Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fear vs. Love.

Image credit: Courtesy of the BHE

Right after it happened, I did my best to talk to them about it. Like, to me,  it wasn't okay to be so concerned about their innocence that I didn't tell them about what happened. And to be honest? It was super lumpy.

"He shot 9 people? In a church?"

"He did."

"But why? Like, why would somebody do that?" Isaiah asked incredulously.

"Well. Partly because his mind was sick. But also because his mind and heart had been taught to hate black people."  That was all I could think to say.

"I bet those people were so, so scared." That's all that Zachary said. His eyes were cast downward and he looked somber. "To me, it seems like church is a place where you should feel safe."

"Do you think the devil got in that man when he did that?" Isaiah looked at me without blinking when he asked that. He was serious, too.

"You know what, son? I think the devil got in that man long before yesterday when he walked into that church."

"That's terrible," Isaiah responded.

I paused for a moment and tried to think of what else I could do with that teachable moment and came up with nothing. Outside of the kids knowing what happened, I can't say that I was able to come up with much else.

That is, until now.

This morning, I decided that the kids and I would watch all 37 minutes of President Obama's eulogy of Reverend Clementa Pinckney. You see, this is the kind of thing that my sister Deanna would have insisted upon and probably even have carried out herself. I could hear her in my ear saying, "This will be the perfect way to have the real conversation about race and where things are in this country. And your boys need to know. They do."

And she would be right.

And so. We watched. And I wish I could tell you that they weren't squirmy or balking at the fact that when they touched the mouse it showed them that they would have 37 whole minutes of speech-talking to watch. But yeah, they are 8 and 10 and it is what it is. That said, I made them watch it anyway.

I'm so glad that I did.

When they showed the faces of all nine victims, Zachary said, "Pause it, mom! Pause it!" And so I did. Zachary reached out and pointed to the photograph of Sharonda Singleton, one of the nine. "Did that lady have any kids? She looks so young, mom."

"Yes, she did."

"That's terrible," Isaiah said again. He added in for emphasis, "Just terrible."

"Obama sounds like a preacher," Zachary said.

"Yeah, but I bet that makes people feel good that he does." Isaiah kept watching the screen when he said that.

"I like how he talks," I added.

Finally, we all fell silent and just kept listening. President Obama honored that man's life and theirs, too. He sure did.

When the speech ended, Isaiah looked over at me with a serious expression. "You know what, mom? I think there a lot of people out there that still don't like black people. Like really, really don't." It broke my heart because you could see in his eyes that it was a truly disappointing ah hah moment.

I sighed and twisted my mouth. "I think you're right, son."

"Even though the Martin-Luther-King-days are over."


"I think if your mom and dad tell you some people are bad, then you believe it. That's what I think. Like if that's what everyone says at home."

Damn that Isaiah is wise.

I added on to his thought. "Or any person that has a lot of influence on you. If they tell you something when you're little, it goes into your heart."

"Remember when that boy told me that black people were bad when I was in kindergarten?"

Up until then I'd forgotten. But since I did remember, I nodded. "Yeah. I do. That was bad."

"You and dad said that it was because somebody told him that at his house probably."

I squinted my eyes and sucked in a big drag of air though my nostrils. Thank goodness Zachary broke up the tension.

"Hey! You have to be careful when you're a mom or a dad! I believe a lot of the stuff my mom and dad say to me!" he piped in.

"That's real talk, son."

"Yep! We believe our moms and dads!" His simple idea was as true as it was terrifying.

Yeah man.

Zachary was now smiling and thinking about the video games he'd get to play after his discussion. But Isaiah was quiet, even more pensive. Then he finally spoke. "Mom? Should I be scared?"

I felt my eyes starting to sting as I sifted my mind for an answer to his poignant question. The truth? I mean, open any newspaper and you'll see that it's rhetorical, that question. I mean, a lot of it speaks for itself.

Should you be scared, black child? HELL YEAH. But since fear lives to choke out love, no. We need to fight with all of our might against it. And decide that we won't succumb to it's sticky, slippery grip.

No. We. Won't.

Eventually, I spoke. "You could always be scared. But should you? I guess I just don't think that's a way to live, you know?"

"Yeah," he replied.

"You know what, Isaiah? I say just be aware. And pray, too. Yeah. I think we should pray. And love. Even when others don't. Love. And especially remember that no matter how scary things seem, there's a lot of love out there, too. A lot."

"A whole lot!" Zachary exclaimed. He clearly wanted this heavy conversation to end on a warm and fuzzy note.

Isaiah still appeared to be lost in his thoughts for moment before he finally asked one more question. "Mom? Did that man who shot those people have any children?"

"No son. Not that I know of."

He stared into my eyes and then replied firmly,"Good, mom. I'm glad.



Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .the song that always puts me in my happiest spiritual place. When I hear Yolanda Adams belting out these words, my eyes immediately well up, my heart pounds and I get goose flesh. I played this for my boys after listening to President Obama and wept the whole time. I couldn't stop thinking about the faith of those individuals and imagine them singing as this choir. That comforted me. 

If I suddenly was blessed with a singing voice? This would be the first song I'd sing. Exactly like this. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  ~ 1 John 4:18


  1. Dr. Kim, I have no words. Tears, yes.
    And the hope that you'll get your words into that wider, wider audience.
    We need you.

  2. Love. Yes. It will always overcome.

  3. When something like those killings occur, I really start to lose my hope. Thanks for writing this.

  4. You have a gift in the way you are able to put into words things that are very difficult to communicate.

  5. This. Oh God, this is the best thing I have read on the aftermath of that awful crime. This is healing. Your boys are so wise. You foster that. You allow that. You nurture that. And your answer to should they be scared, perfection! Thank you Dr. Kimberly. Just thank you.

  6. Thank you for this.

  7. With tears in my eyes, thank you, Kim.

  8. OK, first of all, I love you and your wonderful kids. And I love this post. I had a similar discussion with my kids - D asked how someone could hate that much to do something like that. I explained that the person was either sick or was taught that hate by someone. He said that someone would have to hate that much to teach that kind of hate. Wise kid, that one. It's scary. But I agree that we have to just keep teaching love. You do a great job of that, friend.

  9. You did a great job with your boys. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have children asking such hard, hard questions. You answered with such truth. Keep loving. Thank you.

  10. affection must be created from within the human family will educate better.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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