I was afraid to raise my kids in a primarily black, poorer neighborhood.

I was afraid to buy in a place until it was filled with people who look like me.

And my heart is breaking right now knowing that my fear and continual segregation…..my refusal to cross into the next neighborhood and meet my neighbors on the other side of an imaginary line that is more real than iron bars….

THIS is the cause of our problems right now, America.

And with my apathy, I am absolutely to blame for it.

Cops are getting the blame for the racial issue because they cross that imaginary line every day and are paid to engage, mostly under negative and dangerous circumstances. And though it might not be my job to engage and pursue reconciliation, it is absolutely my responsibility as a white American.

And a legacy I want for my children.

What if as a white woman I stopped praying for God to bring peace to America…and instead, got my butt up out of my safe neighborhood and crossed that imaginary line….to maybe let my kids play on a playground that I once was scared to visit? Or to volunteer somewhere with kids that just need to see a white face that isn't a cop? Or to move into their neighborhood as a friend? Instead of writing a check or calling my legislator, what if I actually practiced what I preached and BECAME the act of forgiveness the black community needs to heal from what WE have done?

If you're like me, you're a little shell shocked, wondering what to do as a white woman who knows this issue isn't just going to go away on its own. But if we all sit around waiting for someone to do something, nothing will happen….or most assuredly more of the WRONG things.

For the sake of my amazing officer cousin, I cannot let this burden fall on his shoulders to fight. It's being fought with bullets that will never heal.

But friendship can heal.
Forgiveness can heal.
Relationship can heal.
Repentance can heal.

The Christ in me can heal. And it's time to let Him do what He does best.

xx, Christa

16 Responses to “Hey America, This Race Issue Is My Issue”

  1. Robin Dursma

    I see hurts that need to heal. And Jesus is bigger than it all. I read your blog to my husband, an Air Force brat, who grew up on different base assignments. I grew up in the Los Angeles area, with a mother who worked as a bookkeeper for a black man who lost his first wife and married a Hispanic woman who had lost her first husband. They had more kids. The point of this is that I grew up with kids of all sizes and colors, and they were my friends. We had dinner in their house and played in their wading pool and they had dinner at our house and played in the hose with us. It had nothing to do with the color of anyone’s skin. We were just kids playing with our friends. I respect your feelings. I understand that maybe there is a feeling of guilt that you may feel as a white woman. But, those are your experiences as a white woman and not mine. I see a person and relate to them based on the character and quality of their heart and soul, not the color of their skin. I do not feel the need to apologize for a sin I have never committed. I am called to love. I am called to heal. I am called to be the feet and hands of Jesus on this earth, but I am also called to tell the truth, and the truth is that it seems that just because of the color of my skin, I am assumed to be racist and bigoted and to need to apologize? How is that true? It is exactly the same as perpetuating the stereotype that all black people are lazy. Or thugs. Or that all Asians are terrible drivers. And, yes, I have heard all these comments in various conversations. The point is, THEY ARE NOT TRUE. You cannot measure a man by the conduct of a race nor by the color of his skin, only by the content of his heart and his character. That same rule applies, whatever the skin color is. Please do not lump me in with all those who hate that which is different, or have ancestors who might have. I cannot change what someone did two or three hundred years ago. I can only answer for me. I cannot even answer for you. Only you can do that. But I would say that hate runs both ways. Offense runs both ways. Distrust runs both ways. And they are devastating to us all, as people and as a nation. And you are right in stepping forward and extending your hand. In love. In fellowship. In peace and understanding. But you cannot apologize for offenses you never caused. You can express sorrow that they ever occurred, but you cannot assume responsibility for their happening. I mean no disrespect, but you did strike a chord in my heart and cause questions in my thinking. And while I do agree with most of what you wrote and can identify with a lot of it, I cannot in all good conscience say that I agree with all of it. And I have family who is in law enforcement. I pray for their safety and the safety of everyone on every response they go on. I, too, want to see an end to this season of violence and hate, because that is exactly what it is. And hate and violence is the exact opposite of what Jesus came and died for. And what he taught us and who he asked us to become. God bless you, Christa. Thank you for being honest about what you feel and how you think. I can do no less.

    • I don’t understand by this unwillingness to look upon the sins of our collective history as something to repent for. Haven’t we done a measure of this already because by Adam’s sin all men fell. We know that the sins of our forefathers have far reaching consequences. Why can’t we acknowledge this in terms of the racist history of the United States? I will repent for some sins but not all of them? It’s the oddest thing I see in believers. I really can’t understand it.

