I picked up Amy Julia Becker’s book White Picket Fences: turning toward love in a world divided by privilege to supplement the journey I’ve been taking to better understand white privilege and the role I play in it. You can read my freshman attempts at analysis here and here. Ms. Becker is also walking this path and asking similar questions.
The author comes from privilege and affluence that even I can’t understand, but we are similar in our love for books. She stocked her shelves with classics for herself and her children. The Secret Garden, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and many more. But she slowly realized that the characters they contained were very white. She searched for classics that would color a rainbow on her shelves and was distraught to find slaves and servants and dangerously displaced Native Americans. She didn’t want to teach her children this version of race, but our history is unfortunately overflowing with it. She determined that we needed to “wrestle with a complex past to help us write a different story for the future.”
Ms. Becker doesn’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, she confesses to a fear of not knowing how to truly feel compassion, saying, “Im afraid that I will always be set apart from people who do not share my advantages. I am afraid that I am helpless to do anything about very real inequity.” In response she researched the racial violence that appears all over the news of late and found that “police interaction with black men has not increased in recent years. People like me – people who live in predominantly white America – have simply become more aware of it.” And people like me.
In the life of her daughter with Down Syndrome, Amy Julia sees a glimmer of understanding for those who’s identity falls outside the norm. She writes of realizing that had she lived in Nazi Germany, her daughter would have been taken away and killed, just as the Jewish people who were singled out – her wealth or white skin powerless to stop it. I remember having the same type of revelation about my daughter Shelby when on Ellis Island for the first time. If my family had come through as imigrants in the early years of our country, my husband and I would have been offered two choices. 1. Leave Shelby in a “hospital” there and start our new life without her or 2. Turn around and make the long and dangerous voyage back to whatever bad situation we came from – whether or not (probably not) we had the money for fare.
This book declares that, “We deface the image of God every time we disdain or abuse another human being.” It’s message? Every human is valued by nature of being known and loved by almighty God. “It will take thousands upon thousands…to bow our knees and take up a posture of humility, of listening to others instead of insisting on hearing our own voices, of admitting our own complicity in harm, of opening our hands and hearts to healing even when it hurts.” This book is not a solution to inequity. It’s just a beginning. And I definitely recommend beginning by reading it.
Tyndale House Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I am giving away my copy to one reader of this post! All you have to do is subscribe over on the right side of this page to receive my posts every week (and I promise I almost never send you more than one message a week). If you are already subscribed – thank you so much! – you can still be entered by leaving a comment! One commenter/ subscriber will be selected at random and notified via email next Friday November 16. You can also purchase your own copy of the book here from Amazon or anywhere good books are sold. If you choose to purchase this or anything else through my link, I will receive a small commission to help offset the costs of my website at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance!