3 Ways to Show Up for a Friend of Color
by Guest Blogger, Tiana Wollam
Hi. I’m Tiana. This month I will graduate from high school. I can’t wait to move to the next thing in my life. There is so much for which I am grateful. But at the same time, the way I approach the next phase may differ from you. Issues you may never consider weigh heavy on my mind, all because of the color of my skin. Especially right now, with different tragedies, situations gone wrong, and general badness in the headlines, it can be tough. These sorts of things leave me feeling isolated, wronged, alone, and somewhat hopeless in seeing a better day dawn. I’m not the only one. Your other friends of color feel the same. What can you do? Show up.
I want to give you a glimpse of what comes across my mind every so often. This is real life. I’m only eighteen. And having kids is probably a little ways in the future, but I still think about the challenges they will face one day—because of the color of their skin. I dread the day when I have to sit down with my future kids and explain they may be treated differently. On the other hand, I can’t wait for the day when I can tell them they absolutely do not have to be silent. To encourage them to speak with passion. And to remind them there is no need to be sad about who they are, or wish that they were someone different, or that they looked a certain way. I want them to know Who makes them matter. And that no other person or group can make you feel inferior unless you let them. I pray that when my future kids and husband come across people, that others treat them with the utmost respect and kindness, regardless of their perspective.
It seems like the three primary ethnic groups who get the most discrimination here are African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans. It shouldn’t be this way. You and I should want to see the world change and not just for you and me, but for the next generation. No matter the color of your skin, gender, or religious background, etc. The good news is that we can do something.
What can you do? How can you help? Show up. This is what Paul tells the Phillipian church while he is in prison.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
That’s really the bottom line, but let me give you three specific ways this plays out in everyday life. Here are three ways you can show for a friend of color.
#1 Way to Show Up: PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!
Prayer really makes a difference. Pray for your friends (specifically of these ethnic groups). Pray even for people you don’t know who may go through a tough time. You can pray that division would cease, hearts would change, and eyes would be opened.
#2 Reach Out!
The subject of unfair treatment may weigh a little extra heavy on people in your life who might face discrimination. Maybe you can’t understand. And it might be a little sensitive for them, but reach out anyway. See if there’s anything you can do for them. This is even more important if you know that they have recently experienced some kind of discrimination, or if something happened on the news that you know might have triggered them. Just all-around, reach out.
#3 Be Their Safe Place.
That might sound weird, making yourself into a destination. But it’s not. Help your friend feel safe when they are around you. Let me explain this one a little more. I feel safe around almost everyone that I come in contact with, my teachers at church, mentors, friends, etc. But some people, even if they are around others they know, may still feel uneasy. There are some adults/kids that dread walking out their door and having to walk or even drive to school, work, or anywhere else, especially if someone of their ethnicity was recently killed. Be their safe place. Offer to pick them up, walk them home, or walk them to their car, if they don’t feel safe. Be their safe place.
I want to help you see through my eyes. When you feel safe and comfortable, I may not. My friends of color may not. We, as a collective, find ourselves constantly looking over our backs. And in the back of our minds, we must consciously be aware of what we are doing, so that we aren’t wrongly accused. In the back of my mind, I’m always aware of what I do, whether that’s picking up a piece of jewelry, and making sure that someone sees me put it back down because I don’t want to have any trouble. That’s just how it is.
Honestly, it’s hard. It’s hard living in this world sometimes. It’s difficult seeing my Black, Hispanic, and Asian neighbors ache in pain. And it’s hard to understand that ache until you truly feel it—until you choose to step into a world that is not your own.
When anyone gets shot it’s sad, but when I see someone with the same skin as my own get shot on tv,
I pause… then I keep going because I’m not surprised. That’s what it has come to.
It makes me wonder,
How many will keep falling before death has taken its final say?
What will be the final moment we say, “No more?”
When will people start seeing eye to eye?
When will the person who hates everyone except those who are like them say, “I’m sorry,” and then change?
I don’t know. But I do know, these things that make me wonder, do not surprise my God (John 16:33).
It’s a God-sized problem. But He doesn’t leave me alone to figure it all out by myself. He’s got my back. And I’m thankful for all the others around me, looking beyond themselves, willing to be a part of the solution. Just showing up.
Hey – it’s not hard. But it is meaningful. Just show up.
Who might God have you show up for?
When Tiana is not writing, she enjoys singing with the worship team at her church. She enjoys performing with a local theater group, crocheting, and riding her longboard.
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