Sistas Squad Up: The Four Friends I Needed When My Son Was Called the N-Word

Sistas Squad Up: The Four Friends I Needed When My Son Was Called the N-Word May 10, 2016

We were rushing to the car on a rainy Friday afternoon when my son pulled me under a concrete awning and said, “Mom, something happened at school today and I don’t want to say it in front of the rest of the family.”  He told me about a basketball game and a group of boys ribbing on each other—taking it a bit to far, and then he told me about a coach who chastised them.

“He called me the n-word today, Mom.”

I think he could tell the wheels in my mind were turning because he asked, “What are you going to do?” and honestly, I didn’t know what to do.  There was a filed report I needed to follow-up.  There were a few choice words I needed to pray up to Jesus before I used them down another.  There was a boy whose identity was shaken— the history of hate and brutality of that word hovered above him and I feared it would rob him of his worth.

But of all the things I needed to do, only one of those things I wanted to do and that was to let my friends know that I was in pain.

“

 

The big deal is we think the power is in us individually…the power is in us collectively.” Dr. John M. Perkins

When racism hits a family it doesn’t just affect them, it affects everyone around them. There is a tsunami of confusion that threatens to overtake us all when we realize that racism still exists—even in 2016, even in suburban L.A., even towards a biracial child, so it’s imperative that we stand together. As soon as I got in the van, I started texting and posting to Facebook to ask for help, and people showed up like bosses.

My friends sent kind emails and shared their expertise to help me advocate for my son.  They texted emoticons and prayers. They used their arms to hug me and their feet to prayer walk with me just so I could vent. I’m grateful because I couldn’t manage all the moving parts of this broken machine by myself— I needed my people.

It was in the midst of this gratitude for community that, “Lemonade” dropped.  Beyonce’s album is a prophetic narrative of the stages of grief in song and poetry, bass drops and steel drums, f-bombs and freedom calls. Every song spoke to my sadness, yet every song reminded me of my Sistas who carried me through. While so many friends came out, there were some who privately messaged me to confess that they felt out of the their depth when they read my son’s story.

Sweet Sistas, I want you to know that you don’t have to give in to the feeling of inadequacy. The color of your skin does not preclude you from the your specific practice of Shalom in the face of racism. The best way you can serve a mom like me who is processing this pain in her family is to just be yourself.  

To show you that the unique way God made you is invaluable to moving the dial forward, I want to offer you some Lemonade-inspired guidance through my favorite tracks on Beyonce’s album based on your initial reactions.  For fun, I have a few drink suggestions for when you visit your Sista in need because nothing quenches the fires of injustice like a tall condensation-slick glass of lemonade.

prayyoucatchme

If the first thing you thought when you read what happened to my son was:

I’m so sorry this is happening to you!

Then You’re Probably a “Sista Shiva”

You’re great at making space for your Sista to express all of her pain. Your strength is in your kind words and faithful arms. A  fantastic hugger, your purse overflows with kleenex. Your superpower is comfort in the face of loss. With a flexible disposition, you’re completely ok with sitting with sadness and letting your friend direct on how you can help her.  You’re patient and secure.  Don’t feel like you have to have the answers though,  just like the Jewish practice of Sitting Shiva with the grieving for seven days with no agenda and no frills— your practice of Shalom is the ministry of presence.  So, when you do show up, bring a pitcher of lavender lemonade, because lavender is known for it’s calming properties and it’s best when it steeps overnight. I think your jam is “Pray You Catch Me”. The dissonance of the beginning combined with the lyrics of confusion and betrayal reflected my sadness after the news. The quiet spaces between phrases reminds me of my own Sista Shivas.  If you’re a Sista Shiva and you want to help, go over to your friend’s  place, pour her a glass of lavender lemonade,  crank up your jam, and plant yourself on her couch. Wait for your Sista to tell you what she needs.

02-beyonce-lemonade

If the first thing you thought when you read what happen to my son was:

Oh, Heck NO!

Then You’re Probably a “Sista Shock and Awe”

These Sistas made space for my anger in a way that put to rest my fears of being labeled an “angry black woman” or “mama bear”.  When I get angry about racism I worry that  I just crazy. Too often I felt like I was making too big of a deal with it, but the Sistas Shock and Awe in my life were NOT having that. They’re not afraid of anger. If you’re a Sista Shock and Awe your strength is your courage; your mission is to protect of the weak. You practice shalom by giving your Sista a safe space to be angry.

