Splattered across a banner of borrowed paint read the words:
“CHS Has No Black Cheerleaders.”
Tryouts that year were hard and I was the only person with brown skin to make it. I attribute that to another African-American cheerleader who helped me and also knew what it was like to be the “only” before she graduated.
It turned out that other black students at my high school had made the banner. White cheerleaders who were walking into the school with me saw it, my white principal saw it, and they tried to protect me from seeing it. We were all shocked, hurt, and angry. My principal stood up for me and knew which group had done it. I was fifteen years old at the time.
Many people don’t believe that reverse racism exists, but it does, and it’s deeply impacted my story. Gratefully, I’m no longer a victim.
I’ve realized that children are most observant during their early years, like little sponges. When I look back at that time in my life, I remember it as being one of expansive curiosities. I was always asking questions. Why was the school janitor always cranky? Why did birds all fly in a formation? Why did school have to end? Why did anything have to end?
Much of what we bend towards in our beliefs and thought processes are cemented during these childhood early years, which then dictates our behavior. Each subsequent year is like a layer that presses further down on that foundation.
As an adult, I find myself on a mission to unlearn what I began to question as a child. Some would call this a return to innocence. Others would say that it’s an awakening of emotional intelligence. I say that it’s a choice to allow myself to figure out which desires of my heart are from God, which have been superimposed by others, and which are a blend of the two.
Just as we created our worldview during childhood, I think we need to get back in the dirt and recreate how we see things as adults. Where did our curiosity go? Where are the adult sandboxes? I’d like to order a few and invite everyone with a different opinion, background, and belief system to sit down and make mud pies. I would like for someone to take copious notes on the methodologies used to achieve the exact same outcome. A “delicious dessert” made out of dirt. I want to sit back in the sand and see everyone’s reactions.
Our paths may be different, our skin tones may be different, our backgrounds may be different, our professions may be different, our spiritual beliefs may be different, but God who made the dirt for our “collective dessert” is the same. So, what will we do now with all of this mud? Will we sling it at each other? Will we wait for another monsoon season to further compound the mess? Will we go to another sandbox to see if life changes?
This is where I am and have been for a while now:
I no longer desire to prove to anyone that I am black enough, mixed enough, smart enough, plain enough, or extraordinarily enough.
I don’t want anyone else to “fight the good fight” to prove it either.
As a child, I didn’t know where I belonged. As I’ve grown up, I’ve discovered that all human beings once fit together before we were in this realm. I’ve developed more questions than proclamations regarding “whose side” I am on. This discovery has opened a gateway of hope for myself and others. As long as there is sand, there will always be water. The ability to be fluid and flow with whatever crosses your path is a learned behavior.
I want my desires to match God’s intentions for me as I serve alongside others in discovery. Considering nothing as wasted time, but rather honoring it as the teacher God intended it to be allows us all the gratitude we need to go inward and reflect, while reaching across the sandbox to help build. If we are his handiwork, He needs our collective hands, which for a season, at least for me, might mean hand’s off, heart in.
My desire is to escape everything I thought I knew and unearth the truth in whatever form it finds me. I want to start over, knowing nothing except that God loves us without question. Isn’t He worth the desire to discover more? When our desire to discover is greater than our desire to give directions, we will wrap our minds in the headband of humility and will help to heal our land.
Natasha Stevens is passionate about humanitarian efforts ranging from empowering girls and women through education, writing, counseling, and speaking engagements, to hands on mission work in various places, including the eradication of forced child labor and early marriage through human trafficking. She loves a hearty laugh in summer gardens as much as a healthy bowl of oats in winter. She enjoys interacting with people from all walks of life, giving back where needed, and ministering the love and grace of Jesus without a title.
“My desire is to escape everything I thought I knew…” These words, Natasha, reminded me of an invitation from God on retreat years ago to let go of what I thought I knew and be open to what God is revealing every day. Approaching life with that kind of openness takes intentionality, grace and humility. Thank you for the reminder of that invitation.
Madeline, thank you for reading. It’s truly where I am, and it’s good. Honored to meet you in “a place called there.”
I hate that you experienced the reality of those words slung at you. I honor you for speaking boldly now. Your analogy of the mud in the sandbox resonates right now for me, as I watch the experience of my immigrant brothers and sisters.
It was the most grueling and painful thing any kid could ever have to endure. Fortunately, I left the country and was able to re-calibrate around like-minded people with hearts full of grace and compassion. It’s painful to have those words slung at you over and over. But now, I understand why I had to be the one who went through it. Thank you so much!
I love the wondering of “which desires in me are from God”. As a woman of color, the pressure to feel, be, want things is disparate and often in tension. So glad for your journey of both awakening and innocence.
Hermana, that one word: AWAKENING!!!! I’m so glad that I got to break bread with you. Your fire and passion blended in with your grace and truth is contagious: Thank you for fighting when I just want to sit down in the sand.
I’ll be out there somewhere…. finding Hagar and Rahab and all of the other misfit women of the Bible.