A few nights ago, my husband and I attended a foster care info meeting in DC. It has been three years since we felt the call to foster or adopt and what brought us all the way out to DC this particular night was a connection we had made with a DC Christian nonprofit that had similar vision and values as ours.
So after fighting through the horror of DC rush hour traffic, I flew up the stairs of the small, narrow building and entered a small conference room, frazzled yet smiling and happy to be there. Then for the next two hours, we were given a wealth of information–resources, procedures, and regulations all about the foster care system in DC.
With so much information and very little time, the presenter had to move fast, and although everything she was saying was heart wrenching stuff, there was really no time to process any of it. From slide to slide, we glazed over horrifying statistics and the dismal state of the child welfare system in DC, not to mention the entire country. I could scarcely keep up with the notes I was wildly trying to jot down until this one slide that stopped me in my tracks. At the very top, it read:
95% of children in DC’s foster care are African American.
95%??? Wow that’s a lot, I thought. From there, the presenter went on to explain how since none of us were black, any one of us fostering in DC would have to be prepared to provide transracial care to a black child and described what that might look like.
That’s when I stopped listening. 95% are black. That meant that if I were to foster in DC, which we were seriously beginning to consider, we would more than likely be fostering black children. For some reason, I did not know how I felt about that. In fact, there were a whole bunch of mixed feelings that all came up at once which I was not sure I could explain.
So I said it to myself again. 95% are black. Ok…simple enough. In my mind, that should have been no problem. I love black people. I grew up being friends with plenty of black people and in fact, one of my best friends were black. Heck, one of my greatest spiritual mentors and confidants right now is a black woman.
So why was I feeling nervous? Why was I feeling fear? What about bringing a black child into my home made me pause? A dozen questions and emotions filled my mind and what it ultimately came down to was a question of, could I foster a black child?
I did not have a clear answer.
I was at this meeting to talk about foster care, something I had been prayerfully considering for years and would fight for in an instant, but I was not expecting nor was I prepared for a discussion on race, much less all the unprocessed emotions I suddenly felt. But now that it was a real and most likely possibility that the child we would foster would be black, I was blindsided completely by the topic and my mixed feelings.
On the drive home through the quiet late night air, the tension and the question still floated through my mind. Could I foster a black child? Mostly, I was disturbed that it was even a question at all because I knew it should not be. But suddenly, I found myself forced to also question my values, my views, my beliefs, and my stance on how I felt about another race, specifically the black race, which as of late, has been the hot topic in our community, our church, and in our nation.
In fact, over the last month or so, I have been having many conversations with both black and nonblack friends about these recent acts of violence and injustices against the black community and what our response should be. Yet the truth was, all I had really done was maybe shake my head and say a few words under my breath which were meant to be sympathetic, but was mostly lip service (to who, I don’t know), and then I just went on with my day. Yet the more these conversations have been happening, the more I realized how wrong my passive stance has been.
But what could I do? I could not will myself to feel something I’m really not nor do something I don’t really believe. So all I did was begin to ask God to change my heart, to BREAK my heart for what was happening, and to give me opportunities to do something about it.
Yet I never expected it to be like this. Certainly not here and not now. But for the first time, I really started to see how this was a real problem. It was everywhere and it was time that I really came to terms with what was happening in our world and what was really in my heart.
So as the days passed, I continued to wrestle with the issue and with myself and with whether or not I could foster a black child. Until one day, I woke up and while coloring with my 3 year old daughter, I finally realized that the reason fostering a black child was such an issue to me was because I knew full well that our society is plagued with and completely polluted by racial injustices against blacks…. and I was afraid I might actually have to do something about it.
When and if push came to shove with a black child in my house and their biological family, could I stand up and fight for them? Could I get that close to the issue.
It wouldn’t be ok to just be comfortable with black people or even just like them and respect them, but I would have to truly love them, which right now meant standing up for them, advocating for them, and fighting for justice on their behalf when they are stripped of their rights, their dignity, and their very lives during these times.
So again, right there on the floor with my children and crayon in hand, I heard the question once more and this time it was from the Lord.
Could you foster a black child.
And immediately, I wept. I wept and I repented because my answer should have always been yes and I wept because I knew what deep pains might be there in that black child’s life.
And for the first time, I felt holy anger. I heard the cries of the blood of black lives in graves and behind bars and those at home still screaming for justice today. Then I wondered, why are they the only ones crying out? Why are we, why am I not crying out with them? And why, in God’s name, am I hesitant to put myself in a situation where I might actually be able to make a difference in the lives of people I love, cherish, and admire.
The question should be, “Why wouldn’t I foster a black child?” .
Why have I been afraid to say, to declare, to SHOUT OUT that BLACK LIVES MATTER? Because yes, it is absolutely worth saying in these times when it has become undeniably evident that even after all the progress we thought we had made, it is sadly still the unrelenting truth that black lives are often times still seen, deemed, and treated as less.
So I will say it again and again, BLACK LIVES MATTER because ALL lives matter.
The times are clear and we can all do something where we are. Don’t be afraid to say something, do something, and stand where God calls us to stand. Quite frankly, that time and place is here and now.
And the answer is yes.