What If We Othered Your Child And You?

Refugee Camp

Zarina, Refugee Camp
© Zarina; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

By Nina Miriam
Artwork by Zarina

What if We Othered Your Child and You?
What if we surrounded you in a sea of blackness
And in an attempt to get to know you,
Peppered you with a barrage of questions and statements
That only served to undercut your value
In our eyes, if you fail our surprise
battery of quizzes and challenges to test your knowledge, your worth,
your view on issues deemed insignificant by you.

What if we told you you’re the first white-skinned Caucasian we knew
and asked to run our hands through your straight hair of red hue?
Without regard for how our actions feel like an assault to you?
On your mind, your body, and Lord, help me, your spirit, too?
Our words leave your young ones off-balance, feeling out of place
Even in what used to feel like the safest space.

We let you know with our lingering gaze, you are an oddity
we do not encounter most days
For we choose to isolate ourselves in the most myriad of ways
What we read, watch, see and play
Is a reflection of us, our experiences, our tastes
That only serve to exclude or erase
Your being, your existence.

Would you persist in these dark spaces? Encourage your ill-equipped child,
to shoulder the burden of educating us, all the while,
fighting the temptation to say nothing and just smile?
To hide their confusion, the shock and dismay?
That in a multicultural world, we still isolate ourselves in such a way
we have so little knowledge of your whiteness that we can say,
you’re the first White-skinned Caucasian I’ve met to this day.

If day out and day in, we othered your child and you,
would we wear you down?
Would you begin to frown
at your pale complexion, and fine thin hair?
To question your right to breathe the same air,
without the awkward pauses, and malignant stares? Maybe you’d invest in
cornrows and tanning creams, as part of a carefully designed plan to make you seem
A little less white.

Or would you seek the comfort of another venue,
One where you were free to just be you,
where your brothers and sisters understand they are created imago dei and
assert that you are, too?

Or maybe you’d simply come to take a stand, and from an early age
guide your sons and daughters through the real world,
not an artificial land
through stories, films, plays, and shows,
through worship, interpersonal relationships, bridge-building, and who knows?
I’m confident they would come to see, the world is full of people like them, and me.
That we’re all a part of God’s intricately woven tapestry
stitched together with an abundance of love, grace, compassion, and empathy.
You’d continue to shield them from the not-so-well intentioned few, and surround them with curious
but loving people who do
learn to celebrate differences, rather than eschew.

What if We Othered Your Child and You?


Refugee Camp

Zarina, Refugee Camp
© Zarina; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.