Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Jasmine Holmes, author of the book Mother to Son and daughter to pastor Voddie Baucham, knows what strong parenting looks like. But that didn't shield her from the pain of casual prejudice growing up in a majority culture. Now a young mom, she protects her son by showing him he is "fearfully and wonderfully made."
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Jasmine Holmes knows what strong parenting looks like. But that didn’t shield her from the pain of casual prejudice growing up. Now a young mom, she shows her son he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Bob: As a black mother, raising a black son in a majority white culture, Jasmine Holmes says there are a lot of important messages she wants to make sure her son hears from her.
Jasmine: “You’re loved; you’re black on purpose. God made your skin for His glory; He made you for His glory. He didn’t make an accident. You are beautiful, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Regardless of how the world responds to the way that you’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made, that doesn’t change the truth of the fact that God loves you and cares for you in your brown skin and in your brown body.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 14th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. What’s it like to be a minority family raising your kids in a majority white culture? We’ll spend some time talking with Jasmine Holmes about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I would think, if we were having kids, today—
Dave: You already had kids, Bob.
Bob: I know; I know. [Laughter] We had them in a time that had its challenges, but I would think—
Ann: It’s very different today.
Bob: Yes. If you were a new parent, welcoming a son or a daughter into the world today, you would be thinking, “What is ahead? What kind of a world are they going to grow up in?” The issues we’re facing in our culture today are just very challenging.
Ann: I think it would be challenging to know what conversations to have and how to have them. It’s a real different time. I think it’s important that we have those conversations.
Dave: I’m sort of glad we’re grandparents—[Laughter]—you know?—because we can just sort of take them and then give them back.
Bob: “Here is our advice; we’ll see you on the other side.” [Laughter]
We’ve got a friend joining us; in fact, this is kind of fun—I don’t know if she remembers this—but Jasmine Holmes is joining us on FamilyLife Today. Jasmine, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Jasmine: Thank you so much for having me.
Bob: It’s a delight to have you. Do you remember the first time you were on FamilyLife Today?
Jasmine: I do remember, actually; yes.
Bob: Well, I thought we ought to just revisit that for a second.
Dave: How long ago was it?
Bob: This was more than a decade ago. You were 19 years old; Jasmine’s dad was our guest that day; his name is Voddie Baucham. He had written a book called What He Must Be if He Wants to Marry My Daughter. [Laughter] We thought, “We ought to call Jasmine and just see what she thinks about this book.” Are you ready to hear what you said back when you were19 years old?
Ann: Wait; oh, she was 19.
Bob: —19 years old. You ready for this? Here we go.
Jasmine: No; but go ahead. [Laughter]
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: Jasmine, you’re 19 years old, right now; right?
Jasmine: Yes, sir.
Bob: Are you still going to give this book the Jasmine Baucham seal of approval when your 25?
Jasmine: Yes, sir—28, 29, 32.
Bob: If the guys haven’t stepped up, you’re okay with that at 32?
Jasmine: Yes, sir.
Bob: There you were at 19. Now, you’re 30 years old; right?
Jasmine: Yes. [Laughter]
Ann: Well, I want to hear this process when your husband Phillip—how old were you when Phillip approached your dad?
Jasmine: I was almost 24—just under 24.
Ann: How did that go?
Jasmine: It was interesting. We met each other at a conference on my 23rd birthday, and we walked up to him—me and my mom. For my mom, it was love at first sight. [Laughter] She was like elbowing me in the arm, and she goes—and Phillip is going to kill me, but he’s not in here; so he can’t stop me from telling you—she goes, “Are you crazy? Do you not see that tall, chocolate, hunk of marriage material standing right in front of you?” I was like, “Oh my! No, I don’t!”
The first words that Phillip ever said to me were “Are you Voddie Baucham’s daughter?” I was like, “Great; that’s never going to be a thing. [Laughter] He’s like a Voddie fan, and I don’t want to talk to anybody who is like a Voddie fan.” He wasn’t—I mean, he was—but not in a weird way. He was talking to my dad, because they were going to do an interview together; so he was looking for him, legitimately, not for an autograph. Yes, we kind of—we talked a little bit at that conference.
A year later, we were both in California for different reasons. I saw on Twitter® that he was on the same beach that I was on. I was like, “That’s so funny that we’re both here.” He said, “Yes, we should get together; we should get dinner. I’m with a friend,”—who we also know—“We should all get dinner together.” That night at dinner, I realized that/I was like, “Okay; maybe, my mom was kind of right. I kind of do like him.” We started talking a little bit afterwards. Yes, we—that was in March that we officially started dating, and then we were married by October.
