These are my sons.
Both of them.
I have been asked before, “Are they really your sons?”
“Oh, they are both quite real, so then I would suppose they are both really my sons.”
They are my sons, and they are brothers. Real brothers.
You might think I look at them differently. You are right. I do look at them differently because they are different.
They have different passions, skills, and mannerisms. They each show joy and frustration in different ways. And yes, I am aware that their skin color is different.
And while both of these boys came into the family by different paths, I give credit to God on both of those. He is the only one powerful enough to make a family, no matter what the arrival looks like.
While they are different, they are also remarkably similar.
- Follow the same Jesus
- Serve at the same church
- Have the same dad
- Have the same mom
- Have the same sister
- Live in the same house
- Play with the same dog
- Sleep in the same room
- Eat the same stuff at the same time every single day
- Go to the same school
- Share the same bathroom
- Ride the same trail
- Laugh at the same jokes
- Play the same games
- Ride in the same cars
- Have the same friends
- Listen to the same music
- Instructed in the same values
- Taught the same lessons
- Hear the same sermons
- Reminded of the same manners
- And sometimes even wear the same clothes (like the picture above when their mom wants them to coordinate).
With all those things and more that they have in common, it is naive for anyone to think that both of these boys will be treated the same way by everyone they encounter throughout their lives.
Can we at least start there? As a step toward unity and understanding, can we at least acknowledge that?
I didn’t say that you would treat them differently, but I do know that someone will.
No matter how similar these two are, they will be treated differently at some point in their lives by someone who doesn’t understand. Someone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty and brilliance of each of these sons of mine.
They come from the same home with the same values and wear the same clothes, and someone will treat them differently.
It’s wrong, but it’s a fact. To ignore that reality isn’t helping the situation. If you wouldn’t treat them differently, I thank you for your stance, but you aren’t like everyone else. Someone will racially profile. Someone will ridicule. Someone will possibly even threaten. And yet, they are so similar it is remarkable.
But you don’t know them. Not like I know them. Because they are my sons.
In intense racial times like these, I think a starting point might need to be acknowledgment.
- Could you acknowledge for a moment that people who don’t look like you feel different than you?
- Could you consider that people coming from a different background might have a different perspective?
- Could you accept that they can better speak to a situation that they have lived through than someone who has never experienced it?
- Could you allow them to share their feelings and fears without invalidating them?
My sons are each so similar and so commendable, and yet they will be treated differently by some ignorant people in this world.
Not everyone will treat them differently. But some will. While I will teach each of them the same lessons, I will have to train both of my sons how to handle upcoming struggles from unique perspectives and yet with specific instructions for each one.
Blanket statements don’t alleviate anyone’s pain. Just because you wouldn’t treat them differently doesn’t mean that some won’t or haven’t already.
Racism exists in this world. It is still rampant in the human heart, and I am afraid we will not be rid of it until we leave this world.
Be a part of the solution; don’t add to the problem by acting like it is not out there.
Instead of ignoring the presence of racism in the world, let’s work on experiencing the absence of it in your heart.
I will die trying to keep it out of my soul and to help others think and live differently.
Because my sons deserve that.
Both of them.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.