I have always had a hard time speaking about race. It’s not because I don’t have strong feelings about how strong the racial divide is in this country, but instead because I guess because I have felt ill-qualified to speak on behalf of those who feel mistreated or misunderstood. And maybe also because I haven’t understood the people and the problems themselves, having never experienced their experiences.
But recently I’ve come to realize, that I don’t have to wait until I understand a particular person’s struggle and pain to its fullest extent in order to listen and have compassion. While I may not understand another person’s pain, I too have also felt mistreated or misunderstood or not or not listened to at times—and so while I may not understand all the messily nuanced conversation surrounding the racial issues in this country, I can understand the pain of a people who feel like they are not being given all the opportunities or platforms to speak or respect that they feel they deserve as human beings.
I think people get confused and think “we’re all one in Christ Jesus” is the answer to the complexities of race. It is, but then it isn’t. I didn’t understand it until I was a minority in Singapore. I must say, it was beyond frustrating to be constantly judged and talked to differently just because I was white.
So many assumptions.
So many eyes on me always.
Being constantly patronized.
Excluded from things.
Guys expecting me to be “loose” because of how white ladies are portrayed in Hollywood.
People afraid to talk to me.
People getting upset because I was offended at certain things in their culture that were offensive to me because of mine.
Most of my Singaporean friends had no idea the things I faced when I relayed them—the difficulties we had in finding housing and being treated differently. It was like I was telling them about a different Singapore and it was hard for them to believe. They had never been on the receiving end of racism in Singapore and so they didn’t get it and were shocked at our experiences.
And then all this happened in America—and in reflecting on my own experiences, I understood.
Yes, we are all one in Christ Jesus—in that we’re all family. We all have the same blessings IN CHRIST—but this doesn’t change the fact that we need to consider race. We live in a broken world full of people who don’t understand that all people of every color are equal—and it is because of this that we need to try our best to see what walking through life in this broken, often hateful world looks like from every person’s unique perspective.
There is nothing more frustrating than not being listened to or considered for the way you can see the world differently. We need to learn to listen. We need to try to understand.
I think the biblical principle that plays into this is “to the Jews I became a Jew that I might win the Jews… I become all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” When I embody this attitude of Paul, I realise that it doesn’t matter what I think—it matters how others feel. I need to be able to say of my walk that I have done my best to become what the black population needs—that I have done my very best to meet them where they are, listen to them, and understand their feelings and fears so that I can better minister to them.
Validation is key, even when you don’t understand. Getting closer and closer to the people that you don’t understand—listening and learning and learning to love them—that is the key to eventually understanding.
It all starts when you and I listen in love.
My prayer is that you and I continue to grow from here on in love, towards all—becoming whatever we need to become to whomever needs it. Closer and closer to each other — and ever closer to Christ.
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