Jim Davis and Michael Graham welcome Jasmine Holmes to talk through the complexities of parenting in this cultural moment. They discuss the fears and hopes of parents raising black children and what it looks like to help majority-culture children process this period of American history. The group addresses:
- An introduction to Jasmine Holmes (1:28)
- The story behind Mother to Son (2:52)
- Current greatest fears in this cultural moment (5:23)
- Divisiveness and echo chambers and fear (7:16)
- The black “birds and bees” talk (11:00)
- The “talk” with black boys (15:29)
- Challenges raising black children in this cultural climate (17:24)
- Coping with the struggles of raising black children (26:05)
- Hope for parenting black children in this cultural moment (28:19)
- The source of hope for parents (30:35)
- The importance of community (34:16)
- Learning the nuance and contours of parenting black children (36:07)
- Helping children understand this cultural moment (38:58)
Explore more from TGC on the topic of race.
Books referenced in this episode:
- Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope by Jasmine Holmes
- How was race spoken of in your house growing up? How were major moments of racial strife in the news discussed? What ways might that have been different for other cultures?
- What fears do you have for your children? How do those fears come from their culture or the color of their skin? How does this play out in conversations with your children?
- Why is it important for the church to recognize the differences in parenting through this cultural moment? Why is it important for the church to recognize the differences in parenting children of different cultural backgrounds?
- How can those in the majority culture process these race conversations with their children?
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Jasmine Holmes: I think the temptation is for people to be like, what is a book that I can read that is going to teach me all of the nuance of what it means to be black in America, but is not going to include anything involved in critical race theory and is going to be low level stuff that I can just eat with a spoon and swallow really easily, and then after I’m done with it, I’m just going to know everything? I wish I had that resource. I don’t have that resource, but what I can offer is we do not exist in a vacuum. American history is long and it is in places sorted. And the more that we learn what has brought us to this cultural moment, I think the more compassionate we can be in engaging with this cultural moment and the more knowledgeable we can be in engaging this cultural moment with the gospel.
Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to As In Heaven, a Christian conversation on race and justice. In this episode, we welcome Jasmine Holmes to talk through the complexities of parenting in this cultural moment. Jasmine discusses the talk, fears and hopes of parents raising black children and what it looks like to help majority culture children process this period of American history. Jim Davis is your host, Mike Graham is the guest co-host on this episode, as well as the executive producer of this podcast. My name is Matt, and I’m the technical producer. And now please enjoy this episode of As In Heaven with Jasmine Holmes.
Jim Davis: Welcome to As In Heaven, my name’s Jim Davis. I have the privilege of having a new guest co-host today, Michael Graham, who normally serves as the executive producer and writer for this season of As In Heaven, and he’s also the executive producer of our church, Orlando Grace Church. And he is here for some reasons that will become very apparent as we dive into our topic today. And we’re talking with Jasmine Holmes. Jasmine is a wife, mom, and speaker. You are the author of Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope. You also have your own very popular podcast called Let’s Talk, that you host along with Jackie Hill Perry, with Melissa Kruger. Something that doesn’t make your normal TGC and other area bios, you’re a teacher at a classical school, St. Augustine in Jackson, Mississippi, if I’m correct on that.
Jim Davis: We’re very proud of the classical schooling and my kids go to a school here in Orlando called The Geneva School so we’re very thankful and I’m excited about that piece of your calling. And you’re, of course, husband to Phillip who’s also been on the show. You have two sons. You’re members of Redeemer Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and we’ve been blessed from afar from your family, from you, from your husband. And I will also say, your dad, Voddie Baucham, has really blessed me in many ways in my Christian journey. So I’m thankful for your whole family and thankful to get to have you spend some time with us here today.
Jasmine Holmes: Thank you for having me.
