To Sir, With Love

To Sir, With Love is an autobiographical novel by E. R. Braithwaite. Braithwaite was born in Guyana, well-educated, and a pilot in the Royal Air Force during WWII. He says in the book that his color was not a factor during his military service, not even in dating, and he had almost forgotten that his color could be a factor. But after his military service, he spent almost eighteen months unsuccessfully looking for a job. He’d have promising leads until he went for an in-person interview. He began to grow bitter. A chance meeting with a stranger on a park bench put the possibility of teaching in his mind.

He found an opening at a school in the East End of London called Greenslade in the book. The headmaster said they didn’t practice punishment at the school. The students came from disadvantaged backgrounds and needed encouragement and building up. But Braithwaite wasn’t given any advice or tools to help him manage his students. When he asked fellow teachers, advice ranged from “Show them who’s boss” to “Don’t be too hard on them.”

Braithwaite found his students, for the most part, not very literate, crude, vulgar, unwashed, and uncaring about gaining knowledge or much of anything. Their reactions to him varied from ignoring him to disdain to hostility.

Finally, he hit on an approach that seemed to work. I won’t spoil the story by saying what, as for me, that was the part I was most anticipating.

Even then, the relationships between student and teacher and the students’ growth was up and down through various circumstances.

Alongside the story of Braithwaite’s journey with his students is his observations and experiences as a Black man in the later 1940s and 50s. From a white woman who refused to sit next to him on a bus, to those who refused to hire him once they saw him, to refusal of his renting a room, to a colleague making little digs by calling him “the black sheep” and “our sunburned friend,” to a waiter ignoring him, then spilling his soup and not offering to clean it up, Braithwaite experienced various degrees of racism. When asked by someone why he didn’t “stand up for himself,” he seemed to feel it just wasn’t worth it and would cause more problems than it solved. He had lived in the US for a few years and felt racism was more overt there at that time, whereas in Britain it was more subtle.

As the headmaster began to tell Braithwaite of the kinds of homes and situations the children came from, the latter thought, “I was becoming increasingly irritated by his recital of the children’s difficulties. My own experiences the last two years invaded my thoughts, reminding me that these children were white. Hungry or filled, naked or clothed, they were white. And as far as I was concerned, that fact alone made the only difference between the haves and have nots. I wanted this job badly, and would do it to the best of my ability. But it would be a job, not a labor of love.”

But, as you can surmise from the title, he does come to love the students. He felt his colleagues, except one, “accepted him unconditionally” and wanted him to do well.

A few other quotes that stood out to me from the book:

A man who is strong and tough never needs to show it in his dress or the way he cuts his hair. Toughness is a quality of the mind, like bravery or honesty or ambition; it has nothing whatever to do with muscles.

I sought to relate each lesson to themselves, showing them that the whole purpose of their education was the development of their own thinking and reasoning.

Mind? Oh yes, I do mind. But I am learning how to mind and still live. At first it was terrible, but gradually I am learning what it means to live with dignity inside my black skin.

It is not necessary for them to do anything special for a Negro or Indian or any other person, but simply to behave to them as to a stranger Briton, without favor or malevolence,but with courtesy and gentleness which every human being should give to and expect from every otherr.

I listened to the audiobook, nicely read by Ben Onwukwe. As usual, there was no back matter in the audiobook; I don’t know if there was in the print book. These days, stories based on true events often have a back section where they tell to some extent what situations were true and what were made up. According to Wikipedia, Braithwaite’s upbringing, education, military service, and teaching career were as portrayed in the book. But I would guess the students in the story were an amalgam of his real-life students. It seems like many events, as well as the progression of the story, might have been condensed somewhat from real life.

There are a number of instances of “damn,” “hell,” and the “b word” by Braithwaite as well as other adults and students. He notices and mentions students’ and women’s breasts several times. I almost didn’t get past the first chapter because of these elements.

But I enjoyed the story and felt I learned from Braithwaite’s experiences.