Sistas Shock and Awe are the women who’ll listen as her Sista runs down a bullet-point list of offenses. In our case, they show up the DAY AFTER the racial slur was hurled at my son to make sure everyone in the office knew there was a community of people who WOULD NOT STAND FOR THIS. They know that even Jesus had to wreck some stuff to his point across. But, anger balances on a knife-edge, doesn’t it? It can quickly become sin, so Sista Shock and Awe, while I think, “Hold Up” is so your spicy jam, when you visit your Sista in need and crank up those first few bars of steel drums,  let’s leave the bat in the storage closet, m’kay?  Your challenge will be to remember that we wrestle not with flesh and blood (or hoopies on the sidewalk) but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.   So, bring a pitcher of spiced lemonade— the cinnamon and allspice give the drink a nice little kick that makes it all the more refreshing.  Just like my Sistas Shock and Awe gave me the little kick I needed to own my anger and harness it for change.

I Ain't Sorry

If the first thing you thought when you read what happen to my son was:

What can I do for you?

Then You’re Probably a “Sista Safekeeper”

When something as massive as racism hits a family, it’s very easy to think that the philosophical and political efforts are more important than everything else.  But when I did that we spiraled— no one ate a healthy meal, no one slept, no one laughed.  All of our conversations were consumed by this offense. Sista Safekeepers are the subversive and irreverent voice for self-care that makes a mom like me stop spinning out and listen to my own needs. They also gave me permission to unapologetically ask for what I needed from my family and eventually, the school.  If you’re a Sista Safekeeper, when you see a family in crisis, your first instinct is to surround them with practical help.

These are the Sistas who pushed me out the house to go to small group because they knew I needed to be there.A whole community of Sista Safekeepers mobilized when I told them that my son felt unsafe at school and we needed to love bomb his phone with joy. Y’all…the whole morning was full of hilarious memes and encouraging texts.  So it’s no surprise that your jam is “Sorry”—it’s an anthem of self-care and claiming your worth in the midst of trauma. You might be tempted to be a little pushy  because you can perceive something as a need and then relentlessly push your Sista to do it. Be careful, your good intentions could come across as offensive. So your challenge will be to follow the lead of your Sista—she’ll get there eventually. Just crank up your jam and make her a pitcher of honey lemonade it’s both satisfying and healing.

635976560689347723-1304485210_beyonce-winner

If the first thing you thought when you read what happen to my son was:

What are they going to do now?

Then You’re Probably A “Sista Shackle-Breaker”

These are the women in my life who saw the threads of my story in two directions: reaching back to continue the work of the past and stretching forward to create a new future. Because they are such visionaries, they reminded me that I’m part of God’s larger story of Shalom. Holy hype girls, they kept me on mission in the face of my own self- doubt.

So many times I asked, “can really take on the school and administrators?”  “Is this even worth it?”  To the Sista Shackle- Breaker, their answer to me is a resounding “YES”. Because of their support, I won’t quit. 

My Sista Shackle-Breakers offered to stage a protest to make sure no other brown child on that campus suffered like my son. They posted to Facebook about what happened and invited me over to talk about next steps. If you’re a Sista Shackle-Breaker, you’re the ones who get excited about learning policies and befriending decision-makers. You practice shalom by casting a vision of unity before us, but your primary challenge is to work in community for that change. You have the tendency to be impatient, though—you see what needs to be done you want to move now, but remember Sista,  this is a community movement towards wholeness. You have to learn to walk in step with the “other Sista” the women you don’t quite get— the ones who have to sit in their pain for a bit longer than you’re comfortable. I know Dear One, this feels like inactivity, but under the stillness of the surface something profound is happening.  God is doing the deeper work of binding our hearts together so that when we move against hatred we’re a unified force of love. Since you’re so passionate about long-term flourishing, your jam can be no other than,  “Freedom”.

I love this song too, but I had to admit, Beyonce got something wrong— we can’t break these chains all by ourselves, we need each other.  Remember my warning about community.  When your Sista is in need, visit her, grab her off her place of comfort on the couch and dance around to your jam, then pour yourselves a glass of Beyonce’s lemonade. It’s simple and sweet, and exactly what you need.

tumblr_inline_o6dpagrBZg1rbsjtb_500

These are my four favorite songs from the album and the four friends who buoyed me when I felt like I was drowning last month.  We’re still dealing with this issue on my son’s campus; it’s a long road towards racial justice.

But with my Sista Shiva ready to hold me when I cry, and my Sista Shock and Awe to help process my anger in a safe (non-destructive) space, my Sista Safekeeper to make sure I value myself and my needs before caring for others and my Sista Shackle-Breaker to keep me on mission, I don’t think I’ll grow too weary.

Life has given the Moore Family lemons, but don’t worry y’all, we’ll make Lemonade.

Which one of the Shalom Sistas do you see yourself?  What was your first reaction when you read my son’s story? And which recipe are you most eager to try out?

Practicing Shalom by Dancing to Lemonade in my Kitchen,

Osheta

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  • Kvossler

    Thank you, Osheta, for sharing this process with us, your online friends and followers. You were an encouragement and challenge to me with this post even as you persevere in peace through this intense and painful time. You are a wise woman. Thank you for sharing that wisdom here.

