Discrimination, an Art Studio & Why Fancy Clothes Won’t Save Us


“Get your hands off the exhibit.” She snaps at my daughter.

We hadn’t even been there two minutes. A holiday. Thinking, they’d be empty.

Untitled2Little did we know, a whole bunch of well-dressed, grey haired people had found this small, local art exhibit.

The perfect place to go on a dreary Monday…or so I thought.

And I’ll be honest…We weren’t dressed for the occasion.

I had trendy-ripped jeans, my husband had a casual grey shirt, and our youngest had a bright pink coat and comfy pants…

Still, what does a small, enclosed display in the center of a town really require?

There wasn’t any sign commanding race, or religion, people in only certain attire to visit.  So, we payed the amount of two Starbucks, and went in.

It was nothing like the Chihuly Glass Exhibit in downtown Seattle we had visited a week earlier.

These were locals. The artist was local. And many of the people floating 14199418_10153827887691156_83583273583926079_nthrough had likely gone to the school with the man featured here.

But, what is life if not for experiences, walking outside lines, living beyond your reality and adventuring into a world of someone else’s?

For a second, I kept thinking it was Sunday. “Why are all these people so dressed up?” I asked myself.

I still didn’t get it.

At Chihuly, a place where a small piece of glass is over $6000.oo, there were people from all walks of life; adults, children, people with dreadlocks, and those from every economic status…

So, why the fancy clothes here? In a smaller town? An exhibit that costs only $10.00 to get in?

It wasn’t until I walked quietly through the gift shop toward the end of my trip, there, a hint of this presentation gripped me without seeing…

“I know everyone here.” The lady touted involuntarily as she payed for her merchandise. “It’s fabulous.” She kept on, without anyone asking. “All of my tennis club is here. And so is everyone else. It is just so. much. fun.”

She kept on like some spoiled millionaire’s wife who had nothing to do but point out how poor she was…on the inside.

Finally, I turned my face to see this lady proclaiming such self-righteousness.

She was average. Nothing extravagant. Dressed likely in some nicer, marked down, Walmart outfit.

Yet, the look on her face was satisfaction.

I started feeling sick.

My husband grew up with money and influence, but never once boasted about how amazing he is.

And I wonder if true humility is really just gripping the reality that we are nothing apart from Jesus. It’s knowing our name, money, or influence will never, truly save us.

It’s really “getting”14222199_10153827887791156_6338807693472053442_n who we know, where we have been, or how we have been educated, means nothing in the eyes of Jesus…

All we are is just bodies on loan, for this short dash of existence…

And He can even take those from us, in a second…if He wants to,

Our very breathe we have, His.

And I have been working, lately, at keeping my mouth shut when people ramble on or try to educate me.

When someone comes up and tells me how to do things I’ve done or how to live or what works or what doesn’t…

Especially when I already know.

And I am learning, sometimes humility is not just what we say, but more often times, what we don’t.

And I want to have wisdom like Solomon, the attitude that every gift, every talent, is not something I possess…It’s all a gift from heaven.

And a proud heart never goes unpunished.

It had been about two minutes.

Our ten-year-old didn’t want to go in there, which I thought was strange because she had been enraptured by the glass exhibit just a few weeks earlier.

Unlike some, she “gets it”, what it means to see life and creativity, to work with your hands and make something beautiful…

And I was excited to share this too with her.

But then, it happened…

Our African American daughter barely placed her fingertips gently on the side of the exhibit to peak into it…

She was calm, quiet. She didn’t even move and to be honest wasn’t thrilled to 14199265_10153827887911156_5386886247162174444_nbe there, for some stranger reason…

But almost instantly, the badge-lady instantly races over to her her, like a vulture looking for prey.

Abruptly, that short haired girl, with her title hanging, bolts up to our daughter who is standing tucked between us…

“Get your hands off the exhibit. You can’t touch that.” She bursts forth, not even trying to be quiet.

I look at her, wondering what she’s talking about. My daughter’s fingertips are barely touching the case.

Yet, she removed them quickly, obediently. The whole place looks at my daughter, some scowling in distaste in the distant.