Jim Davis: Well, our topic today is parenting in this cultural moment, something that’s come up a number of times in little areas over the course of the season. So we wanted to really just spend some time talking about this. And in the introduction of your book, Mother to Son, right here, I’m going to read a little bit from your introduction before I ask my first question. You write, “I set out to write a series of letters to Wynn.” Your son, “Not just about the racial climate that he lives in, but about the conversation surrounding this racial climate. I want to remind him that his identity is firmly planted in the person and work of Christ Jesus, and that because of that, he has incredible significance to the king of the universe. I want to remind him of his dignity as an image bearer to encourage him to respond out of that dignity, even to a topic as emotionally charged as racial reconciliation.” Can you tell us more about the backstory that inspired that part of your introduction?
Jasmine Holmes: Yeah. The entire book actually came from a conversation that I had with Karen Alice, who is a beloved mentor that I inherited when I married Philip. I got a lot of awesome things when I married Philip. I love my mother-in-law, I love my extended family, and then I also got the [inaudible 00:04:08] in the deal as well. So it was just bonuses upon bonuses. But I was talking to Karen about just writing and ideas and what direction I wanted my next book to go in and she said, “You should use your winspiration. You should write a book to win.” And Karen is the only person that I know that can get away with corny puns like that. But I ended up just kind of taking the idea and running with it. I just recently read two books that were written in letter format. One was James Baldwin’s, My Dungeon Shook, to his nephew. And then the other was Feminist Manifesto by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to her goddaughter.
Jasmine Holmes: And both books had ministered to me in different ways and really inspired kind of the thrust of the book that I wanted to write. So that’s really where the idea came from.
Jim Davis: Well, I want to ask you a few questions. We’re going to start really high altitude and kind of drill down. We’re going to start kind of at a national level. We’re going to go to church and then go specifically to parenting, which is what we really want to talk with you about today. So at a large level, what are some of your biggest fears that you have right now as we navigate this cultural moment?
Jasmine Holmes: I think my biggest fear right now is the level of polarization that I see within the body of Christ. We just had an election. I don’t know if you guys noticed that, and people were a little bit passionate about it, a little bit testing people’s salvation based on who they voted for, a little bit, this is a life or death situation. It was hard for me as someone who has friends and loved ones on all sides of the political conversation, who were really feeling the intensity of the election that just took place for a variety of different reasons. I had friends who had conversations with me about how Christians had a moral obligation to vote for Donald Trump because of X, Y, Z, and I had friends who told me that I had a moral obligation to vote for Joe Biden because of X, Y, Z. And they were equally convicted of the truth of the statements that they were making and equally scripturally convicted about the decisions that they made in the voting booth.
Jasmine Holmes: And it came across in so many heated dialogues, on social media, in person, with family, and it just feels like a really divided moment. And I think my biggest fear right now is that that moment continues, that we don’t move out of it, that the fracturing and splintering becomes an identifier for the church in America.
Michael Graham: I think you kind of more or less, in kind of addressing your biggest fears for our country, in many ways anticipated kind of our second question. And maybe you can just kind of elaborate on that divisiveness. In what ways do you think that it might continue or play itself out in the years to come? Maybe just kind of elaborate on that a little bit for us.
Jasmine Holmes: I think we just are not seeing each other or listening to each other very well. I was, for instance, listening to a podcast yesterday, and sometimes I hate listen to podcasts. Sometimes I listen to them because I want to be edified, and sometimes I listen to them because I just want to be a little salty. So this was definitely listening to the podcast to be a little salty podcasts. And the hosts were talking about the liberals, Gen Z, and the way that they voted in this election. And they were like, “Gen Z made voting a moral imperative and they weaponized the vote for Biden. And they said that if you don’t vote for Biden, that you don’t love your neighbor. And if you don’t vote for Biden, then you…” And I’m just kind of listening and I’m like, hold on, because a few episodes ago, you guys are talking about voting Republican and how, if we don’t vote Republican, that we don’t care about unborn life and if we don’t vote Republican, then we don’t…
Jasmine Holmes: And I think there’s just this sense of an echo chamber where we are sincerely unaware of the fact that we’re having, what Phillip and I always call a log and speck conversation. We’re completely unaware that we’re guilty of the same thing that we’re accusing, I hate to say the other side, but that’s kind of how I think we’re seeing each other, that we’re accusing the other side of. And so the way that I’m seeing it play out is just this continued divisiveness that leads to a continued echo chamber, where the only engagement that we have with the other side is a straw man that we’ve created and not an actual person that we’re capable of having a relationship with.
