There is no way around it; this topic is tough. To speak of all people as “being the same” would be judgmental, cruel, and simply unfair. Therefore, I am going to risk using myself as a vulnerable example. But, in no way do I want anyone to get the idea that this essay is an exercise in “victim mentality.” These words are not meant to judge or label anyone, including myself. If you sympathize or empathize with my words, no matter what race you happen to be, please do so based on the context and events surrounding your own life. Consider this quote from Pastor Dave: “You can’t carry someone else’s burdens unless you know their story.” In today’s sermon, Pastor Dave spoke about the need for people to “lead the way” in opening the door to the conversation about race. In his exact words: “God needs people who have been reconciled to lead the movement, or the ministry, of reconciliation.” As he also put it, to be reconciled means “to remove the barriers; remove the enmity.”
Unfortunately, there is a stumbling block of “silence in the face of injustice,” and it is rooted in fear itself. That’s never a good place to start. In fact, it’s a shameful tragedy when there is no dialogue. In other words, as the following quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.” So, if we as a society are going to progress anywhere, people have to be brave enough to speak, no matter how un-eloquent they may feel they sound. In terms of a metaphor, “You can’t edit a paper that hasn’t been written.”
As a white person, I can’t remember the last time I felt comfortable talking to a person of color about race. In fact, I can only remember once when I was asked by a group of fellow students in high school to be “a white person on the dance team” because, apparently, the group of all African-American classmates was not allowed to form a team of their own. “The school said the team would be “too ethnic,” I was told. That was over fifteen years ago. To this day, I don’t know if their story was true. When I questioned him, the then-principal predictably denied ever saying such things. But, after that, the team was allowed to form; and I was no longer needed (or wanted, for that matter, which I think had more to do with my classmates’ personality types than it did their race). Still, that is the only time I can ever remember a door to conversation being opened to talk about race between myself and a person of color. I am completely guilty of talking about race and the unfortunate tragedies associated with racism all the time with other white people…both racist (in hopes of changing their opinions) and non-racist themselves. But, upon reflection, Pastor Dave is right: That’s not real progress.
I’ve “done the right thing” before. For example, in junior high, when I had finally reached a status of being able to sit with other people at lunch (insert the rolling eyes emoji here), it was practically the last few days of school that we, as classmates, would be together in a group. (Keep in mind, you could count the African-American people in my school on one hand.) Everyone was excitedly talking about which high school they had been accepted to. (In hindsight, I was probably only allowed to sit at the table out of a sense of competition among the others.) But when I announced which high school I was going to, I literally had a former, long-since-best-friend- turned-enemy from elementary school turn to me and say, “Oh that’s the high school where all the black kids go to school, and all they do is goof off and play basketball.” (The insinuation was that I would be too distracted by the antics of others to receive a good education.) For what seemed like hours but was probably only seconds, I sat there shocked and with my mouth hanging open. I could not believe the audacity of the person I once called “friend.” Only knowing I didn’t want to be associated with that kind of thinking, I didn’t reward her with a response. I stood up, walked over to an empty lunch table, sat down, and opened a book. On top of that, I received a detention for being antisocial. Other than the detention I once received for writing poetry in math class, it’s the proudest detention I’ve ever been handed.
But, again, what good does that story do if I don’t speak about it? As Pastor Dave one preached, “The Bible tells us (paraphrased) that those who are public figures will be judged more harshly because they are expected to set an example.” Therefore, I invite anyone and everyone to comment on this post. Tell me where I’m wrong. Tell me where I’m right. Share with the community your story and opinion. If you find it hard to start a conversation with friends, use this blog as a sounding board. It’s easier and more anonymous to argue or agree with a computer screen than it is an actual person. I cannot express sincerely enough that no matter your race and how much your own journey with the tough topic of racism has been, your story has incredible value.
I am privileged to attend Capital Christian Center. It truly is leading the way with diversity, as well as countless examples of racial reconciliation. I come from a town where my mother – who instilled a love of Spirit-led praise and worship in me since I was a little girl – was discouraged by parishioners of a church that sang Gospel music from joining the church for the assumed reason that “she might not like it because it’s a black church.” She didn’t even have the chance to tell them about her experience once singing in a choir directed by Andre Crouch during his church tours of the 1970’s. (He is now passed away, but is widely regarded as one of the greatest Gospel artists of all time. Fun fact: He even arranged the score for and directed the choir that sang on “The Lion King” soundtrack in 1994.)
So, the ultimate question is this: Are you ready to be an ambassador of racial reconciliation? Are you ready to be representatives of the love of God, who sent His only son to die for Jews and Gentiles (a.k.a. all people) alike. As stated before, it’s easy to start an anonymous conversation, but perhaps the first conversation we need to be having is with ourselves and reflecting our own biases so we can rid ourselves of them. In short, try this brain exercise that pretty much acts as both a metaphor and summary of all the concepts talked about in this blog post:
First, think of someone holding up a hand mirror to your life. Now, think of the mirror being put away in a drawer. Third, think of the drawer. Last, ask yourself what color was the skin of the person holding the mirror. If you can’t remember, you know you’re on the right track.
Questions for Reflection:
- What does the term “diversity” mean to you?
- What is one step – you only need one – you could take toward talking to someone about race who isn’t of your race? What is one, polite and sensitive (considerate of the person in particular) question you could prepare yourself to ask?
- What is your story? Have you ever faced the ugliness that is racism and insensitivity?
- How does it make you feel to know Christ died for everybody, especially sinners? Does this change your view of Christianity positively or negatively? Should it change your view of Christianity at all?
- If you have a friend or family member who is a person of a different race, don’t assume they’ve either struggled or not-struggled. I encourage you to sincerely ask him or her if he or she has any opinions on the matter.
House of Worship: Capital Christian Center – Lacey, WA