Columnist intro: Brian

Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Brian Johnson

I grew up listening to my mother quoting this poem by Samuel Walter Foss; she had learned it from her mother. Interestingly enough, we are not a big “heirloom” family; I have no expectations of gaining any great inheritance in the future—I am going to get Grandma’s steel cooking spoons—but this poem has meant more to me than any promised trinket. It was this poem that caused me, in some way, to become an anti-racist, multiculturalist, and social justice advocate.

You see, I grew up in an era when “the village” raised us all, and my mother was the queen of the village. It was not strange to come downstairs on a Saturday morning to find the sleeping body of some down-on-their luck person that my mom had befriended. When we would complain about the invasion of our home, all we would hear was “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.” I watched my mom feed, clothe, and nurture people of all ages and from all walks of life. I learned that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” So, it’s not strange to me that my home has taken on the neighborhood. I have more “children” and “godchildren” than I can shake a stick at, but there is always room for more.

And that’s how I got this amazingly, blended family. I am married to the most wonderful woman, Darlene, and we have four children. Darlene es una mujer Dominicana, and our children are an interesting hodgepodge. Two of our children are by birth and two are adopted. Our biological children, Aubyn (10) & Analisa (9) are biracial (Black and Latino); we have allowed them to self identify (one chooses Latino and the other Black). Our older children Kasey (26) and Tom (22) are adopted and White. They were teenagers when they came into our lives (Kasey was 13, and Tom 15). While they are not my biological kids, they are children of my heart.

Raising a blended family like ours is very interesting. As teens, both Tom and Kasey only dated Black people. Tom and I actually joke that he is “Blacker” than I am because he fits most of the stereotypes of Black men—hip hop, urban clothing, slang, etc. He doesn’t even find White women attractive and ultimately he did marry a Black woman. Kasey, for years, would never look at a White man, but when she married White. They have each given me two grandkids (two biracial and two White). [Imagine becoming a grandfather for the first time at age 27].

So, I come at anti-racist parenting from a lived reality. I have seen the best and worst of the race game, and I owe it to the village to practice and promote anti-racism—to protect their dreams!

Brian Johnson is committed to fostering intercultural learning and building communities across layers of difference. He is an ordained minister and is the founder of Manna Unlimited Motivations, a motivational education company that provides diversity education for schools and businesses.

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