  • Wow.

    (I’m definitely the first kind of sista, so you won’t be surprised when I say) I’m so sorry that this happened. How awful.

    Thank you for sharing this, though– from this awful experience of hatred comes a strong reminder that yes, this is still out there, and yes, we’re all part of one another. Standing by you, and saying a prayer for your son today.

  • Thank you, Ally!

  • oh, Krista! I don’t feel so wise, but thank you for *encouraging* me!

  • What a great post out of a horrific incident …

    Wow. You surely are as Shalom Sista.

    I’m #2 AND #4. Heck, No! And, Something’s Gotta Happen Here. Ughhhhhhh.

  • Lori

    I’m definitely #2!! I get so angry when teachers and people in authority put down children. I’ve had it happen to my son – not at a racism level, but labeling him and judging him negatively. And I just heard about another labeling incident happening to a girl in my daughter’s class. Thank you for reminding me that anger should lead to productive change because I’d rather get out the bat sometimes!

  • Done in Dixie

    My reaction is not really on your post. I am a “Oh no they didn’t….” with a few explitives thrown in. I’m a tad bit angry and definitely DONE with the white narrative, so sorry, uneducated bull c–p I could explode my self! I want to scream from the roof top, “WHITE PEOPLE IN AMERICA–WAKE UP!!!” More specifically, CHRISTIAN white people–WAKE UP!” I’m sorry if I am offending white people or anyone for that matter. But as a collective group of people, on the whole, us white folks just still don’t get racism. If you’re mad at me for saying these words, I’m here to tell you–get over your defensive explatoons, move out of your comfort zone and take action to stand with your brown brothers and sisters. I was once one of you…ignorantly smug in my white privileged evangelical Christian world. Yes, I had a few black friends. I “loved all people.” But I didn’t take the self sacrificing time to UNDERSTAND, study and learn their perspective and looong, long, long, struggle with racism, daily racism, systemic racism, personal racism. I am so sorry to say I didn’t begin to “get it” until I loved my brown children. Can just tell all the black and brown people out there how sorry I am that I didn’t stand with you until it affected my heart personally. Truly, I am so, so sorry. And, to your precious son, please know that what that coach said is 100% not okay. That coach should be fired and he should either write apology letter to your son and your family or publicly apologize. It’s time we get real about this stuff. No more…”maybe he/she didn’t realize”, etc. Nope…done. I’m done. No sugar in my lemonade.

  • Kara

    Thanks for sharing – and I love your recipes and of course the song connections! You are creative and passionate, as well as wise!

    I saw myself in #1 (inspired by Inside Out and being sad together…) but when I read it was a *coach* that brought out my #2. And then I got to #3 and knew that was me. I’d babysit, bring a meal, or give you a massage. In my opinion, most situations require massage, in addition to naps, of course!

    I’m so glad you are connecting with your community, and giving yourself time with God to process. Any traumatic experience requires time for our brains to process the emotions and thoughts. It means giving ourselves grace when we are tired, overwhelmed or just emotional. Keep giving yourself (and your family members) that space!

  • Wow – this is a wonderful piece about our community of shalom sistas, Osheta. Thank you for offering such insight in the midst of a painful time for your family. I think we have a tendency in our culture to isolate ourselves during hard times, but this post spells out why we need not even just one confidant, but a true community holding up our arms when we cannot. Thank you!

  • As a mother, we always want to protect our children from the pain of cruel words, especially ones that demean someone so much like the n word. It is terrible that another mother’s child felt it was acceptable to call your son such a thing. Ugliness is all around us and we need to be able to find a way to lean on Christ for strength when we are at such weak points. It isn’t easy. It is hard to be an Anabaptist when your own children are the ones being hurt. How do we find a way to disarm without wanting to attack back? How can we show love back when hatred is shown in such a way? It is hard! It is so good that your son could confide in you and that you were able to have people to lean on! Did Tyson have some friends who encouraged him as well? I am glad he has you to show him such love. Also it is cute that he put his stamp of approval on this blog post. How sweet! He’s a handsome and wonderful boy and I pray he’ll shine Christ always. I pray that words like this and hatred will never be shown towards him again!!!

  • P.S. I am the first one, honestly. I react a lot and then realize I made a whoops in how I reacted. I have anger issues which is why being an Anabaptist challenges me constantly in a great way because it helps me breathe and try to be calm and patient with others more so than ever. These recipes look so good by the way.

  • 100% Oh Hell No. This post is genius, BTW, and I hope we get to meet in person at CCDA! 😉

  • Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  • Nancy Stevens

    Osheta, thank you for sharing your heart and insights! I loved your description of your different friends. I definitely recognized myself as the “Heck NO!” Sista. (Can I be a sista in white skin? ) I love your emphasis on always working towards Shalom!

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