Bob: Jasmine is, not only Phillip’s wife and Voddie’s daughter, Jasmine is an author; she’s a mom; she’s a speaker; she’s a podcaster—together with Jackie Hill Perry and Melissa Kruger—they’ve got a podcast. What’s your podcast called?
Jasmine: It’s called Let’s Talk.
Bob: Yes; and it’s a great podcast.
She’s written a book called Mother to Son. When you were writing this book, a part of what was the inspiration behind this book is raising a son, who is going to grow up as a minority in a majority white culture. You had no idea that we would be where we are today in that conversation and in all that’s gone on since you wrote the book. Would you change what you’ve written, given where we are today?
Jasmine: I don’t think I would. I really think that God gave me grace to talk about things that—truths that were transcendent, regardless of where we were going to be in the next six months to a year. When I started writing it, some other things were going on in the country that, by the time I finished writing it, weren’t really going on anymore.
Hopefully, it comes back up; and when it does, this is a helpful book. As a black mother, it’s something we’re always talking about, and I’m always talking about. I had no idea of that a couple of months/a few months after the book actually came out that more people would be talking about these topics.
Bob: Help us understand what black mothers are talking to one another about that we just don’t have a sense of.
Jasmine: I’ll give you a good example. I, the other day, took my son on a play date; and it was kind of rough. My son is—he’s similar to me in that he is like really expressive and really dramatic. Every time he throws a tantrum—or has a crazy, exorcist, head-spinning moment—I’m like, “Those are my genes; I’m sorry.” I took him on a play date, and he was not treated very well by the kids that were at the play date. They kind of knew each other better than they knew him, and they weren’t very nice to him. Then his response was a very/like level 10 response.
It was just one of those situations, where I was coming home, and I was just feeling really upset. I ended up talking to some black mom friends of mine and just sharing with them, “Hey, it was really hard for me when Wynn acted this way at the play date; because he was the only black kid there. It made me feel like maybe they’ll make assumptions about him, because of the color of his skin,” or “It made me feel like I really had to stop and separate, ‘Okay; these kids don’t know him as well. They are not treating him this way because he is black; they are not treating…’”
I just had to like go through all of these mental checklists to make sure that my heart was right—to make sure that I was having expectations of my son that you should normally have of a four-year-old—and not special expectations just because he’s the only black kid in the room. There was just a whole checklist that I went through, that these moms understood uniquely, because they are the things that they are thinking about for their sons all the time.
Dave: At the very beginning, you said, “One of the reasons I wanted to write to my son, Wynn, was to help him understand, if he feels ‘other’ because of the color of his skin,”—and you just told a story about that; right? Explain what that feels like for a mother to be able to explain that to her son.
Jasmine: I have learned, as a parent, that oftentimes my parenting comes out of a place of hurt in my life or a place of unresolved things in my life. When I look at my son—and I’m able to kind of see, through his eyes, all of those little childhood wounds that I have/all the little childhood stuff that I have going on—I just want to speak to him the words that my parents spoke to me, the words that God speaks about me, the words that I wanted to hear—which were that: “You’re loved; you’re black on purpose. God made your skin for His glory; He made you for His glory. He didn’t make an accident. You are beautiful, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Regardless of how the world responds to the way that you’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made, that doesn’t change the truth of the fact that God loves you, and cares for you in your brown skin and in your brown body.”
I think I’m talking to him; but in a way, I’m also/I’m reminding myself as well.
Bob: Let’s talk about some of those wounds in your own life, because you get into some of this in your book. Do you remember when you became aware of the fact that your skin was different than other kids’ skin that you were playing with?
Jasmine: Yes; I was really young. My mom had just given birth to my brother, so I was maybe three/three-and-a-half, going on four. I was at a daycare center, and I was the only black kid at the daycare center. I would get into fights, like really big scuffles. My mom would come up to school and ask what happened, and I would not be able to really articulate what happened.
One day, she came up to the school because I had sprained my arm, running away from a little boy on a playset/fell off of the top of the playset; arm was sprained. Finally, the entire story came out, which is that the kids were calling me the n-word, calling me a monkey, chasing me around the playground. In my little three-year-old brain, I didn’t know quite what that word meant; I didn’t know quite what those things meant, but I knew that it meant that I was different. I knew enough to feel shame to where I didn’t want to tell my mom what they were saying about me.
It’s sad that it was a negative experience—the first time that I realized that I was different—but that was definitely it.
Dave: Well, you know, I read that story last night. I teared up for you, as a little girl. Yet, I also was amazed at—was it your mom or your grandma that went back and said, “We’re not doing this”?—she stood up for you.
Jasmine: My mom.
