My adopted, six week old African-American daughter Rachel clung to her new mother as she suspiciously surveyed her new father. I was uncomfortably Caucasian.
While my wife Karen has several adopted siblings of sundry nationalities and racial mixtures, I had never know anyone who was adopted–of any race. Now I was the father of a child who looked very much like a group of people whom I had been taught to hate.
I grew up in the segregated South. Racism was an old acquaintance of mine. A sepulcher from whose shadow I could not escape, whose curse even a love for my new daughter could not seem to extinguish.
As surely as all people have been affected by racism, racial reconciliation is a task for all people. No one in American can escape the consequences of racism. It is about people with hopes and dreams and visions that are never realized. Racial reconciliation also is a dream and vision that we must all cast.
My friend Thomas was a victim of racism. He was told that black boys do not go to white colleges. My friend Dwight dropped his head in shame when an elder blocked his path and told him n—– were not welcome at our church. My friend, Craig, however, was also a victim of racism. He threatened to castrate a young black man who vacated the balcony in the Malco Theater and sought a better seat in the back of the white only lower section. Craig and I were perpetrators and victims, however, Dwight and Thomas were only victims.
But I knew the first time I met Rachel, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, that it was time that part of my history was changed. It was time that racism in my life died.
Rachel was my promised land. She was my new time, my new land, my new chance. She was more than my daughter: she was God’s invitation to me to experience wholeness and new life.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on Genesis argues that Abraham, when he accepted God’s call, entered a new history. Racial reconciliation calls us all to a new history. The new history is without link to the old. The new history begins with a call for all of us to repent and a summons to leave old comfort zones and to go somewhere we are not to become someone who I once was not. In my life this new call was a second call. A new birth.
Homeschooling is like that. A call to a new life. A new history. An alternative track.
Through Rachel God called me to an alternative life, a life that is the antithesis to the cold, barren one based on hatred and mistrust. My first destination was the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of diminished resources and manna but it offers greater possibilities than the comforts and the garlic of Egypt. We who live Ur and seek the Promised Land will–as I have found–experience some obstacles. We too will have our faith tested, our memory of God’s deeds questioned.
In my case, Rachel was engrafted into my genus, into my family line. My great-great-great Uncle Howeard was a slaveowning Confederate soldier. His great-great-granddaughter is an ancestor of slaves. Progress.
When I grasped Rachel in my arms I rewrote history. I ended a curse too. From that time, to forever, my family has an African-American in its history.
When I look at my youngest son, a Stobaugh with all his Caucasian tint, I see a better version of myself. Peter, my son, has three older African-American siblings. He was homeschooled with, he lived his life with, his siblings are, African-Americans. There is not a hint of racism in my white boy. The curse is ended. Progress.
Perhaps, saints, that is the best we can do in our home schooling—write a new history for our children. End those curses. Give them a new history of hope.