Mark and I officially started dating on what I believe was May 18th. Oddly enough the first person Mark met in my family was my sister Erica. At the time Erica and I lived together in Minneapolis. So Mark came over for dinner, which I cooked, and he met Erica. They compared scars and got along pretty well. I figured if Erica didn't scare him off then the rest of my family couldn't do any damage. So, I asked Mark if he would be willing to come to meet my family. He asked what we would be doing, I responded with bowling. Mark couldn't believe that people still went bowling, boy was he in for a surprise when he learned it is one of our favorite family activities. He agreed to go. I think it was a Saturday.
I drove to pick Mark up and we stopped at Perkins before going to meet them. I remember that I ordered French toast. I ordered the regular French toast, but they brought me the brioche French toast. Call me crazy, but I don't like the brioche. This is the day I learned that if Mark was particular about anything it was the service in a restaurant. He didn't understand why I said I didn't need to ask for a new order and just ate what was put in front of me. He let me have my way, and just shook his head. Mark ordered coffee, 4 sugars and 4 creams, and I believe a Denver omelet. This meal is the meal when Mark realized just how much younger than him I really was. We sat there and talked. Somehow we got on the subject of the economy and politics. This man asked me my opinion on President Bill Clinton's impact on the United States Economy. I kept eating and casually responded that I don't really have an opinion. To which Mark said "Megan, you have an opinion on everything, what do you mean you don't have an opinion?!" I looked up at him and said "Mark, I was in 4th grade when George W Bush was elected the first time." He paused, and then said "I think I have to go, I just realized how young you really are." I laughed and said "You are almost 9 years older than me, which means when I was in 4th grade you were a senior in high school." He stayed in his chair and changed the subject.
You would think he would have chosen a more comfortable subject but Mark changed the subject to something that might have made some people uncomfortable, and still makes many people very uncomfortable. He said, "So Megan, are you sure your family doesn't hate black people?" He put it out there, just like that. I responded and said "Yes, I am sure." See I knew, because I know my family. I know that my family believes every person was created by God and that our role as Christians is to love them and accept them. But Mark, he felt compelled to ask. He had agreed to go with me, but he was still preparing to change his mind if I couldn't guarantee him a racism free event. I remember sitting there thinking to myself that I had no idea how to convince him that no one at this event would have a problem with his skin color, at least not without him meeting them first. He asked me questions about if what he was wearing was okay, and if the chain he chose was okay to wear. It made me wonder, does he go through his life asking himself this same question in every scenario? Does he walk into a room, look around, and wonder who has a problem with him based on the color of his skin? The hard thing to swallow is that I think he did. I think he had to. I wish that this wasn't the world we live in. I wish that people worked harder to address their biases, I wish that they were intentional about befriending people of all different races, nationalities and walks of life. I am thankful everyday that Mark didn't look at me and decide not to speak to me because I am white.
We got to the bowling alley to meet my family and I remember the relief he had when he was greeted with open arms, when he was introduced to Ike and Motuma, two black men in my family. While he was relieved he was still careful, he was quiet, he was polite. He had no bowling skills, but he bowled. When we left and got into the car he said "you could have told me I wouldn't be the only black person there." I didn't think I needed to tell him, because having a black family member of friend doesn't mean you aren't a racist. Its not a guarantee that your love for one person extends to all people with their skin tone. Maybe it would have made him more comfortable, but I guess I wanted him to form his own conclusions.
Once a week at least, until the day he died, my husband asked me the same question; "did you ever think you would marry a black guy?" I never knew how to answer the question, and he would never elaborate. I always just responded that I obviously considered it once or twice because I did agree to marry him. I am so glad I did. Mark made me think about the world differently, he challenged me in every way. He was stubborn, at least as stubborn as me. Mark made me question so many things I thought I knew. He shared about his life, his experiences, and opened my eyes to systemic racism I had never witnessed. He had a mission to get me to watch as many movies and shows as he could starring black actors. He answered my hard questions, and he checked me if I needed it. Everyone needs a Mark in their life, it doesn't have to be your spouse. Choose to have a relationship that challenges you, surround yourself with people different than you. I want my children to fill their lives with people different from them, I want them to intentionally broaden their perspectives and challenge their belief systems. I want them to recognize the beauty of God's creation in a person that doesn't look like them. Boy, I saw the beauty of God's creation in my husband.
Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."