Michael Graham: I do want to drill down though, just kind of thinking about kind of this cultural moment. And what are some of the biggest fears that you’re just kind of navigating here, just kind of processing this year and kind of the ones to come?
Jasmine Holmes: With parenting, so this year my son started school. And I teach at one school, my son goes to a different school. And it was a really difficult decision because I am a classical educator, I love classical education. I was classically educated. I teach Latin, that’s how serious it is. And so I always had imagined that wherever I taught, my son would also go to school there. But we live in Jackson, Mississippi, and I am the only black teacher at the school. I have been at the school for, this is my fourth year and this is my first year having black students in any class that I’ve taught. And being where we are, being in the climate that we are and having a son who is emotional and effusive and he’s my child. Everything that I say about him is true, a four year old Jasmine as well. And I just remember being the only black kid in the room with the personality that I had and just feeling so isolated so often and so misunderstood so often and just lonely.
And so I think the best way that I can kind of encapsulate the fears that I had for Wynn’s future are just in the fact that we chose to put him in our church’s school, which is a predominantly black school where he could be with kids that looked like him and where he could be with families who voted across the spectrum, where he could be with people who have different socioeconomic backgrounds and different… I mean, I just really wanted to create diverse surroundings for him so that his only point of comparison as a little black boy was not my upper middle-class classical school that I teach at.
Jim Davis: All right. So as a white guy growing up around white people, when we hear the term, the talk, we cringe because it’s the awkward talk of the birds and the bees with the parents. But in the African-American-
Jim Davis: It’s that awkward talk of the birds and the bees with the parents. But in the African-American community, the talk means something different. That there might be a number of listeners who either know that there’s a different talk or just have no idea that there’s a different talk. Could you drill down and expand on what this talk is?
Jasmine Holmes: Yeah, in my own life, it was mostly my mom giving me the talk of my behavior was not just a reflection of me, Jasmine, it was a reflection of me, Jasmine, a little black girl. For me, especially, I was often the only black girl in, actually, I don’t remember any class where I wasn’t the only little black girl in my class. I’ve never been in class with one. I remember that I was in fourth grade and Deion Sanders’ daughter was in my class and everybody was like, “Deion Sanders, oh my gosh.” I was like, “She’s black.” That was my big thing was like, “Oh, there’s another one.” But all of my life there was this standard of behavior that I had to meet as a little black girl in the classroom who had to be extra well-behaved, who had to be extra on her Ps and Qs, who had to be extra respectful.
Jasmine Holmes: When I was younger, like four, five, six, I had a lot of disciplinary issues in school. It was just like a crazy rough and tumble, tomboy, pushy, shouty, loud, laughing, just energetic child. I remember having several talks with my mom and her just being like, “I know that it’s just because you’re an energetic child and I realized that it’s just part of your personality, but that’s now how other people are seeing it. Your behavior is not just a reflection on you and your personality, it is a reflection on you as a little black girl, and it’s something that you’re going to have to just wrestle with for your whole life.” The talk has taken different shades and different meanings over the years. I had my first crush was a little white boy. He was very mean to me. He told me that he didn’t like black girls, and I remember my mom being like, “You’re going to hear that a lot.
Jasmine Holmes: That is going to be a conversation that you’re going to have, not just with little white boys, but little black boys. With all kinds of little boys are going to tell you things like that your entire life.” He said, she said thing would happen with my friends and nobody would believe me. They would believe my friends and I’d be like, “I wasn’t.” She’s like, “You’re going to deal with that your whole life. Your word is not as valuable to people as other people.” It’s just this it seems like a mean conversation to have, but honestly, it was just my mom really trying to prepare me for experiences that I did face growing up as, for me, the only black girl in the room. But, honestly, whether regardless of what your surroundings are, I think that there’s similarities to that conversation that’s had.
Jim Davis: Well, and I know that you’ve told me that you have not had much of the talk with your boys because they’re just younger right now. But when you do, I would imagine there’s a whole nother side to the talk raising boys. Again, you haven’t done this yet and I know that, but I imagine you and Phillip are talking about it, you’ve talked with other parents. What are ways that the talk might be different with boys than your mom had with you?
