Blair Waggett is the Kids Director at our Chapel Hill campus. At the encouragement of several of our African American pastors, Blair offered to share some of how he and his family are pursuing a multi-ethnic lifestyle. – J.D. Greear.
My hope in writing this is that you will hear the heart of a family pursuing Christ-like community in our own home, while simultaneously embracing our mistakes and shortcomings. It is my prayer that I don’t appear as a self-righteous white guy. I have a lot to learn, but I have also learned a lot. As part of the majority culture, my prayer is that we can greatly impact the climate of healthy biblical change at our church. Therefore, my primary audience is other people within the majority culture. I also humbly ask for grace and mercy from our minority families, whose wisdom I continue to need as we disciple our families better.
I am a daddy of three kids (5, 2 1/2 and 1). I grew up in Wilmington, N.C., and to most it’s a surprise when they find out about the home I grew up in. My dad is biracial (white and Filipino) and my mom is white. As part of the Asian culture, an athlete and a pretty sick musician, my dad had the blessing of being able to walk both the white and non-white side of the fence growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s. He had black friends, white friends, Filipino friends and Samoan friends. This lifestyle permeated my thought process as a child. My closest friends have almost always looked different than me. Some of my own family members don’t even look like me. I’ve always been most comfortable around multi-ethnic communities.
Yet, despite that comfort, I haven’t always understood multi-ethnicity, nor have I always respected and honored it. To be honest, at times, I was open to and even participated in conversations that degraded someone for their race.
Like all of us, I am broken by the sin of racism. As I think of what a multi-ethnic lifestyle looks like in the home, my hope is that we get to a place where we, as daddies and mommies, not only push our children to understand race, ethnicity and culture, but to respect, love and, most importantly, value it the same way that God does—because he treasures the richness of the varied ethnicities he created.
My wife and I want the little disciples in our home to say, with ease and sincerity, “Mom! Dad! I have a black/brown/white/Asian/Latino/Native American friend. And I love them.” To reach that goal, here are five ideas we prioritize in our home:
1. Celebrate the community that God has placed you in.
Eventually, your kids are going to notice that someone they know looks different than them. They will see a person who dresses differently, or that talks differently, or they’ll notice someone’s hair is different than theirs. Often times, we parents see this as a moment of confusion. Some of us don’t want to deal with answering these questions because we have our own stereotypical thoughts or negative ideas about a certain group of people. Others of us don’t know how to guide the conversation without being misinformed and coming across as rude, so we try to avoid it or minimize it.
But here is the real truth of the matter: God created man in his image (Genesis 1:27). So that little boy or little girl that your kid has noticed is a child of the great I Am—a prince or princess worthy of all the respect due God himself.
When your kids notice someone that looks different, don’t shy away from the differences. Instead, celebrate the diversity that God has created. Celebrate the difference that you would have otherwise have ignored (but that your kid, not knowing the social rules, just blurted out).
The alternatives to celebrating these ethnic differences aren’t pretty. If we ignore them, we communicate to our kids that ethnic differences are dangerous to talk about. Worse, if we denigrate others for the way they look, we communicate to our kids that God doesn’t find beauty in all of his children. So let’s take our kids’ sincere and awkward questions as an opportunity to see the beauty that God has put right in front of us.
2. Go first.
What would happen if, instead of your kid bringing up something out of the blue, you brought it to their attention first? “Hey, Sam! Did you notice that God blessed you with friends that look different than you? How can you thank God for the people he has placed in your life?”
You’ve now set the stage for shaping how your children see those around them through the lens of the gospel. Leaving a first-time experience like this up to someone else (a teacher or a classmate) is risky. Maybe another grown-up will shepherd your child well in this moment. But maybe they will reinforce hurtful stereotypes. Wouldn’t you rather frame your kids’ understanding of ethnicity before a relative stranger does?
And if you harbor stereotypes yourself, why not “go first” by modeling humility and repentance before your children? If you need to be discipled in addressing issues of multi-ethnicity, show your kids what Christlike vulnerability is by admitting that you have room to grow and asking for help. Go first!