Wednesday, June 10, 2020

My battle with racism

As humans we have this very strange ability to be scared of your own kind. Change someones skins tone a few notches, music styles, cultural expression, culinary exploits, and suddenly someone whose DNA closely matches yours suddenly appears different some how?

Many years a go I recognised that I was more like other people than I cared to admit publicly.
In my heart I harboured thoughts that by definition made me racist, even if just a little. Can I just say that you can not "be a little racist" are or you aren't...

I am also convinced that every person no matter their background, race, or religion, struggles with this issue.
Sometimes I wonder if the person screaming they are not racist the loudest is many times actually screaming at themselves to not be racist? Just a thought.

All I can do is share some of my journey very briefly in the hope it helps maybe even one person?

And I want to make this very clear...
I am not an expert on this. I am not judging anyone on this.
My approach is based on what helped me on this journey.
And I am still on it. Still planning on staying on it.
I am also not convinced that tearing the world apart to build a new one, fuelled by fear and anger, will ever produce the utopia of harmony many purport to desire.

I grew up in a district without any or many faces of a different colour.
We lived in a farming area where as kids we were blissfully unaware that not everyone was like us. The world was smaller. Groups didn't connect outside their groups.
And one day some people arrived in the district who had darker skins tones. I remember hearing comments. And when supposed stereotypes were lived up, well that just reinforced the position already held.

One of the families had a daughter.
She was a great runner I remember and seemed desperate to fit in at our Primary School.
Then news came through during a long weekend that she had died of Pneumonia.
I know for myself and many others we struggled to understand how that could happen in our well to do district. Many I know stood at that school assembly the next week, stunned, silenced and I picked a little guilty feeling.

After moving to New Zealands largest city in my late teens to follow my dream of becoming a Rock Star I met Jesus. My whole life changed. My goals changed. I was becoming a different person.
In the Church I went to were people from all over the place. Some rich, some poor. Some with big issues, others with small. And the faces weren't all the same as mine.
Looking back this was a great first step for me.
I was exposed to 'the others' in the world. And I remember fondly getting to know an ex gang member with scary tattoos. I needed to interact with people like him!

Not long after this new world opened up I was invited to an Indian culture based Church.
Before we went to minister to them, it was explained they did things differently. They had the men and women seperate in services.
The time would finish with us being invited to have lunch after the service.
That actually scared me the most.
What if I don't like the food. I had never really had curry and spice.
Would I pay a price that would be paid in a bathroom hence forth?
But it turned out completely different to my preconceived ideas.
They were so loving, encouraging and friendly. And the food was amazing!!!
They sat each of us down one by one and prayed amazing prayers over our lives.
I went from fearful to a fan over those few short hours.

In the late 90's I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Russia.
To be honest I was pretty ill-prepared for this trip!
I learned some phrases of their language on the way over on the flights.
You need to understand that I grew up during the Cold War. As kids and then into our teens, we lived in fear of nuclear war and it was the Russians who would be to blame.
That upbringing does something to you. I can see that now.
The upshot of those two weeks is that I discovered that they are also amazing people. Willing to sacrifice anything of theirs to make your time with them better.
To be honest, they made New Zealand hospitality look pretty lame.

One final little story...
I have had the privilege of organising large events which include people from all backgrounds and sometimes even cultures these last few years.
2 years ago we began purposefully including aspects from Maori Culture in our programming, of which I was completely ignorant of. Graciously a man and his wife helped me understand something of the Powhiri. Guided me through it step by step, never once making me feel stupid. They answered every question. Translated every phrase. And then to my shock they asked me to speak in their language at the event. It was one of the most nerve racking events of my life but also the most profound.
It did something pretty special in me that still gives me goosebumps as I think about it and type this.

So what is my point?
What is the takeaway from all this?

My personal opinion on curing racism is not protest, anger, or worse.
It is exposure.
Without exposure, ignorance has a bed to multiply in.

Don't try and go from zero to hero, you won't be able to make it.
I simply would encourage you to ask God first to deal with your heart.
Second ask God to give you opportunity to interact with another people, another culture.
Commit to a journey of discovery and let what you experience influence your heart.
Everyone is scared - but fear unaddressed again leads to prejudice.
God will help you if you are keen and humble!

We are all made in the image of God.
So dear Christian hating someone who is different is kind of like hating God.
Sorry not sorry to say that.
Don't panic, just press into Him.
Ask Him to help you with this struggle if it is yours.
And the opportunity to expand your world with people not like you...

Something to think about...

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