Why are we still talking about race?
A few years ago, a question like that would have sent me spiraling in anger.
I remember the night that marked a shift in my thinking. I was attending a lecture at a church about race and reconciliation. I should preface this by saying that I am a light-skinned Native American woman who was raised in a Mexican-Native American home. I have had many conversations about race with my friends, swapping stories of prejudice and mistreatment. But I have never had an experience quite like that night.
Because, you see, I was the only non-white person in that room. And the lecture was meant as a discussion, meaning the audience could ask questions.
Now, I don’t remember specific questions but I remember that all the questions fell under the same umbrella.
Why are we still talking about race? Isn’t racism over? Aren’t you perpetuating the problem by talking about it? Can’t we just ignore race and just accept people as all the same? Aren’t minorities just overly sensitive? Why can’t we just move on?
And I remember going home and bawling my eyes out. It was as if their lack of awareness revealed every wound I had been carrying around since I was a little girl. I remember writing a blog post (in my old blog) about how I felt as a light-skinned Native American woman and how I felt in a predominantly white environment.
Because I look white so people think it’s okay to saw certain things around me that they might not say otherwise. I still remember driving home with my college roommates and they were discussing how “those Mexicans” should die, spouting hurtful words as they jabbered on. And remember, I was raised in a Mexican home. I moved out of that apartment not long after.
So I have long questioned if I had my sister’s dark skin and brown eyes, if the people in that church would have been so quick to say what they said.
Because asking why we still need to talk about race is like asking why we need to fight poverty. We live in one of the richest countries in the world, the land of opportunity! Why do we need to fight poverty? Can’t people just rise above their circumstances and get rid of their poverty?
I don’t know about you but I didn’t get out of my poverty without the help of others.
The thing is that we need to talk about the hard stuff because it’s not going anywhere. Especially as Christians, we should know better. We know we live in a fallen world and that God is still in the process of redeeming and restoring us. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away and on some level, we may get close but it won’t go away completely until Christ returns.
Yes, there was a shift that happened that night. For a long time, I hated that I look white because I was the safe space for a white person to unload all of their issues about race onto. It was a heavy burden. They would say things and ask questions that they would never say or ask of another minority person. But that night, I realized how powerful a position God had placed me in by creating me the way He had. It means that I have an opportunity to speak truth from a peer perspective, even though I’m not truly a peer.
So I didn’t get angry when my friend asked that question but I walked away acknowledging that I had a responsibility to educate and to be compassionate. To do the best I can.
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