The Color of Life: An Interview with Cara Meredith

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I knew I would want to read Cara Meredith’s book long before she wrote it. One of the first “real” bloggers on the internet to engage and welcome me into her space, Cara’s generosity and posture of learning have been the traits I first associate with her. After reading her first book, The Color of Life, that same humility shone through. Cara brings us alongside her on a journey of listening and learning. Her book reminds us that the road toward racial reconciliation will never be over—that we will always have something new to learn and unlearn. Cara is a gracious guide for this journey and I’m glad she’s shared some thoughts to help us dig deeper into her book and learning.

Welcome (back) to the Red Couch! Tell us a little about yourself and your new book, The Color of Life.

Sure … and thanks for welcoming me to this space! My name is Cara Meredith. When people ask me what I do during the day, I usually call myself a writer and a speaker— but I also call myself an activist, a learner, a thinker, a leader, a reader, a wife, a mother and a friend. When it comes to my book, The Color of Life is a spiritual memoir about my journey as a white woman into conversations of justice, race and privilege. It’s a story of the power of love that helped me see color, mostly found by falling in love with the son of (American) Civil Rights icon, James Meredith, navigating the complexities of interracial marriage and raising mixed-race children. While the book is intentionally story-based, I hope every reader also walks away with new realizations of history and theology, as well as the courage to step into new conversations of listening, learning and discovering.

Your early story really resonated with me—I was raised in the era of colorblindness as well and it wasn’t really until graduate school that I had to confront this damaging concept. As your boys progress in school, what are some ways you’re helping to change this narrative? What are some tangible things we as parents or friends can do to push against this ideology?

Great question, Annie! My family and I are lucky to live in a place that truly values and celebrates the opposite of a colourblind rhetoric—but I’m not above thinking that we don’t also have to live with intention when it comes to continuing to push against this ideology. As I write about in my book, studies show that infants as young as six months old can “see” race (and therefore show racial preference toward members of their own race.) All of us can help to change this archaic narrative by embracing and celebrating the particularities of culture, race, and ethnicity, to name a few. We can start by not pretending that we don’t see color, but by doing as Jesus did, embracing the particularities that make us us.

Tangibly, diversify your bookshelves (including your children’s bookshelves, if applicable); watch television shows and movies that star and promote people of color. Fill your social media feeds with thought leaders who actively fight against a colorblind narrative: Lisa Sharon Harper, Jemar Tisby, and Kathy Khang, whose book you just read, are three of my favorites. Finally, enter into conversation—even if it’s messy and even if you say the wrong thing until we no longer have to have this conversation, we have to have this conversation. We have to say something.

Your husband, James gave you a lot of space to grapple with your perception of race. As you’ve researched and written The Color of Life, how have your conversations changed?

My husband has been nothing short of patient with me. Upon reflecting on your question, I kept thinking about that old adage of marriage not being about trying to change someone—but truth be told, this relationship changed me because there were a whole lot of things in me that needed changing. If nothing else, our conversations have changed because I no longer come to the table thinking I have all the answers, especially when it comes to conversations of justice, race, and privilege. In all sincerity, my mantra is to listen, learn and listen some more. The moment I start to think I’ve got the key to unlocking the problem of race, that’s the moment white supremacy wins and that’s the moment we all lose.  

For instance, with my book, there are several book launch events and readings planned – but this isn’t (and this can’t be) about the white lady getting up on stage to talk about race. Instead, different friends of color and I will sit down and engage in real, actual conversation. Together, we will model listening and learning to one another’s perspectives, and together, we will come to the table of grace, even if it’s messy, even if we disagree.

I love the last couple of paragraphs of your book when you reflect that “I march for myself … Because when I allow redemption to take hold of me, a funny thing happens: I can’t help but want this redemption for others too.” (pg 208) It’s a reminder for me that my friends of color don’t need me to stand next to them so much as they need me to work through my own relationship with justice.

We’ve just spent the month of January reading Kathy Khang’s book and thinking about ways we listen and speak up. What is something you’ve learned as a white woman on this journey? What’s one piece of advice you’d give to us as we find our voices and listen to the voices of others?

I love that you just finished reading Kathy Khang’s book, because she is one wise woman! And honestly, one of my realizations happened when Kathy and I were in the same room, sitting at the feet of social justice advocate, educator, and theologian Ruby Sales. “Mama Ruby,” as we came to call her, reminded us that justice is not for other people, but justice is for ourselves. As contradictory as her words first sounded to me, when I truly embraced justice and wholeness and peace as my own, something else happened along the way: I stopped wanting to hoard this justice to myself. It’s here that justice comes full circle, for in gulping down this justice that is ours, we lay down our privilege and power. We seek that those sisters and brothers who’ve been marginalized and oppressed not merely be given a seat at the table, but also passed the microphone. For we realize that this grand narrative is not about us—not in the least—but we glory in the amplification of every voice. And by finding our voices and listening to the voices of others, we delight and we honor the human presence in you and in me.

What’s next for you as a writer? How can we best connect with you?

I’d like to think I have another book (or two, or five) in me, but nothing I’m ready to make public quite yet. Otherwise, I blog regularly at Patheos and write for a number of print and online publications; you can also connect with me on my website, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I look forward to connecting with you!

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

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Annie Rim
I live in Colorado where I play with my daughters, hike with my husband, and write about life & faith. I have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I am honored to lead the Red Couch Book Club here at SheLoves. You can connect with me on Twitter & Instagram @annie_rim or on my blog: annierim.com.
Annie Rim
Annie Rim