I don’t think I ever saw the film by the same name starring Sidney Poitier, though I want to some time. For some reason, the setting of the film was changed to the 1960s. The song from the film was popular as I was growing up.

I’m counting this book for the Classic by a Person of Color category for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge.

Late Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineI‘m sorry I missed the Friday’s Fave Fives yesterday! I know some of you especially like those posts. I just had a lot of things that had to get done the last few days, so I haven’t been at the computer for very long at a time since Thursday morning.

I was going to save the “Laudable Linkage” for next week since it’s late in the day and I haven’t even finished reading every post in my Feedly account. But I decided to go ahead and pop in and say hello and share what I have so far.

Busy Day? Keep Quiet Time Simple (Bible Study Tips), HT to Lisa. Our other relationships vary with how much time we spend together on any given day. We forget sometimes that our quiet time is about our relationship with the Lord, not just our routines.

You Keep Using That Word, HT to Challies. “If you have heard, for example, that critical theory or some other -ism is making inroads into the church and you are concerned, do some homework before saying anything. When we do not do this, the possibility of our violating the ninth commandment goes up exponentially.”

How to Pray in Perilous Times. I love that the Bible teaches us how to pray both by instruction and example. This prayer of David’s has much to consider.

Is White Fragility a Helpful Resource for Christians? I know this is a delicate and sensitive topic right now, but that’s all the more reason to think Biblically about it. I have not read this book, but I’ve had some of these same concerns just from reading others’ comments on it.

When Homeschooling Wasn’t Your Plan: 10 Tips to Help. I wish I had read something like this during the few years we homeschooled, even without a pandemic.

I saw some of this sweet story on “The Greatest #AtHome Videos” TV show on Friday night on CBS. A pregnant wife had to spend several weeks in the hospital when her water broke prematurely at 20 weeks. Her husband couldn’t be with her due to COVID restrictions. So he set up “date nights” where he would send food up to her room and have his outside her window so she could see him and they could sort-of be together. When they aired the show, she had had the baby and all was well. In their honor, the hospital was going to install a bench where this man used to set up his chair, so other patients could “visit” their loved ones that way.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Laudable Linkage


Here are some thought-provoking reads discovered recently:

How Should Christians Respond to Racism? HT to Challies. “We have so confused Christianity with politics that people often assume Christian equals the stuff political conservatives identify with and non-Christian equals the stuff progressives talk about. And since racial justice often tends to be at the forefront of the discussion in politically progressive circles, we shy away from them because we think that to discuss the evil of racism is to identify with the liberal left. But here’s the thing. When we call out the evil of racism, we’re identifying with the word of Almighty God.” (Update: I removed the link to this one because evidently it was taken down from the Core Christianity site. The quote is included in the show notes of this podcast of the same title.  Perhaps what I originally saw was the transcript that was later taken down. That’s too bad—it was a good article. Probably a lot of people who would have read the article would not take the time to listen to a podcast.)

Three Thoughts on Current Events.

Three Tips on Teaching Your Children about Racism, HT to The Story Warren. “Parenting is hard, but learning how to parent as a white mom to black, white, and biracial children and discuss racial issues with them has been quite the journey. They are not naïve to the realities of living in a broken society.”

Canceled: How the Eastern Honor-Shame Mentality Traveled West, HT to Challies. “Today’s cancel culture is the 21st-century Western version of the Eastern honor-shame paradigm.”

How to Walk with Jesus When Your Kids Are Little. This is one of the hardest times to have any time with God. But it doesn’t have to be quiet, solitary, or lengthy.

How to Care for Your Pastor, Part 6: Rewarding. I’ve known people who didn’t believe pastors should be paid by the church, or at least supported full time by the church. But that’s not Biblical, as Dan Olinger shows in this sixth post in a series on caring for one’s pastor.

What It’s Like to Get Doxed for Taking a Bike Ride. This is scary. A man was misidentified as someone who was racist and assaulted someone. The Twitter mob turned on him, threatening him, with someone even publishing his address. “We must align in the fight for justice and equality — but not at the cost of due process and the right to privacy and safety.”