Dave: That was your mom that went back there; yes.
Dave: Talk about that. If this happens to Wynn, or one of your sons, how are you going to respond?
Jasmine: It’s one of my best memories, because my parents are—like a lot of Christian parents—when we get into a fight, or we get into a scrape, they come up, and they are like, “Well, what did you do, Jasmine? I realize that he hit you. What did you do first?” or “I realize that you’re not getting along with this teacher, but what have you done?”
There are a few key memories in my life, where my mom just was complete and total mamma bear. That was the first one that I remember of her just kind of grabbing my arm and talking to the teacher. I don’t remember what she said, but I just remember like a whole lot of hands flying and a whole lot of just very expressive—I never went back again. It just made me feel so safe and protected. That’s a feeling I want to duplicate for my son at any opportunity.
I hope that I never have to live through that, as a mother; but on the receiving end, as a child, my mom just showed me a great deal of love in that moment and kind of embodied what it means to be a mom—right?—to protect your child.
Dave: You’re four years old, and you’re really the victim of racism on a playground. Did you experience a lot that, growing up?
Jasmine: I didn’t experience a lot of outright racism, growing up. I experienced a lot of casual prejudice, growing up.
Ann: What does that look like?
Jasmine: Just little things of, you know, when I was a teenager—I’ll start before that. The first boy that I ever had a crush on—it is so funny. When I was getting married, I was moving out, and I have had the same furniture in my bedroom since I was, like, six years old. I was clearing out the back of a drawer, and I found a Valentine from my very first crush.
I was like, “Oh, this is so funny.” Phillip was like, “Who is this guy?!”—you know, being kind of silly. He said, “You know”—he’s asking me for this story. I was like, “Actually, I didn’t remember, until you asked me this story, that I told a friend that ‘I like this boy.’ I was nine; and he told the nine-year-old boy that: “Jasmine really likes you.” The nine-year-old boy kind of looks at me and he goes, “Oh, no, that’s gross. I don’t like black girls; they’re not pretty.” My very first like, “Oh, I feel butterflies about this boy,” thing, ended like that.
There were just a lot of little things like that of, you know: “Your hair is not very pretty. It’s really frizzy,” or “Your skin looks weird,”—you know, just little things. Then, as a teenager, just lots of questions, that weren’t motivated by a heart of racism, I don’t think, but made me uncomfortable sometimes, or made me feel different, or made me feel “other”; but nothing as outright as that.
Bob: As you talk about that, I’m thinking about the fact that those of us, who are a part of a majority culture—we didn’t have the experience of feeling “other” or feeling different because we are part of the majority culture.
Is it front-of-mind for someone, who is in a minority culture? Is it something that is kind of always present there: “I’m different than the other people in this room”?
Jasmine: Yes; I think it’s always in the back of the mind; right? It may not always be right up at the forefront; but it is something that—as a black child, growing up in a [white] majority culture—when I was in private school, my parents did talk to me differently. I distinctly remember my mom having conversations with me and saying, “Jasmine, when you act out in these ways, it is not the same as when your white friends act out. When you do ‘x,’ it is not the same as when your white friends do ‘x,’”—so almost being held to higher standard in wanting to be exemplary; because I was the only black person, and often, person of color in a room.
Also, just/you know, people—I always joke that everybody talks about the white people, with the one black friend—that was me. All of those stories, involving the one black friend—I have some version of those stories for sure. [Laughter]
Dave: Did you feel that, as well, in the church/in the community?—because I know that you/I think your dad was at a church that was predominately white. Did you feel pressure there as well?
Jasmine: Yes; I just felt different. I was homeschooled, so most of my social interactions in that junior/high school age range were at church with young people from my church.
Ann: When you write a book, it’s part of you—especially this—if you’re writing it to your son. It’s your passion/is what you’re bleeding. As you were writing it, what were you hoping, like, “Oh, I just want you…”—like what was going on in your mind as you were writing this?
Jasmine: I wanted him, and really everybody who read the book, to feel seen. I think that’s such a huge piece of identity, which I love to write about anything having to do with identity—motherhood, womanhood, being a black woman, being an American—all those things that kind of go into the pie of who you are.
As I was writing to my son, and to the church at large, I just wanted people to feel seen and understood/to feel something that they could connect to—because even if you’re not a black mother—most of us have an experience of a mother’s love. A lot of us have children; we’re supposed to be a family of faith; so this is a sister of faith writing a familial story. I wanted it to be familiar and to feel like we were connected.
