I am not part of the majority ethnic group of our culture ‚ not in our city, not in your province, not in our country, not in our church family, not in our denomination.
(personal story regarding my racial experience starts 17:39)
In these days where the cries of racial injustice are ringing through peaceful protest and unabashed rioting, from intelligent dialogue to social media bullying‚ I feel it, my family feels it, people like me feel it, people unlike me feel it‚ and some of it hurts. But to be clear, the hurt isn’t personal. It hurts, because there are so many useless statements and posts that only serve to throw gas on a burning fire. It hurts because the pangs of compassion for our world deepens, because the majority has no idea about the corruption of our generation despite the progress that has been made in the multi-ethnic diverse country of Canada, when it comes to racial tension.
- The majority has no idea what it feels like to grow up repeatedly being made fun of for the colour or your skin.
- The majority has no idea what it feels like to walk home from school constantly looking over your shoulder wondering if someone is going to throw you into a ditch, because they can, and because no one will stop them.
- The majority has no idea of what it feels like to be heading for an open elevator, only to have the person inside close the doors as they shout out racial slurs toward you.
- The majority has no idea what it feels like to be openly be told by your teacher that they don’t like your kind and will make your class experience harder than the rest.
- My best friend through highschool was Chris Burchett. We talked openly about race. In fact he would always want to do these social experiments, where if we went out, we would see how the server would speak to first. Or we would both walk into a store and go separate ways and see who would first have a sales person come and how they would be treated, in fact many times one of us was never approached.
- The majority has no idea that you have to be twice as good to be given half a chance. That’s what my father told me. He should know. He faced more intense racial discrimination, in his teaching profession in the 1970s and 80s, than I have. But twice as good‚ those words penetrated deep within me. How can I be twice as good? What was the standard of good and then I had to be twice that? Those words became part of the reason that I dropped out of highschool. The system was corrupt ‚Äì I thought. Education was corrupt. So, I went and started working and what I found out was that the working world was corrupt. So what’s the point‚ I’m not playing that game. I’m just going to look after me.
- It was in that time‚ and through that time‚ having returned to finish my highschool education, that I met the people who would introduce me to a new way of thinking, a new way of being ‚ faith became personal and central to my life. Some of my most treasured friendships endure from that time: we were black, chinese, brown, white, and even whiter‚ all of us‚ together, largely because of common faith.
- However, it would be wrong for me to leave you with the impression that faith alone is a cure for racial discrimination. Even in religious spheres, there is still corruption in our thinking and actions when it comes to race. The majority has no idea what it feels like to be denied opportunity to serve based on colour. The majority have no idea what it feels like to walk into a sanctuary or a meeting or conference of faith leaders and recognize a lack of diversity in one of the most richly diverse countries and provinces in the world. The majority have no idea what it feels like to be told that someone won’t come to the congregation you pastor because they or their parents couldn’t sit under the leadership of someone of colour. The majority have no idea about the pain you feel when you stand before a congregation and notice a non-majority visitor and realize that if you don’t meet with them, then they will be largely ignored, as people gravitate to familiar circles, heading off to lunch gatherings with no invitation extended. That visitor doesn’t come back, nor does anyone miss them. The majority have no idea what it feels like to advocate to store owners and managers to give consideration to hiring non-majority employees, only to be told that they would but they feared losing customers.
- However, please hear this clearly. Please know this. I am not discouraged nor defeated. I am convinced and convicted and commissioned to forge a new direction, and am thankful for the people and organizations that walk with me. My understanding of faith informs me that every person has inherent purpose and value. Therefore, I must reflect this in my interactions with others and be part of reconciliation efforts for all people wherever injustice presents itself. As the leader of a faith community, I believe that we need to also reflect these reconciliation efforts.
- Unity is not sameness, unity is like the grafting of a branch into a plant, like the layers of harmony in a song, it’s like the depth that is added through the shading of colours in a painting - unity is the construction plan of God, using our diversity to build stronger communities. Every person of every ethnicity, every nation, every language, this is the mission in which my life is lived, this the movement that in which I participate. In this mission we must take pause to consider others better than ourselves, and not as projects. In this movement we are called to come alongside others, and not look down upon them.
- Peter gave words of warning, look at the corruption of the political, religious and social landscape‚ it’s time for new movement, a movement that overcomes evil with good, and promotes love over fear. This is a movement that listens intently, walks slowly, loves deeply, gives generously and is enriched through the beautiful diversity that each person possesses because they are all created uniquely in the image of God.
What can we do? - Let me give you 5 pieces of practical advice that I believe will get you started.
*lament: it’s a spiritual term, it is a means of prayer, where we first examine ourselves. Lament brings us to a place of change or repentance, unites us in our capacity to confront social ills while preparing us to be filled anew with compassion, even for our detractors. Lament says “we” and ”our” not “them” and‚ “they”.
*listen: allows us to take a posture of humility before others and puts aside our preconceptions, it demonstrates honour and respect. We don't listen to react, we listen to understand.
*learn: reminds us that we don’t know everything. That the solutions don’t come from by calling for one group or another to say or do something. It comes from a willingness to develop and be led through the experiences of others.
*love: doesn’t build walls, love opens doors. Love is brother and sisterhood. Love isn’t being colour blind, or about #all lives matter, it’s about appreciating the inherent value and richness of diversity in each one. Take time to love, because to truly love takes time.
*live: don’t post statements because that’s what other people do. Know why you should or shouldn’t. Posting about what you think should doesn’t change anything. Living the truth changes the people in your world. Changed people, change people.
We now have the capacity to change our cultural ways of thinking, whether that's embedded thinking of weeks, months, years or generations, there is a new opportunity that exists, and for one am committed to walking that road.
Lament, Listen, Learn, Love and Live.