This is an engaging video explaining the concept of peace, or shalom in Hebrew. As often as I have heard this word, I don’t think I have heard it explained this way. HT to The Story Warren.

Stray thoughts about racism

Justice and righteousnessI usually avoid controversy here. But several things have been on my heart the last few days.

I appreciate what one pastor said about feeling the need to make a statement, yet needing time to process and be with his people first. I’m not in any kind of leadership. No one is waiting on me to make a statement. But I have felt the need to say something while also needing to listen and take in and process before responding to horrible events that have happened in our country the last several days.

Some have decried white silence. Personally, my social media accounts have been filled with posts denouncing Floyd’s death. But, please understand, some are fearful of saying something wrong and making things worse.

Others accuse whites who speak out of virtue signalling. Some have said they don’t need whites standing up for them.

What to do? I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know all the questions. But here are some things on my heart:

No question, what happened to George Floyd was atrocious and criminal. I was sickened, saddened, and angry by his unjust death. I’ve read opposite views about what kind of person he was. But that doesn’t matter. No one deserves to be kneed in the back, pinned to the ground and unable to breathe, until their breath is gone. I’m thankful the officers involved have been arrested.

No question there are bad policemen on the force. But I know they are not all bad. I know many are just as grieved as everyone else over Floyd’s death.

I have friends and relatives on the police force. I appreciate their service. Many take their lives in their hands every day. They never know when a seemingly everyday traffic stop or call will escalate into violence. I would guess that the great majority of law enforcement personnel are just trying to do the best job they can.

However. I don’t think anyone can deny that there have been too many instances of black men unjustly stopped, arrested, and killed. One instance would be too many.

I think racism is only part of the problem, though it’s a big part. The other is power. We’ve personally experienced and observed instances where a policeman has been unnecessarily aggressive and unwilling to listen. Authority is one thing, and I appreciate a policeman’s authority to step in when needed. But stepping in on the basis of snap judgments and a desire to exercise one’s own power is another.

These issues need to be addressed before they end up in abuse and murder. I’ve seen a meme going around listing several previous issues with the policeman who killed George Floyd. If these are true, action on them would have prevented Floyd’s death. If this policeman had been reprimanded or removed from his position earlier, the events on that fateful day would have turned out differently.

Racist and power-hungry people will show themselves. They need to be called on the carpet and either educated or removed. Other law enforcement people need to feel free to report questionable actions of their brother officers. The public good needs to be more important than protecting the brotherhood. Really, the brotherhood is not protected by covering for abusive officers, because reactions to the abuse will come back to haunt everyone, as we’ve seen in the recent riots.

I believe in peaceful protests. I can understand the anger and frustration spilling over. But rioting and looting only hurt the cause, harming innocents. It’s not even revenge, because it’s not aimed at the people who have done wrong. People have died in these riots, and those who killed them are no better than the policeman who killed George Floyd. There have to be more productive ways to demand justice.

But from comments on social media, it seems that outrage over the riots is superseding the outrage over George Floyd’s death.

Some of the rioters are not after justice. Some are opportunists. I’ve seen accusations of political involvement from both parties. It will take time to sort all that out. But don’t let the riots drown out the voices that need to be heard.

As I’ve read and listened to several responses, the one that resonates most with me is, “I’m listening.” James 1:19 tells us to ” be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

I admit that for most of my adult life, I didn’t think racism was much of a problem. Sure, in some places and among some people. But I thought that, by and large, we were mostly past that. I grew up in the 60s. With all the strides that have been made in the decades since, surely people had equal opportunities now. But I was wrong.

I bristled at the mention of white privilege. “Privilege” brought up images of mansions and butlers and high society, which most of us have not experienced.

Buy my friend Laurie put it this way: ” White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been without struggles; it means those struggles weren’t brought about by the color of your skin.”

As I have listened, I’ve learned that racism is still prevalent despite progress since the 60s.