Bob: Jasmine, there is phrase that is used today that describes a lot of what you’ve described for us here. People will talk about experiencing micro-aggressions—I’ve heard that phrase—and part of me is like: “Well, doesn’t the Bible say you just overlook that stuff and kind of move on?” or “Is this something that we should be more alert to, and more sensitive to, and be dealing with?”
How do you process the whole idea of micro-aggressions? And as you think about your son, who will undoubtedly experience some of those, growing up, will you coach him to just: “It’s a man’s glory to overlook an offense,” or will you say, “No; you need to stand up for yourself in these situations”?
Jasmine: I guess it depends on the offense. I think that there can be a couple of different categories of micro-aggressions, which is not a term I like to use. I tend to stay away from some of those hot button terms, because I feel like they are really loaded; and people kind of immediately have this gut reaction to them.
But there may be one category of person, who is literally just asking a question; because they want to know the answer to it; right? I have had friends, who ask me all the time about my hair; or “Do I have to wear sunscreen?” or “Do I have…”—you know those questions, in some people’s minds, could be construed as micro-aggressions. In my mind, it’s: “People are curious; people want to know. I understand; I get it.”
But sometimes, people say things that are rooted in assumptions; or sometimes people say things that are rooted in prejudices. I don’t feel it is loving to let a person continue in that kind of thought process. I don’t think that it’s loving not to shed light on something that a person may not know. It might be the difference between assuming that a person means you ill or, maybe, just saying, “Hey, I don’t know if you realize that what you said could be offensive; I did feel a little bit offended. I would love to talk to you about why. Would you be open to that?”
I’ve had several of those conversations, as an adult. Most of them have ended really well. It’s always awkward; but I think it’s important to love people by shedding light on areas where they can love you better and being open to when people want to shed light on how you can love them better as well.
Bob: To do that, when you’re 30 years old, is different than when you are 7 years old. There’s something that happens that’s a sliding or—when your son—I’m just imagining that your son is the last one picked on whatever sports team, because his skin different; and people just have a prejudice or think there is something wrong with him. How will you train a seven-year-old to deal with that kind of a sense of slight or being acknowledged as different? What will you tell him he ought to do in that moment?
Jasmine: In that moment, I honestly don’t know; because my son is four. I do think it’s really important for me, at this stage of Wynn’s life, to kind of frontload helpful truth into him—so he knows that he is brown; he knows that God made him brown on purpose; he knows that that’s beautiful—in fact, you say, “Wynn, you’re so handsome.” He goes, “I know.” I’m just like, “Say, ‘Thank you.’” [Laughter] It’s like that thoughtful, like, “Yes,”—he’s nodding, like—“I know; I know.” [Laughter] So he knows/he knows that about himself.
I am more concerned, at this point in his life, with solidifying his identity than I am with teaching him all of the ins and outs of advocating for himself; because that’s going to come with time. “How does any child advocate for themselves?”—
Jasmine: —right?—“How does any child learn how to say, ‘No’?” “How does any child learn about bodily autonomy?” “How does any child learn…”—it all just comes from practice; and in my case, as a 30-year-old mother, a lot of it comes from trial and error.
My concern, at this point of his life/at this point of his understanding, is just teaching him who he is and how he’s fearfully and wonderfully made. As those other things come up, in a developmentally-appropriate way, just kind of saying, like my mom did, “This is not your fault. You are beautiful. God made you brown on purpose.”
Dave: What you’re saying is so insightful—because as he turns 10, 12, 14,16, he may say, “I know,” when you ask him that question—I think, inside, though, there is going to be a doubt; because he is hearing all these other people say—and you’re planting a foundation that’s going to be so critical in the years to come—whether that’s a white boy or a black—it doesn’t matter. It’s like: “Oh, my goodness; that is going to be a challenge,”—and [his] mom and dad instilling that.
Bob: I just wonder if you will someday say to him, “You know, you’re a big, chocolate hunk of future marriage material.” [Laughter]
Jasmine: I might; it’s possible. [Laughter]
Ann: You probably will say that.
Jasmine: I think I will. [Laughter]
Bob: There is so much in your book that is applicable for every mother/son relationship; and yet, so much that I think, for majority culture readers, to read and go, “I’ve never thought about that.
Bob: “I’ve never stopped to consider what this relationship is like and the uniqueness of it.” I think it gives all of us a better idea of how we support, how we navigate, how we help in this process, how we can learn from one another. I hope our listeners will get a copy of your book, Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope, written by our guest, Jasmine Holmes. We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can request a copy of the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy. Again, the title of Jasmine’s book is Mother to Son. You can order it when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue a conversation with Jasmine Holmes, talking about raising a black son in a majority white culture—how you help that child understand his identity, which transcends but does not overlook his ethnic background. Jasmine joins us, again, tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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