Trillia Newbell: Ignorance is not bliss

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, June 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here now is WORLD Radio commentator Trillia Newbell.

TRILLIA NEWBELL, COMMENTATOR: Several years ago, I had a memorable encounter with a man at a local grocery store. I later wrote about it on Facebook:

Just got back from Kroger. In parking lot man asked: “Those your kids?” Me: Yep. Him: “I mean, you gave birth to ’em?” Me: Yep Him: Perplexed, “Well, they sure are pretty.” Me: Thanks.

The man’s apparent ignorance appalled many of my Facebook friends. Some women replayed stories of their own strange encounters with people who asked personal and probing questions.

My children are biracial. Their father is white—half British to be exact.

From the moment our oldest was born, I realized I would face questions about my ownership, so to speak, of my son. He was born with fair skin—barely olive. There are many white people darker than my boy.

He also has bone-straight hair and big beautiful brown eyes. He looks white. When he was a toddler he would call himself peach and me brown. He even identified me as chocolate once, which was precious to me.

Now, at nearly 13 years old, he fully understands that God created all people in His own image. He understands that God created each of us uniquely different and that those differences bring glory to God.

But at first it was a bit of a mystery to him. My husband and I have sought to teach our kids about ethnicity and differences in hopes that they would celebrate the diversity of God’s creation and grow to love others. We have enjoyed watching them embrace their own ethnic differences and explore the cultures of people groups around the world.

And as I’ve watched, I’ve realized: if children aren’t taught, they won’t know. In other words, ignorance doesn’t automatically equate to racism. In fact, I think most people who have questions or seem unknowing are simply unaware and not harboring hate.

Maybe I am being generous or naïve. But I’ve interacted with enough loving and well-meaning people to know that many genuinely don’t know something they say or do is hurtful. I don’t want to assume the heart of a person because of a question. I surely don’t want to assume that ignorance equals hate.

At the same time, ignorance is not bliss. It’s not an excuse to be unkind. It’s not an excuse to speak every thought that comes into your mind.

Wisdom and self-control can help us discern what is appropriate, even when we don’t understand. Educating ourselves is key to loving our neighbor as ourselves. None of us should stay ignorant.

I could have reacted defensively when the man questioned whether I gave birth to my beautiful fair-skinned children. I could have made him feel small and stupid. But that would not have advanced the gospel.

It is the gospel that reconciles all tribes and tongues to God through the blood of Jesus. The gospel reconciles us to each other. And the gospel motivates me to have peace with my fellow man who doesn’t understand when he speaks.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Trillia Newbell.

(Photo/Trillia Newbell)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Trillia Newbell: Ignorance is not bliss

  1. Cindy hancock says:

    What an excellent true life account! So true. Ignorance does not equal racism. My son is Asian, we adopted him when I was 52 and I am blonde and fair skinned. Imagine the looks we get and remarks about being his grandma. This doesn’t speak of racism but I appreciate peoples’ curiosity rather than take offense to it. It opens conversations about adoption spiritually. I don’t like being called grandma but it.s what it is. We have fun with it!

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