And honestly, I didn’t think anything of it, until later…

We were standing on the second floor peering down below at the white case where my child had been reprimanded.

An older, well-dressed lady with white hair wasn’t just resting her fingertips, but was leaning into that exhibit with all her girth and weight.

She wasn’t skinny, and I imagined the exhibit tipping, embarrassingly. My husband and I look around.

Mouths open. Jaws dropping.

There, on the top of the stairs was the same lady who reprimanded my daughter peering below and watching…

She kept watching and yet, stared, saying nothing.

My heart sunk. My stomach turned.

Now, I am not one to fly off the handle. I was raised to be quiet, respectful, kind, and considerate.

But, my husband and I sat there and this badge-lady, did nothing…

Not just to the over-weight, white woman leaning on the exhibit, but to the brunet with her husband, the lady with the big purse, and every other person tapping, leaning, pressing, pushing, and putting weight on that very same exhibit.

And the thing is, I always said…

I never wanted to raise an African American daughter who is timid and meek, or harsh and jaded because of the way she has been treated.

I knew when we adop14238166_10153827887846156_3752866408116523958_nted our daughter that there would be bias’ and discrepancies, because of the diversity of our family…

But, I never imagined it would be so blatant, that the discrimination would be so overt and right in front of me, time and time again…

I never thought racism existed, like I have seen in this past decade.

Still, I grieve for the faces of who witness it day after day without any respect or consideration…

Others discarding their first-person experiences without anyone ever getting into their shoes to know what it’s like to be constantly discriminated against.

Imagine constant injustice and disrespect all throughout your life? How would you deal with it? Would you sit back and be quiet? Or get mad and start hating your perpetrators?

Finally, voluntarily, my husband walked over and tapped the badge lady on the shoulder and asked politely,

“Why are these people allowed to touch the case and my daughter isn’t?”

My heart dances over his humble, confidence.

From then on, the badge lady would look at us, then slowly and hesitantly walk down the stairs, quietly, tap people on the shoulders and whisper silently into their ears…

To not touch the exhibit.

Where was the sign saying, “Don’t touch the case”? I looked around. There wasn’t one. It wasn’t there.

And I guess I want you to know, as I am reminded of the two African American women painted exquisitely by that local artist from that same location…

That even this local artist saw beauty in other people, all colors.

In fact, many of the people He did fingerprint art, or paper portraits of, actually seemed to capture the longing in my heart from the square frame on the wall…

These well-dressed people seeing art of people with stories in their eyes of anguish, a longing for someone to know and really see them.

So, why can’t we all live like this artist did, seeing the unseen, finding beauty in all creation, capturing intentionally the value of all colors and races?

Why can’t we follow those who make art, and see in ways God sees people? Why can’t we be a generation of love, instead of excusing bias’, walking around in shallow personas? 

Why can’t we see more than what we label people, knowing outward 14199265_10153827887911156_5386886247162174444_nappearances and clothes can’t hide people’s heart conditions?

A man went to pray and said, “I am thankful I am not like other men”. Then, boasted of his accomplishments to God.

Another man, a tax collector, couldn’t even look up to heaven. He beat his chest and with humility and repentance said, “I am unworthy. God be merciful and gracious to me.”

Both were in the Bible. (Luke 18:9-14) Both were talking to God. Which one did God bless?

God blessed and still blesses, the one who walks with humility and grace.

Yes, I am far from perfect.

I am still dealing with my own hurts and frustrations, my confusion at how people treat each other in a world begging for affection and grace…

But I pray, that maybe someway…

Just maybe through these small injustices, that God would make my heart more like Him…

That instead of walking around pompous and hateful, I would look down in repentance and humility, crying to the heavens, “I am unworthy.”

Because in the end I am learning, titles and positions, white skin, fancy clothes, and recognition…Won’t ever get us to heaven.

Might we live with His perspective that people matter, continually walking with grace and humility…

Daily being…people of unbiased love?

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Jen Avellaneda

Jen is an adoptive, foster, & bio mom to trans-racial family. She speaks, writes, & passionately advocates for the orphan domestically & internationally with her husband of twenty-five years.
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