While scrolling through the internet one day, I stumbled upon an opportunity to contact the Obama family. I almost scrolled to the next page but stopped. What would I say to them if I had a chance? Would my note actually be read? Probably not, but at least I could try. Try because, after watching the Becoming documentary, I recognized my own role in the pain the family experienced. Yes, I’m just a little tiny white woman from the south, my impact was small. Microscopic, even.
But… was my role really that small?
Hi Mrs. Obama!
I want to say thank you and I’m sorry. I didn’t vote for your husband, actually, I was one of those folks who was pretty vocally against him, pretty vocally against you, as well. After watching your Becoming Netflix documentary last year I was blown away with how ignorant I’d been. In 2008, I believed what the media said about you guys, I was sucked into the criminalizing rhetoric. I justified my racist thoughts because I was against his “policy”. And for that, I am sad.
Sad I didn’t get to cheer for you guys when you were in the White House. Sad I didn’t get to vote for a man, a family, who I now see, understand and know, ABSOLUTELY belonged there (and who I wish could be there again!). I’m sad it’s taken me this long to expose myself to the amazing speeches and work the two of you did while in office, work you continue to do and that I’m learning from like a dry sponge soaking it all in. As a white woman who’s grown up in the south, my ignorance has been on full display for most of my life and I’m blessed that by God’s grace, He’s allowing me to see it and repent for it, to continue to repent for it, something I know I’ll be doing all my life as I let Him undo this yuck that’s been instilled in me from my neighborhood, my community, and my country, from an early age. I didn’t know then, but that’s not good enough. I want to know, I want to learn. Thank you for your courage in standing up to the ugliness that we spewed in your direction. Thank you for your bravery. You stared into faces like mine and did the thing God had called you to do, anyway.
I didn’t get a chance to be a part of history when your husband became President but I learned, I got better, because of your story, I’ve done both. I was able to participate in this past monumental election. My husband and I took our two-year-old daughter to drive around Atlanta while we all honked horns at Biden and Harris’ election. We teared up. We felt like love won that day. As the mother of a daughter, I was able to watch Harris’ speech and again, tear up, knowing I would be able to proudly tell her when she’s older that the world changed that day and that her mommy got to be a part of it. A tiny, microscopic part of the right side of history, where I believe, in 2008, I was on the wrong one. I’m sorry for my ignorance. I’m sorry for being a part of the “them” that hurt your family. I wish I could take it back, but since I can’t, I’ll just move forward and do better. I promise to do better.
Thank you again, Mrs. Obama, I’m thankful you are in this world because you make it better place!!!
I never heard back from my email, nor did I expect to get a response. In writing group, we learn to write for the one — even if that one is yourself. The one for that piece of writing was myself. I needed to write it, I needed to apologize, I needed to repent. Michelle Obama didn’t need my note. She didn’t need my apology. She didn’t need my repentant attitude. She doesn’t need anything from me, personally. What she needs from me is to be a part of the whole group of white people pushing to not forget, to keep learning, to keep pressing into the discomfort that is the race conversation in this country.
One I forget about, more than I’m proud to admit, but one I want to keep engaging in and to keep fighting to bring to the forefront of my mind. IT IS SO EASY to get sidetracked, to lose focus, to get off course in the pursuit to be an advocate for justice.
On our way home from a fantastic week visiting my parents in St. Simons, here’s a shot of my four people at the beach…
…Lukas mentioned a podcast he’d heard about, called Love Thy Neighborhood. Y’all KNOW how much I love neighboring so I jumped on the bandwagon and was surprised at what we uncovered. A GEM. At least, it’s a gem for the likes of me who is questioning a lot of the narratives I’ve believed about faith, the Gospel, God, grace, and more, as I’ve learned some ugly truths about what people like me have done to people in the margins, under the banner of Jesus’ name.
I appreciate the podcast host’s perspective. It doesn’t seem as polarizing or extreme as a lot of the other content you find on these types of topics. I plan to listen to more podcast episodes in the future and only have one official episode under my belt, so can’t say I wave a banner of THE BIGGEST FAN (yet?) but it was thought provoking and educational. A glimpse into the history of the American church, especially in the south (aka where I was born, raised and went to college), where a whole bunch of white people used a whole bunch of power to protect their way of life against a whole bunch of people that didn’t look like them.
My letter to Mrs. Obama feels, well, a little silly, and yet, it’s the culmination of a A LOT of thought provoking soul work where I’ve had to look at my own racist tendencies square in the face. Like a bicep being strengthened at the gym, my muscle of learning about racial justice (and injustice!) will never be finished or complete. Rather, it’s a desire I have to constantly invest in relational strength with the people around me, never giving up on not forgetting.
If you’d like to join me in not forgetting, click here for the podcast episode I listened to. Or here, here, or here for three other episodes that are high on my “listen to next” list. Or if you are unsure about all this race conversation, it makes you MEGA uncomfortable (don’t worry, I’ve been there!!), and you aren’t sure where to even begin, check out this post that shows you where I began my learning journey. If you have specific questions, I promise to be a safe, listening ear, for you to ask them. PS if you know my mom, she’s a really safe place on this topic and pushes herself to not forget, as well! In the deepest part of my gut, heart and Spirit, I believe that until white people (me, us, and maybe you staring at your cell phone screen) start talking about race, regularly and often, we will not see Kingdom shaking change on Earth as it is in Heaven.