Jasmine Holmes: Well, I remember for my brothers, so there’s nine of us and I have seven brothers and one sister, and I have one brother that’s in his 20s. For him, when he started driving, my dad gave him this entire conversation about like, “If you get pulled over, you need to be extra submissive and you need to have your hands on the wheel and you need to show him that you’re not a threat and you need to…” It was just a completely different like when I was learning how to drive, it was 10 and two, you’re off. But with him, it was just a very different conversation. Especially, because Phillip is 6’6, I’m not super tall, but I’m tall, I’m 5’8, my dad is 6’3. We just come from big people.
Jasmine Holmes: We’re already anticipating that our sons are going to be tall, they’re bigger, they already come off older because they’re big for their age. Then we know that psychologically black boys, black children come off older to people because of just the color of their skin. Even though we haven’t quite had this conversation in people are looking at you differently because of the color of your skin, we have had conversations about, “Hey, you are bigger, people see you as more threatening. It is very important for you to be gentle, it is very important for you to lower your voice, it is very important for you to X, Y, Z. Not just to protect their feelings, but also later in life to protect them physically.
Jim Davis: Well, I want to ask Mike some of these questions too because, Mike, for those of you who don’t know, he and his wife are parents of two adopted children, adopted African-American children age three and two. Mike, I’m curious, how would you process the same line of questionings regarding potential fears and the talk?
Michael Graham: Yeah, that’s a good question. Thanks for asking. I think I’ll take it maybe a little bit similarly to Jasmine and talk about the talk for our daughter. She’s two, she’s the younger one. It sounds pretty similar to you, Jasmine, just personality wise. We joke in our family that she’s a little bit like the Kool-Aid man, never met a wall or a drywall that she doesn’t want to bust through and say, “Oh, yeah.” She’s the life of the party, she’ll climb up on the island and dance. She’s got this little jukebox in her head that she’s like she lives inside of a musical. She’s into year olds like two mornings a week and she cannot sit still, she’s super wiggly, and she’s just very expressive. In many ways, she falls into a lot of the tropes. I think with respect to her, and just in fears as a parent, I have fears whether our culture will give her the emotional elbow room that she needs to be her full self. I observed many folks expecting black women to be muted and understated in their personalities in order to conform to, say, dominant culture expectations. While also expecting them to shoulder heavy emotional burdens in the same breath. I also have, with respect to her, I have my concerns about some of the complex ways and long histories of our cultural preoccupations with, and oversexualization of black women. In short, will she just be able to be herself and have the emotional algorithm that she needs and/or will she be viewed as being hypersexualized given the longstanding, some of these longstanding historical tropes.
With respect to my son, who’s three, I really feel like there’s some really interesting parallels. He’s quite tall and he’s quite sensitive. 98 percentile height wise, he has a relative he’s 6’9. I have my concerns that it’s like when I’m physically present, I feel like, given my majority culture status and pastoral role in society, there’s a level of shelter that some of those things can confer in those moments. But you can’t always be there for them. So many of these moments here from this year it just pull on a lot of these fears and concerns and anxieties. Because it’s my son cannot handle emotionally intense situations, and he certainly cannot follow instructions in moments like that. You compound his likely large stature and size with his gentle and sensitive personality, and I have so many, so many concerns.
The talk is going to have to be something that’s going to be really reinforced at multiple points for us. With him, there’s just going to have to be some real coaching that goes on there. I think, more broadly speaking than just the talk, zooming back out a little bit into just the challenges of parenting in this cultural moment. We have this awkward layer of being transracially adoptive parents. Over time, we’ve been accumulated in uncomfortable volume of cringe-worthy and/or hurtful moments, particularly, with dominant cultural interactions. Let me say this with the caveat that I believe that all of these interactions were well-intentioned and in good faith. But I think they also demonstrate how wide the cultural distance can be.