A friend shared on Facebook My White Friend Asked Me to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest (warning: a couple of bad words). Just one instance: her boyfriend had been repeatedly stopped by police while driving. He started keeping a teddy bear in the back windshield and baby wipes in the car so he’d look like a family man and would be stopped less frequently.

Some of you might know Paul Whitt. He was with the Northland camps for many years and is now an assistant pastor. He was a friend of our former pastor and spoke at our church. He interviewed four African-American friends here, all Christians, about their experiences, feelings, and fears. I don’t know Paul or any of these men personally, but I share several friends in common with a couple of them. This is a long recording, but well worth listening to.

My daughter-in-law is Indian. She has sometimes been mistaken for black. I’ve been astounded by ignorant and racists remarks and actions she has experienced. I’m sorry to say that sometimes I tried to explain away what she told me. For instance, once a lady almost mowed her and Timothy down with her cart in the grocery store. Mittu felt it was because they were brown. But, I said, not all offenses are racially motivated; some people are just rude. In fact, the very next week, the same thing happened to me.

But I should not have responded that way. I wasn’t there; I didn’t see the woman’s expression. Just like when someone has been abused, our first response should be to listen and protect.

A few of my daughter-in-law’s other experiences, shared with her permission:

She recently told us of working in an office as the only female. The men would constantly attribute something she said to did to her “just being Indian.” If she tried to say that those comments bothered her, they said they were just teasing, the same as if they teased someone about having red hair. One of them, while leaning over her desk to look at or answer a question about what she was working on, said, “You’re making me hungry for brownies,” referring to the color of her skin. That is a horrible thing to say on many levels.

She worked at a Christian camp one summer. After the counselors met with a particular speaker, he handed her a tract. He knew she was a counselor. She explained that she was saved, and suggested he keep the tract to give to someone who needed it. He insisted that she take it—as if, since she was brown and he was white, he needed to be a missionary to her.

My daughter-in-law told me of being in a store with her mother and aunties, who all spoke in Hindi. Someone passing by muttered “Stupid foreigners.”

I admit, I used to be of the mindset that people who move here should learn English. I still think that’s a good idea for a number of reasons. But then I realized that if I moved to another country, even if I learned the language there fluently, I would still speak English when with other English-speakers. So why should it bother me when other people speak in their native tongue?

I didn’t know until recently that on the day my grandson was born, one of my daughter-in-law’s reactions was fear and dismay that she had brought a brown boy into the world because of what he would have to face growing up. A lot of things that she just put up with before, she’s speaking out about now so that we understand the kinds of things Timothy might have to deal with.

It breaks my heart that my sweet, adorable, witty, kind grandson may someday be stopped and harassed, or worse,  just because of his beautiful skin tone. Recently his school assigned a book on Martin Luther King, Jr. My grandson was horrified as my daughter-in-law explained what civil rights meant and what happened to Dr. King. I was sad not only that his innocence was stripped away, but that he’ll have to hear more on these topics in the future.

As I said, I don’t know all the answers. The problem is so big and pervasive, it’s hard to know where to start. But I think these are good steps:

  • We need to invite friends from other races to share with us, safely and openly. Ignorance is not the same thing as malice, and some of us are just ignorant and need to be helped to understand. I saw one post that said education is not the answer; reconciliation is the answer. But education is a step towards reconciliation.
  • We need to listen to and take seriously these kinds of experiences without trying to explain them away.
  • When someone says we’re making them uncomfortable or they’re offended by what we say and do, we need to stop.
  • We need to avoid sweeping generalities. All white people are not racist; all cops are not abusive; all black people are not threats. All Indians are not doctors and lawyers. All middle Eastern men are not terrorists.
  • We need to get over our idea that anything “other” is bad. God made a big, wide, wonderful world with people in all shades and cultures of every kind.
  • We need to be careful what we post on social media. We need to take the time to fact-check anything we post so that we’re not spreading misinformation.
  • We need to teach our children from their earliest years that “different” is okay. We need to get over the idea that “kids are going to be kids” and it’s okay to tease. Along with racial slurs and digs, we need to eliminate words like “four-eyes” and “retard” and anything else that’s demeaning and hateful. We need to model kind and thoughtful speech for our children.
  • We need to be genuine and consistent. I saw on someone’s Facebook post one meme with a white and black hand intertwined and a promise of standing with the other, and a meme just below it with the “n” word. Posting “I’m with you” memes doesn’t mean anything if our other words and actions contradict it.
  • We need to understand that every person is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We all come from the same ancestors: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Heaven will be filled with “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
  • We need to ask God to search our hearts and show us whatever is wrong there. We need to confess and repent of our wrong heart attitudes.
  • We need to weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15).
  • We need to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
  • We need to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NIV).

