2017 was a big year for Kelsie and her husband. They welcomed a beautiful little boy into their home via adoption. For many White people, the transracial adoption of a child is what sparks them to start investigating the reality of race in America. For Kelsie, thankfully, this started years before.
In 2013 her husband became the pastor of a Chinese church, and for the first time in her life, she got to be the minority in a setting on a regular basis. Having always been interested in adoption, her senior year of college she wrote a psychology thesis about identity development in transracial adoptees of color. She says of this experience, “I was mildly surprised to find that the research bore out time and time again the idea that teaching ‘colorblindness’ was not helpful, as it was the philosophy I’d always been taught in regards to race.” Then came the events in Ferguson, Missouri surrounding the death of Michael Brown, and despite the research she had done, there was a disconnect between what she was researching, and what she saw others living. “I didn’t know it at the time, but this was God flipping my world upside-down. And it would be several years before I’d realize it.”
Those experiences were just the beginning. “It didn’t stop. The turmoil in the country grew and grew with each police shooting. This is why I never agree when people tell me, “Stop posting on Facebook. It’s useless, no one listens to others’ posts on FB that they disagree with.” Because I was there, listening. I began to listen to my (shamefully few) friends of color who were expressing their opinions and emotions about the state of race relations in our country.”
2016 was a turning point in Kelsie’s life. All these experiences, events, and listening reached a critical point via two life-altering experiences. One was the Presidential election and her disgust with the complicity of her political party with disparaging comments toward people of color. The other was the shooting death of Terrance Crutcher at the hands of police in her own town.
“I was shattered over it. I went to his vigil. I held hands with Black brothers and sisters in church and sang “I love you, I pray for you, I need you to survive” with tears rolling down my face. It was in the wake of these two events and my freewheeling, heartbroken, fledgling, learning-to-use-my-voice posts on social media that a dear friend approached me and said, ‘I’m adding you to this Facebook group, Be the Bridge, and you have to listen for three months before you say anything.'”
So she joined the group and began her time of active listening. “I devoured everything the group posted. I soaked in every word that everyone said, whether I immediately agreed with it or not. I at very least was willing to sit in the tension and listen to the thoughts. Where only a few years prior these posts would have bounced right off me (or, worse, incited me to argument against them). This bizarre, twisting, and wholly God-ordained journey had brought me to a place where I was willing to genuinely and un-pretentiously listen. And I took everything I was listening to, everything I still listen to, and poured it into my own page and into my own life.
I have spoken wisely and foolishly, I’m sure. I am always still learning that there is some new part of myself to allow my friends to polish—as iron sharpens iron. I am learning to strike the balance between my own desire to speak and speak and speak, and my newfound desire to magnify the voices of my beloved friends. I reveled in the creation of a common place for believers in Christ who also refuse to compromise their God-given identity in their pursuit of Him, and all the gorgeousness of human diversity and worship that entails, and all the ache of truly bearing the pain and fighting for the causes that break His heart.“
It was then that she and her husband began pursuing adoption. “It was in this way that God brought me full circle. My interest in adoption led me on the journey to learn about the God who desires rivers of justice and righteousness. The journey of meeting the God who created the full glorious range of human diversity led me to the adoption of my beautiful Black three-month-old son.”
While not claiming in any way to be an expert, she understands the value of continuing to be involved in the pursuit of justice, never stopping learning and listening, and using her voice. “Someday I will look my baby in the eyes and explain to him that people who look like his mom used to think it was God’s will to enslave people who look like him. Someday someone will call my baby the N-word. Someday the tiny baby hoodies that I put him in when it’s cold outside will be seen as threatening because of his Black body. I cannot protect my baby from racism. It is a fact that already breaks my heart. But I can, and have, joined the movement that may change the world for him. And if we’ve gained nothing else from Be the Bridge (although we have!), at the very very least, he’ll always grow up knowing his mom and dad have pastors and artists and writers and friends who look like him, who understand his fight, and who stand alongside him throughout it. Who stand alongside him and alongside the brown-skinned, Jewish, ethnic minority, refugee carpenter we worship together.”
You can join the Be the Bridge Facebook group Kelsie refers to at www.facebook.com/groups/BetheBridge.