So maybe some of these things might seem a little innocent at face value, but there’s a cumulative effect of all of them that’s quite hurtful. Maybe I’ll just give like three examples, and these are all uncomfortably common. Within the first two years of my son’s life, there was this one phrase that I ended up hearing 39 times. These were 39 separate interactions, almost all of whom with different people, none of whom knew one another. If you’re talking statistical significance, these are like independent discrete events. This usually came up, this phrase that I heard 39 times, usually came up in the context of like, “Oh, wow, I thought he was older than…” They were surprised thinking that my son was older than what he was given his height and his stature.
Usually, this comment would come in the context of that. Just to the tee, the exact response was, “Put a ball in his hands 39 times.” After about the sixth time, I’m like, “What’s up with this?” After like 39 times in the first two years, I’m like, “Okay, this is a thing.” Hopefully, I don’t have to spell this out for folks, but maybe just to bring it to a point. This comment speaks to deeply culturally entrenched subconscious, I think, norms about the vocational expectations and prospects of my son. It also speaks to the larger trope of the preoccupation of the dominant culture with particularly black male bodies. That’s example one. The second thing that’s challenging in terms of just parenting for us, as transracially adoptive parents, is the skin and hair advice comments and feedback.
Again, this is from dominant culture interactions with white people. These are folks that probably don’t know much about caring for black skin and black hair. It’s suffice to say, if I followed your advice, our kids would have either somewhere between very ashy skin, eczema, or worse. If I did the things with their hair that you’re encouraging me to do, I would probably permanently damage it. The third example I would say, just in terms of parental challenges in this cultural moment, are what you might call unsolicited parenting advice. I’m not going to drill down to this one too much, but it usually boils down to something that comes out like this, or it lands this way, “Raise your kids like white parents raise and not like how black parents raise.”
Michael Graham: Hopefully, I don’t need to unpack the many layers of how problematic some of those kinds of lines of things are. I can’t tell you how many times those things have come up in interactions. Maybe this is just bonus as a fourth, I’d say the moments that I’m in public without our kids and you have people say and make racist comments in your presence…
Michael Graham: … say and make racist comments in your presence unaware that your household is a transracial household is another kind of additional challenge that’s probably maybe a little bit more unique to being transracially adoptive, particularly with Black kids. So do any of those things resonate with you, Jasmine?
Jasmine Holmes: Yeah, almost all of them. The put a ball in his hands, absolutely. All the time. The hair and skin with my kids and also because as a Black parent, I had my hair in a bun the other day at work and somebody was like, “Oh my God, I love your hair when it’s all pulled back. I mean, it looks good when it’s wild and crazy too like it normally is, but it looks really good today.” And I was like, “Oh, wild and crazy. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. Yeah. Nice.” Or just I’ve had people say things like, “It would be so cool if your sons married white women because then you could have swirl grandkids. That’d be really awesome.” Things just kind of like, “Okay, the commodification of mixed babies is not cool, but okay.”
Jasmine Holmes: Or just old white men walking up to us at restaurant and saying, “Your son is so cute. How much do you want for him?” And we’re like, “Oh. Oh no. No, sir.” And it’s hard because you’re like, “I want to give the benefit of the doubt to this person.” And I asked a bunch of my white friends. I was like, “Do people offer to buy your kids? Is that a thing? Maybe I’m just sensitive. Is that a thing?” And to a person, all of my white friends were like, “No, I’ve never had anybody.”
Michael Graham: I have had this same interaction about how much did they cost? And we’re not talking necessarily how much was your adoption? There were additional layers to that. I’ve had that one five or six times.
Jasmine Holmes: Yep. Yeah. We’ve had it two or three. And it’s just like, “Okay.” And it’s like you said, these little comments all have a cumulative effect. And especially as somebody who is a relatively emotionally healthy 30 year old. I’m in therapy. Hi, I take care of myself. It’s just, it wears you down. It just becomes this constant drum beat of I have to believe the best, I have to believe the best. Don’t get angry. Don’t get mad. They’re not trying to offend you. They’re not trying to … And it’s just, it’s this near constant thing where if I were to just pull out every single instance where an offensive comment has been made and call it out for what it is, I would very quickly become known as the angry Black woman who thinks that everything is about race. And so you kind of have to weigh like, “Okay, am I going to come off as angry? Or am I going to defend myself and my child right now in this moment?” And it’s a hard choice.
