“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Last night, I attended an event that was being hosted at my local church called, “The Art of Justice.” It was an open-mic event that gave folks in the Tacoma area a chance to get together and creatively express their feelings about the racial tensions that have been plaguing our country. One of the local performers shared a spoken word piece, the theme of which was, “We Are One.” Her point was that, despite all of our many differences, we are all sharing in this human experience together. One people, one world.
It can be hard to feel like we are one in a world that’s so divided. It seems the news is always full of stories about people hurting, and even killing each other, and no matter what side of an issue you fall on, there will always be those who fall on the other side, or even those who separate themselves by refusing to take a side. As we move forward, it is important to remember that racism is not an issue about which we should “take sides.” Instead of an “us/them” mentality, what we need is an “all of us” mentality. We have to work together, not ignoring differences, but celebrating them. Instead of taking a stance of “not my problem,” we need to make racism everyone’s problem. Equality is something that we need to accomplish together.
For some of us, the first step in working toward equality, is admitting we have privilege. It can be very difficult to acknowledge when you have privilege. Because admitting that you have privilege means not only that you have to see inequality for what it is, but that you have to go one step further and call it out in your own life. It means taking responsibility for the ways you have contributed to the institutionalized mistreatment of other human beings, both consciously and otherwise. It means straying away from the cliché that is “I didn’t mean to,” or “I didn’t start it,” and moving into a place of active work toward progress. And I understand why people deny that they have privilege; because really seeing racism for what is, is heartbreaking. But nothing will ever change if everyone waits for someone else to take the first step.
It is important to remember that racism is a year-long problem. It is something we need to speak up about, not just on the days that we see it in the news, or when the calendar reminds us, but every day. And no matter how big or small they may seem, our words are powerful. They can either heal or destroy. One of my friends and fellow missionaries often quotes Dr. King’s words; “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We need to stick together, and we need to speak up.
Tacoma Community House, Tacoma, WA
US-2 Class 2014