  2. Robin Dursma came to be defensive. Christa chose to is qpologise for her ancestors who didn’t have a chance to. She is also educating her baby boy so that she builds a man of integrity who will understand right from wrong and be a small change for the future collective. If her story doesn’t apply to you, why bother responding just to be heard. That’s the problem with society, Noone wants to take responsibility. YOU my dear are the typical meaning of “white entitlement”. The problem can’t be fixed by having “friends of different size and colors” as you put it. The fact that you see those people as different shows how you think of yourself. Thank you very much Christa, it’s a breath of fresh air to cross paths with truly genuine people who are willing to work together to eliminate the ills in our world. Much love to you and your family.

    • Robin Dursma

      Star, I am thankful that God sees my heart and doesn’t judge the way some Christians judge. As far as I know, tho only true judge of a mind and heart is God, not mankind. You have no idea of the state of my heart, and for you to state that I am the typical meaning of White Entitlement is judging what you do not know. I responded because Christa’s post moved my heart, and I wanted to share what I thought with her. I was not judging Christa, I was sharing the difference between her view and mine. Having friends of all sizes and colors expressed the ideals MY mother raised me with, and maybe you need to remove the plank from your eye before you remove the splinter from mine. I do not choose my friends because of their size or color, as my mother taught me that those things did not matter. The way I see people is not the way you seem to assume I do, based on one statement. We are all one race, the human race, and neither size nor color matter. I did not attack Christa. She is a lovely, Godly woman who blesses me and helps me with her thinking and writing and sharing of God’s love. Truly, I feel the one who is defensive here is not me. Search your heart and I will search mine and ask the Lord to deal with all that is not pleasing to him. Perpetuating stereotypes is not bringing brotherhood nor restoring peace, which is something we desperately need. If my comment made you feel attacked or defensive, that is not what was intended. Maybe we all need to examine our hearts and find where we have areas where we need to let the light in and healing flow. I didn’t tell Christa she was wrong, in fact I stated I agreed with most all that she wrote. I have some different experiences that gave me different views, that is all. My post was not intended to be negative, and maybe the reasons you took it that way are rooted in your past and your heart. I cannot answer for you, I can only answer for me. I hope you have a blessed day.

  3. LauraB1186

    Since you shared your story, I’ll share mine if that’s ok. I was raised in my childhood in a larger charismatic church with lots of different people in it. I wasn’t taught that people of other races were problems, or to be avoided. I actually thought all black people loved Jesus because that’s what I saw growing up. As I grew older I saw the conflict between said belief and practice and that really bothered me. We white folk have our sins too, just maybe we aren’t as honest about it, or talk about it. As a 18 year old I attended a government funded trade school/high school education program called Job Corps. My mom was quite ill, and wanted my sister and myself to complete our high school education and get job training, so we could provide for ourselves if needed. I was suddenly in a world where yeah, they talked about playing in the church band, not wanting anyone in their house who didn’t love Jesus, and also the hook up they had on the weekend. This hurt and confused me. I believed in them, in their potential, and knew anything was possible for them, if they just believed it. Problem is a lot of them feel helpless to rise above it, or worse, don’t want to. No one wanted to call out the urban mentality and nihilism, and so the efforts those in authority made didn’t factor in the damage done, and misplaced their discipline. Good kids who just got lost in the shuffle in their communities, got kicked out for being in fights, while consistent troublemakers were often brought back. That alone would hurt anyone’s heart. Rules alone can’t help people, people’s hearts have to want to heal first. May we have honest conversations about ANY mentality that holds us in bondage, lovingly call out sin (because it hurts us) and move each other to healing, to the Healer.

  4. Libby Acuff

    Our son and his wife live in East Nashville. And pour out their lives for their neighbors. His name is Will Acuff. His ministry is Corner to Corner. Your heart would resonate with his and Tiffany’s.
    Thank you for your incredible honesty in this post.

  5. Girl, YOU didn’t own slaves, YOU don’t have to say sorry. God wants them to do the Godly thing. To forgive the whites. Everybody, black, white, red and yellow has got ton to repent for. World will never be perfect. We look to God for that.

    • Christa Black Gifford

      Karen, I have no words. There is so much blame in your paragraph that I’m just baffled. At the end of the day, we are not responsible for the hearts of others…only OUR hearts. I will never be able to control the choices of others, but I can absolutely CHOOSE to extend love, forgiveness, grace, and relationship….no matter WHAT. And why will I choose to do that? Because that is what Jesus extends to me every single day, when I absolutely don’t deserve it. I will not judge a race who was enslaved, raped, beaten, kidnapped, demeaned, and brutalized by MY country….screaming at them to forgive US. I will be the olive branch of peace, joy, relationship, and love…..for as long as it takes.