Jim Davis: It’s interesting that you talk about the angry black woman. That is something that is a phenomenon that we’ve already addressed on the show. And I don’t have the lived experience that you two do. But to affirm what you’re saying, when The Gospel Coalition came out with the initial trailer for our season, it was all men and Christina Edmondson. And somebody I know very well made the comment about her being so angry. And I made that person go back and watch the trailer. She’s smiling. I mean, there’s nothing about her other than her skin color that would make somebody think that she’s angry. And so I really-
Jasmine Holmes: Not even her personality. That’s not even-
Jim Davis: No. She couldn’t have been nicer. She could not have been nicer. So I see what you’re saying to be true. And I have to ask, that has to be exhausting. And I say that has to be exhausting because that’s not my lived experience. How do you cope with that? What does that look like as the parent of two African-American boys?
Jasmine Holmes: I mean, having a support system is really helpful. I had an experience where I took my son on a play date and the two white boys that he was playing with were not nice to him at all. And I was like, “Are they just mean kids? Is it because my kid is a Black kid? Are they excluding him because …” You have to go through all of the mental checks and all of the … And I called, I have a text thread with three other Black moms of kids that are a little bit older, and just said like, “Hey, I had a really bad experience.” They were like, “Oh, it was your first play date where you were like, ‘Hey, is this feeling racist or is something wrong with my kid?'” And I was like, “Oh, that’s a play date.” And they’re like, “Yes, that was your first one. Congratulations.”
Jasmine Holmes: As morbid as that sounds, it was helpful to have people who had experienced similar things and can kind of just walk me through the thought process that I was having and walk me through just the wrestling and the constant wrestling and not ask questions like, “Well, are you sure you’re not just angry? Or are you sure you’re not just making assumptions? And are you sure you’re not just …” And whenever that happens, I guess my response is always like, “Do you think I want to live in a world where my son has to ask these questions for the rest of his life? I really don’t. I understand that victimology is lucrative for media consumption, but do you honestly think that that’s the life that I want my son to live on the day-to-day? Because it’s not.”
Jasmine Holmes: And having friends who understand that and believe the best of me instead of constantly requiring me to believe the best of the ignorance of others is extremely helpful. And that’s honestly where I’ve found a lot of support. And then just my husband. We’ve had conversations where we just look at each other and we’re like, “I’m so happy. I’m so happy that I married you because you understand. You understand what I’m going through, I don’t have to explain it. I don’t have to defend it. I don’t have to qualify it. You just get it.” And it is helpful to have a partner who understands as well.
Jim Davis: Well, I appreciate that. I appreciate you opening up like that. I want to transition from fears to hopes because it’s not all bad. And I would like to ask you, what are some things that you’re really hopeful for in regards to parenting in this cultural moment?
Jasmine Holmes: I have just the sweetest son. I mean, you guys have seen him come on camera. And he is the most loving, he is tender.
Jim Davis: He scared us with his zombie face.
Jasmine Holmes: He did. He had his little zombie face. And I was telling Phillip this morning, because I was like, “Hey, I really want to put them in the bed with me this morning.” And he was like, “When I go get them, I’m going to get you some backbone because you need to be stricter with them.” And I’m like, “It’s hard. They’re so cute.” And so he put them in bed with me and they were karate kicking me and chopping me with their karate hands and I was trying to kiss them. And they would only kiss me if it was attack kisses. And it was just this amazing moment of that I am able to create shelter for these little boys to just be sweet, effusive, bubbly little boys. And when they come into our home, they are safe and they don’t have to worry about anybody thinking or looking, they can just be their age. They can be young and they can just, they can make mistakes. And those mistakes don’t have to have anything to do with their skin color.
