Motormouth Maybelle and Me: How Racial Reconciliation Became Personal

Lindsey Carlson | January 17, 2017

Last December, Motormouth Maybelle belted out the peppy lyrics, “I know we’ve come so far, but we’ve got so far to go,” in NBC’s Hairspray. A heartsick feeling welled up as I wondered, Have we really come so far? The 1960s musical explores a hopeful time when segments of America rose to fight racial segregation. Would Motormouth Maybelle be impressed with our progress in 2017? As I reflected, I posted this on social media:

If you’re watching NBC’s version of Hairspray tonight and thinking how ridiculous segregation was and how far America has come, think again. Living in Baltimore and observing blatant and ongoing racism with my own eyes makes me hurt for my black friends. We haven’t come far enough, friends. Stand up and defend. God’s kingdom is every tribe, tongue, and nation.

While most of my black (and non-white) friends agreed and thanked me for speaking up, a few of my white friends seemed surprised. “Why must we see race at all?” one asked. This question demonstrated to me a naïveté and breakdown in understanding that’s keeping many white Christians from strengthening race relations for the sake of the kingdom. We have a duty that extends farther than personal freedom…

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