It was brought to my attention that some of the sentiments voiced about my indifferences of race and ethnic relationships at the end of 2017 were confusing and possibly even hurtful. Some questioned if I even like white people anymore. Although some people still won’t understand me, and others think it unnecessary to clarify myself, I think it to be irresponsible to leave my previous words where they lay.
As noted previously, I was in a weird space at the time and still am. After writing that, I see a little clearer now, but am still being reformed. I mentioned white people in a general sense. I wrote about the frustrations of how I’m living and the people I often interact with. I also drew attention to how I perceive most white people think based on my past and current relationships with many of them. So for all of my white Christian brothers and sisters, family, and friends, I hope this can clarify my intentions.
First, I still love all of my white family and friends. Dare I draw attention to the deep and meaningful relationships forged with friends over the past few years who are white? And to the fact that both my mother and brother-in-law are white? These people cannot justify anti-racism sentiments no more than a white person claiming that their best friend is black, but it would be careless of me to neglect and damage the hearts of my family and friends. So to reiterate for my white Christian brothers, sisters, colleagues, and neighbors, I still love you.
I may no longer be in love with white culture like I once was, but I still love you. I may no longer worship and idolize cultural whiteness, but I still love you. I may not deify White American Culture like I once did, but I still love you. The love of Christ compels me to serve and care for you, even if that means drawing attention to the uncomfortable characterizations of our cultural comforts, differences, and privileges. We need each other to proclaim and advance the gospel to the margins of society.
Secondly, I hope you can understand that my typification of “whiteness” is not merely married to skin complexion. I am referring more specifically to the dominant structure of thought and societal norms. It can be difficult to properly observe and understand the unsinful chasm of difference in thought and culture when we’re primarily surrounded by people who think, act, sound, and make a similar amount of money as us.
So the “whiteness”, or white people, I referenced in my previous article can be ascribed to ethnic Asians, ethnic Blacks, ethnic Whites, ethnic Latino and Latinas, and anyone else who knowingly or unknowingly subscribes to the dominant American culture as “the norm”.
Additionally, these are the people I referred to in my article as feeling once most comfortable around. The reason for this was because I believed they could legitimize my cultural “normalcy”. The majority – certainly not all – of these people are white and are people I felt I needed to act, talk, and dress like to have their approval. And if I could have their approval, then I believed I could be worthy of sharing their financial and emotional comforts. In a word, I believed the only path for my family’s advancement was through assimilation.
After self-examining my frustrations now, the Holy Spirit helped me see that I was seeking to sinfully use and selfishly idolize people so I could feel validated and assimilated as a Christian and a person. It’s imperative to understand that this need was married to what’s commonly perceived as “normal” from a cultural perspective.
By God’s grace, however, this truth remains: only Christ has power to validate me. And because of his life, death, and resurrection, I do not need to go through a process of assimilation to be part of his kingdom. His blood justifies me. Me.
It’s strange, and a little disorienting, to just be me. After living so long for the approval and acceptance of other people via work, athletics, failed relationships, the arts, and ministry, it feels like learning how to walk all over again. I’m wobbling, stumbling, and crawling imperfectly, but I’m being who God made me to be in the process.
I’m passionate and emotional about Christians growing together to break the molds of our traditions for a more vivid picture of the kingdom of heaven. I may miscommunicate it, or it may be expressed in ways the are not palatable to most, but this is my heart in this season.
Because I’m living free is a contributing factor to why I now feel uncomfortable around some of the people I once felt comfortable around. And it’s not because all of them did or said anything intentionally hurtful to me. In fact, my experience has deepened relationships with many of these people. Many have displayed a true desire to want to understand. So my discomfort comes from a place of learning how to be free. I’m preaching to myself daily that God freed me from performance. I don’t have to put on an act for anyone.
But if I’m honest, there still lingers a desire to be accepted by all people. I still feel the impression of believing I need to act to be received by certain people. I waste time wondering how I will be perceived, or if I’ll be received if I no longer laugh at the joke everyone is laughing at, talk like everyone else, nor act like them.
But through the awkwardness and wondering, I am sure our sovereign God is using these moments to peel away stinky layers to show me more of Himself and my identity in Christ. I am a new creature in Christ, yet He is still stripping away the old me. And this layer is the part of me who once found safety in cultural comforts.
Upon further reflection, I am not much different than the high school kids I teach who seek approval from their parents with good grades, or from their friends by being fashion forward, or from society who preaches that they need to have athletic scholarships to be validated as “elite”. In the same ways I tell them they do not need the approval of man in these arenas to be validated as valuable, God is patiently reassuring me I do not need man’s cultural, ethnic, societal, nor religious approval. He approves of and values me because of Christ.
By the grace of God, and to the glory of God, I am free to be me.
Music helping me to process my feelings:
All White Party – Aha Gazelle
All Gold Party – Aha Gazelle
All Black Party – Aha Gazelle