And so I think the beauty of being able to create the environment that I had when I was younger and wanted to come home and be safe, being able to then, as an adult, provide that for my children is lovely. But then also, we’ve built a safe community for them full of people of all different ethnic backgrounds who love them for who they are and understand them for who they are. And that also, I think just having them being in our church, being in our community, being in our home, being at the school that they go to, we’ve just made a lot of active decisions to put them in the best possible position to be optimists in spite of the world outside of the one that we’ve created for them. And it gives me hope that these spaces can be created. It gives me hope that they can create those spaces for their own families growing up. And it gives me hope that the spaces can grow and move outward.
Michael Graham: So with respect to the hope that you have for your boys, where does that hope come from for you? Where in your soul? And help unpack that for us.
Jasmine Holmes: It’s the Sunday school answer. That’s what I tell my kids. I teach history and Bible and whenever we’re doing Bible on the board … So we’re in Exodus right now. And I’m like, “You know what all of this pointed to?” And they just kind of pause. And I’m like, “Sunday school answer.” Oh, Jesus. Yes. Jesus. Jesus is the answer. But literally Jesus is the answer. As an adult who has processed a lot of the little T trauma that I went through growing up as a Black pastor’s kid in suburban white churches, I have realized that God is a purposeful God. He created my skin on purpose. He gave me the hair he gave me on purpose. He put me in the place he put me in on purpose. And seeing that, seeing that I am not an accident and that my skin color is not incidental, but actually good and purposeful, gives me a lot of hope to be able to navigate the world that we live in.
Because if I were the result of random processes, I’d be really upset at the random processes that have dealt me the hand that they’ve dealt me. But instead, I know that I am the result of a loving father’s all wise provision and creation. And that means that me being Black is good. Me being a woman is good. Me being in this historical moment is good. This is all things that he made, not just for my pleasure and not just for my momentary enjoyment, although I’m enjoying myself here, but also for his glory. And so I think in raising my sons, in being a part of this cultural moment, the hope truly comes from the fact that all of this is purposeful and it’s all meant to point to the all wise provision of our savior. And so taking my eyes off of the momentary difficulty of whatever I’m going through and looking at who God is and why he’s placed me here is really helpful.
It’s also really helpful to look at God’s word and see how he deals with the minorities, how he deals with the outcasts, how he deals with the pain of people. You look at the-
With the pain of people. You look at… The things that the Old Testament says about Moabites… I’m reading the Bible in a Year right now, and it’s my first time reading the Bible in a Year. I’ve been a Christian since I was six years old and it’s my first time. I’m in Second Kings and I’m like, “All right, we’re cooking with gas. We’re going to make it.” But every time the Moabites are mentioned, it’s very negatively. They’re not a people group that is especially loved in ancient Israel. And yet there’s a whole book of the Bible called Ruth and it’s all about this Moabite woman inheriting the blessing that God gave to Israel.
And God just continually weaves in these people. Usually women, which I love. Like Zipporah, he weaves her in. Rahab, he weaves her in. But he continuously weaves people into his plan for creation to show us, “The way that these people are made is not incidental to my plan. I made it for my glory. I made it as an illustration. I made it to show forth my face in creation.” And I love that. And so especially as a history teacher, that gives me so much pleasure and so much joy to see that none of our stories are incidental.
Michael Graham: So who are some of the go-to people that you lean on when you have big questions, when you’re wrestling with such as the things that you talk about in your book? And why do you choose those people?
Jasmine Holmes: Yeah. Community is really important. I come from a Christian household and I’m really blessed with parents who love the Lord. I’m also blessed with parents who were like, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It is not that big a deal. Calm down.” So I go to them when I need to hear that. And then sometimes if I need to hear, “Hey, actually that was a little bit traumatizing and I’ll hold you for a minute,” then I have friends for that, too. So my mom, my dad, but then also mentors. I’ve already mentioned Karen Ellis. She is my mom away from mom and she’s so helpful in processing all of these things. I have people at my church, and people of all different ethnic backgrounds at my church. Sometimes I need the word of a wise older black woman specifically. But a lot of times it’s just the words of people that are trusted, regardless of what their backgrounds are, regardless of what their experiences are. The words of people that can listen. The words of people that can engage, and just engage in good faith in the things that I’m sharing with them.