I heard the story of the Good Samaritan for years before I realized the racial implications. The Jews and Samaritans were enemies in New Testament times. When a man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead, two of his own countrymen, religious leaders, passed him by. But a Samaritan, a person of a mixed race, the Jews’ enemy, stopped, helped the man, took him to an inn, and paid for his care. Jesus told this story as an example of what it meant to love your neighbor. Jesus ministered specifically to a woman of Samaria, who then led her whole village out to hear Him (John 34). How have Christians missed the implications of this for so many years?

I’ve seen many good people say that there is no such thing as race, that we’re all one race, that race was not a thing until Darwin. It’s true that, as I said above, we’re all from the same ancestors. But there are different people groups or ethnicities or whatever you want to call them. The Bible speaks of different people groups, especially Jews and Gentiles, and their conflicts through the years. I think people who emphasize this point that we’re all one race are trying to emphasize the unity we should have as people made by God in His image. However, think how that makes a person of color feel when they express sorrow and dismay at mistreatment because of their color, and we say, “We’re all one race. There are no distinct races.” It’s like we’re deflecting and not taking seriously their very real pains and problems.

Forgive me, this has become twice as long as my usual Monday posts. There’s even more swirling in my head, but this is enough for now.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14).

Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Hearth and Home, Senior Salon,
Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement,
Anchored Abode, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire,
Blogger Voices Network)


Laudable Linkage

Here are a few of the good reads that caught my eye lately:

I Was a White Supremacist, HT to Challies. What struck me about this, besides the dramatic change wrought in the heart of the writer, was the fact that a group of women  prayed for that change for two years after hearing about him in the news. Would that we would do that more often.

Do We Play Any Role in Our Sanctification?, HT to Challies.  “The battle image is a very active image. Soldiers in battle are not passive observers. They’re not sitting there watching life go by. They’re as actively engaged as anybody could be in any activity. So, too, we are called to be actively engaged in sanctification. It is our great calling to pursue holiness, to aspire to that for which God has called us, and to strain every effort that we have.”

Reasons to Go to Bible Study. The schedule hasn’t always worked out for me to go, but when it has, it’s been so beneficial.

Younger Pastors and Senior Adults, HT to Challies. Excellent perspectives of older folks and ways to minister to them and involve them in ministry.

I wish . . .When we envy someone’s blessings, do we want the trials that led to the blessings as well? Probably not.

5+ Questions to Ask a Visiting Missionary at Dinner, HT to Challies.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. I have no closing pictures or videos today, but there are plenty of good ones here!

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage


It’s later in the day than I usually post these, but here are a few good reads discovered in the last week:

Today, More Than Ever, Read Beyond the Headlines. Yes! And the Twitter feeds.

Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book.

Those Spiritual Gift Tests? Maybe You Ought to Ignore Them.

Please Stop Saying “Christianity Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Relationship” HT to Challies.

10 Suggestions for new Bible College Students, HT to Challies.

White Christian conservatives should oppose protests by white supremacists.

On Waiting and the Lord of the Rings.

Redeeming Princess Culture, HT to Story Warren.

And something from Pinterest that resonated with me:

The Rock higher than I