Race and Reconciliation

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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2 thoughts on “Race and Reconciliation

  1. I’m sorry for the ignorance and hate and prejudice you’ve faced. White colorblindness isn’t anything new. Your point on their questions reminds me of an article from Psych Today on colorblindness as a form of racism:

    “At its face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing — really taking MLK seriously on his call to judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity.

    However, colorblindness alone is not sufficient to heal racial wounds on a national or personal level. It is only a half-measure that in the end operates as a form of racism.

    Racism? Strong words, yes, but let’s look the issue straight in its partially unseeing eye. In a colorblind society, White people, who are unlikely to experience disadvantages due to race, can effectively ignore racism in American life, justify the current social order, and feel more comfortable with their relatively privileged standing in society (Fryberg, 2010). Most minorities, however, who regularly encounter difficulties due to race, experience colorblind ideologies quite differently. Colorblindness creates a society that denies their negative racial experiences, rejects their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives.”

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/culturally-speaking/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism

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    1. I had a friend recently tell me that when he was young, no one in his school recognized race. He said this as a white man. I struggled to explain to him that his assumption that because he didn’t see race, neither did the minority students, was wishful thinking on his part. As a young child with cerebral palsy, I was aware that I was different but it didn’t impact my actions until I was older. It’s admirable for people to want to seek unity but we don’t have to pretend we don’t see our differences in order to be unified. That’s not truly accepting one another.

      When people say they don’t see my disability, something that is very apparent about me, it actually hurts me deeply. They’re acting like they are only accepting me when they ignore an important part of my story. Why can’t I be seen as a strong, disabled woman? What is wrong with disability? That’s what I think of when I hear people say they are colorblind. What’s wrong with being black? Asian? Middle-Eastern? Etc.

      Thank you for your insight. I appreciate it.

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