Jasmine Holmes: And then, just as far as people that I don’t know, I’m working on a project right now that’s just allowing me to read a lot of the words of black women in American history who I had never heard of before. And I am reminded over and over again that my experiences are not new. They weren’t created in a vacuum. And there are people who have already wrestled with these things. There are people who have already answered these questions. There are people who have already overcome these obstacles. And so finding those people and learning from those people is a big help for me, for sure.
Michael Graham: Changing course just a little bit here, but still kind of on the same subject of some of the challenges that black parents face during this cultural moment. And I want you to speak specifically to maybe some of the listeners who might be hearing some of these things and a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about to them is maybe more new. They didn’t know about the talk, or maybe they only knew about the talk for boys, or these different kinds of things. What else would you want to say to some of those listeners to expand some of their understanding about some of the unique contours?
Jasmine Holmes: I think the temptation is for people to be like, “What is a book that I can read that is going to teach me all of the nuance of what it means to be black in America, but is not going to include anything involving critical race theory and is going to be low level stuff that I can just eat with a spoon and swallow really easily, and then after I’m done with it, I’m just going to know everything?” And I wish I had that resource. I don’t have that resource. But what I can offer is we were not created in a vacuum. We do not exist in a vacuum. American history is long and it is, in places, sorted. And the more that we learn and the more that we understand what has brought us to this cultural moment, I think the more compassionate we can be in engaging with this cultural moment, and the more knowledgeable we can be in engaging this cultural moment with the gospel.
So I think just being learners, being listeners. And I don’t mean that in the sense of, “Shut up and listen because black people are talking.” I mean really engaging and really having relationships in spaces where we can listen and also speak and push back and converse. A really, really good place to start is, if there’s anything that we’ve said that’s confusing to you… Like I know some people have really have no idea or no inkling of, for instance, the hyper sexualization of black female bodies. What is that? Where did that come from? There’s books on that. There’s resources on that. There’s talks on that. And so honestly, just being willing to do the work of learning is really important. And again, as I’m talking, I can already hear the pushback from the anti-critical race theory crowd who’s like, “Yeah, well, you’re just saying that we’ll never know, and we always just have to keep learning and we’ll never be experts.” That’s not what I’m saying at all. But as a teacher, of course, I’m going to recommend learning. Not to become an expert and not to be on a never ending quest, but to just understand things to a level where you’re not going to be confused by them anymore.
Michael Graham: That’s really well said. This is my last question, and it’s personal for me. My kids are a little older. Right now they’re 12, 10, nine, and six. And we’re beginning to have these kinds of conversations. We walk down the street and we see protests. And the older two at least, sometimes three, are watching the national news with us. So what kind of counsel would you have for someone like me as I continue to process this cultural moment with my children?
Jasmine Holmes: It’s an ongoing conversation. It’s not just a one-time, one-off conversation. There’s going to be so many different things that come up and so many different talks that come up and so many different… I’m teaching ninth grade and we’re just finishing up a civil war unit. And yesterday, Black Lives Matter just kind of came up in class. And whenever stuff happens like that, I’m like, “I have to guard myself.” Because sometimes I have all the patience in the world for these little white kids and I’m like, “Yes, let’s get into it.” And sometimes I’m just like, “I don’t… I’m not… I can’t. I don’t want to.”
Jasmine Holmes: But just realizing that sometimes I’m going to be able to press really far into the conversation with them and I’m going to see all of this fruit and their eyes are going to light up and it’s going to be this beautiful moment where they completely understand so many elements. And then sometimes it’s going to be a conversation where I hit a wall and I’m going to have to come at it a different way later on. And so just being invested in that process of continuing the conversation, even when we don’t have a Robin Williams Dead Poets Society type of moment is really important.
Michael Graham: Well, I’m really thankful for you and your ministry. I’m thankful for your husband. I’m thankful for your dad. And I’m thankful for at least a dozen people at your church that I know and care deeply about. I commend your book, Mother to Son, to our audience. And really, we will commit ourselves to continuing to pray for our guests. We’ll be praying for you at Saint Augustine and the podcasts, plural, and all that you’re doing. We’re really thankful that you would take your time out of your busy schedule to talk about parenting in this unique cultural moment with us.