Even though I grew up in a white community in Birmingham, Alabama, I was fortunate to attend a high school that was racially and ethnically diverse. I had friends and classmates who were first and second generation immigrants from China, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Korea, India, and Peru (just to name a few), as well as Black classmates whose families had likely been brought to the US over a century before as slaves. My grandfather often made racist remarks, and I took great pleasure in correcting him with self-righteous chagrin.
I didn’t see my own foolishness until the hot summer afternoon my Chinese American friend and I were looking for something fun to do. I suggested we go for a swim at my parents’ country club – after all, it was Alabama hot outside – yet my friend recoiled. “I would never go there,” she exclaimed, and I did not understand why.
I knew enough to know my Black friends wouldn’t want to go to a white country club; I didn’t realize that my Asian American friend would also feel unwelcome. She was one of my very favorite people, but I’m ashamed to say I did not even know her well enough to recognize the racism she encountered when she went into typically white environments. I had no idea her experience of being a seventeen-year- old girl in 1986 Alabama was all that different from mine.
By the grace of God, I am learning. As a member of God’s family, I am incredibly grateful for The Race Wise Family: Ten Postures to Becoming Households of Healing and Hope (Waterbrook, 2022), which will help any reader learn to love more, and more wisely, across racial and ethnic differences (which are beautiful!) that do not have to be divides.
Co-authored by Helen Lee and Michelle Ami Reyes, The Race-Wise Family is a powerhouse resource for parents who want to lead their children well in matters of race. Saturated with love for God and his kingdom, every page reflects the grace of the gospel and the uncompromising truth of God’s Word. And because Lee and Reyes are mothers themselves, The Race-Wise Family overflows with highly practical (yet grace-informed) ways to raise race-wise children who love God and all God’s people.
Lee is a Korean American married to a Korean Canadian, raising three teenage sons in the US. Reyes is a second generation Indian American who is raising two children with her second generation Mexican American husband. Both women have extensive experience writing and speaking on matters of race, with Reyes recently winning the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) Award for Best New Author for her first book, Becoming All Things: How Small Changes Lead to Lasting Connections Across Cultures (see our review here).
They write for all Christian parents:
“… in our increasingly diversified and still-divided country we can’t afford to create color-blind homes or simply avoid racially charged cultural moments for fear of doing things wrong. The witness of the church is at stake; the integrity of the gospel is weakened every time Christians battle over race rather than unifying around the call to reconciliation we believe is clear in Scripture. More than that, if we don’t choose to be race-wise families, we will miss out on holistic discipleship in the lives of our kids. If we and our children aren’t intentionally working towards dismantling racism in our country, we’re actually making the problems and divisions worse. Either we’re working toward healing and hope, or we’re participating in the very problems that are tearing this country apart; there’s no such thing as nonengagement with race” (p. 4).
In order to engage biblically with issues of race, Lee and Reyes suggest ten postures that will help families to better love their neighbors. The term “posture” is thoughtfully chosen, allowing for God’s continued refining and sanctification in our understanding of our fellow-image bearers. Postures include learning to “see color,” to lament, and to name our biases. In this book, parents will learn how to engage with current events, value multiethnicity, and evaluate their own privilege. Lee and Reyes teach us how race gives us a particular lens when we read God’s Word, and why that matters as we pursue healing and unity in God’s wonderfully diverse kingdom. Each chapter closes with substantial practices that will help families live race-wisely.
Lee and Reyes take Scripture as their authority at every turn. They affirm that understanding the gospel rightly transforms everything we do: “If we are transformed by our relationship with Jesus, we should have a transformed view of our neighbors and issues of life and justice” (54). With that in mind, we are led to repent of sin of racism even as we pursue reconciliation: “Addressing the sin of racism in our hearts and its manifestations in our society is one vital way we join Jesus in his gospel-centered work in the world” (54).
Among the many strengths of the book are the rich resources found in the appendices. The first is a Multiethnicity Quotient Assessment, which allows parents to evaluate how well they engage with issues concerning race and helps address areas where they can improve. The second is a list of thoughtful definitions pertaining to racial issues, kept short and simple for discussions with kids. The third appendix, broken into categories by age from birth to 18, is an extensive list of books, movies, TV shows, and websites that will help families engage with race through story and art. Lee and Reyes note that one of the ways children learn what matters to their parents is by hearing what their parents pray about, so the fourth appendix offers downloads of prayers for families about race. Finally, the last appendix includes resources for parents to learn more about race and racism for themselves. Because the truths in God’s Word are meant for everyone, the book is helpful to parents with kids of all ages, and Lee and Reyes take great pains to offer a variety of age-appropriate practical resources.
I recently reconnected with my Chinese American friend from high school. She is as fun and lively as always! I am grateful for her patience and grace with me, and I hope I am learning to love her more wisely. As someone who still has a lot more listening to do, I am thankful to Helen Lee and Michelle Reyes for teaching God’s people what it means to be race-wise. They are indeed leading us to Jesus, to the gospel of healing and hope.