  6. It truly hurts my heart to sit and read these comments since they are mainly a rebuttal to a lady who has opened her heart in all sincerity, and expressed her genuine desire for peace and love over violence and hatred. This is what is wrong with the people of our nation today, everyone is so self centered, having their own selfish thoughts and attitudes; willing to bicker at every opinion expressed. Peace will not ever come until mankind can put away the past and all of it bigotry, hatred, and violence. All, but the purely evil in heart, recognize the wrong perpetuated against the slaves. Things are considerably different today; yet, both the blacks and whites are ingrained and stained by history. The worst man can do to one another is to think one is better, above the other. The Word of God says, let every man esteem others above themselves; if we follow that we would treat each other so much better. Slavery existed long before the American slaves of the South; it existed in Jesus’ time; how many times were the Israelites taken into captivity and made to be slaves, and treated with all manner of indignities and atrocities. Those days are gone and not to return to any true Christian; to sum it up the greatest Commandment Jesus gave was the last one: That we love one another, even as Christ loves us. Race, creed, and color are not seen by Him, for we are all God’s creation, created in His own image. Put away the harshness of judging the opinions of others; they are only opinions and cannot hurt you. Listen and read with Spiritual eyes and ears, hearing the goodness and love that will always flow from a repentant heart. If we follow after Christ, we surrender our opinions to the Will of God the Father. Others of an evil nature will continue until the end of time; God will then do the Judgment upon every man for the deeds done in their lifetime. The sins of the forefathers are passed down generation to generation, but Christ creates a new heart and mind in those who have chosen to serve Him. Those sins are the cross that we must bear, to remind us not to repeat them, but to turn from them and be not partakers of their iniquity. Peace and God’s blessings unto you. I speak only, sending much love in Christ, to you all.

  7. I am black, a woman, and so thankful for your post. Because you see that you can be the change even if you just change one black child’s or adult’s look at there own race and their look at your race. As compared to what society says that these races should be or how they should interact with one another, by you extending that olive branch you are BREAKING DOWN generational curses that have plagued us for well, generations. I personally thank you for your courage and i absolutely know that you have made me feel more accepted in America with your apology and yes I do forgive you and the people that you are apologizing for. Thank you. And I would like to in turn offer my own apology that i automatically thought before reading that you would take the side of the cops and not see the burden and hurt of the black community and i know now after reading that you do see it. Maybe better than i could have ever imagined. Thanks!

  8. Thank you Christa, for your vulnerability and humility. I was raised as pastors kid and of course was always taught to love everyone equally because that’s how Jesus loves. As a 20-something white woman, I’ve always considered myself as someone who loves and treats equally, and in all of my self-righteousness never believed that I could have racist tendencies within me. Recently Holy Spirit has been revealing those subtle mindsets inside me. They are so slight, so engrained and its only recently that I have been struggling to understand my own white privilege, a term I used to hate. I believe this issue is so dear to the Father’s heart, as it would grieve any parent to see their kids fighting and being treated unjustly. I guess I’m not sure how to go on from here, how to be a part of the solution other than to truly love freely and equally and keep listening as the holy spirit exposes things within me. Again, thank you. I am humbled by your words and truth you speak! <3

  9. Thank you Christa, for your vulnerability and humility. I was raised as pastors kid and of course was always taught to love everyone equally because that’s how Jesus loves. As a 20-something white woman, I’ve always considered myself as someone who loves and treats equally, and in all of my self-righteousness never believed that I could have racist tendencies within me. Recently Holy Spirit has been revealing those subtle mindsets inside me. They are so slight, so engrained and its only recently that I have been struggling to understand my own white privilege, a term I used to hate. I believe this issue is so dear to the Father’s heart, as it would grieve any parent to see their kids fighting and being treated unjustly. I guess I’m not sure how to go on from here, how to be a part of the solution other than to truly love freely and equally and keep listening as the holy spirit exposes things within me. Again, thank you. I am humbled by your words and truth you speak! <3

  10. mike silva

    This is so good. My heart breaks for African-Americans and I want that reconciliation that we both need…forgiveness for wrongs done and healing for wrongs suffered. As a man of Portuguese descent, I ask forgiveness that my ancestors plundered the west coast of Africa as human traffickers misusing their expert abilities on the seas to enslave humans, bringing injury to spirits and bodies that has lasted for centuries.

  11. mike silva

    This is so good. My heart breaks for African-Americans and I want that reconciliation that we both need…forgiveness for wrongs done and healing for wrongs suffered. As a man of Portuguese descent, I ask forgiveness that my ancestors plundered the west coast of Africa as human traffickers misusing their expert abilities on the seas to enslave humans, bringing injury to spirits and bodies that has lasted for centuries.

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