So it’s been a tough week. I don’t know how many of you watched today’s service, but in my sermon I talked a little bit about how I need to work on myself and my shortcomings, especially around matters of racism. I don’t think this should just be the “hot topic” of the month, but I really do believe that this is an issue that is prevalent in all of us, whether we choose to recognise it or not.
See, growing up I’ve always been different. I was this Asian-looking kid that grew up not knowing anything about my cultural heritage at all. I didn’t even speak the language. Why? Because my parents faced so much racism when they came to Canada that they made an effort (not sure if consciously or subconsciously) to raise us as “integrated” as possible.
This meant we tried to do everything our neighbours (which back in those days were 99% white) did, listened to the same music, watched the same movies, played the same games. We talked like them, dressed like them, and even drove the same kinds of cars (my dad was all about the domestics in those days, much to my personal horror). But this had a side effect that my parents probably didn’t think about. While my siblings and I were natural outcasts in our neighbourhood (because of the colour of our skin), we became outcasts again with the huge Asian immigration boom of the 1980’s.
Basically we didn’t fit in anywhere. We were some of the very few English-speaking Asians in our classes, and so there weren’t many who understood what we were going through. So it was easy for us to play the victim. Racism has done this to us. Racism has labelled us outcasts. Racism has negatively affected us in ways that we could never fully describe.
But this week I took a step back, and was able to name my privilege. While it isn’t the same as my white brothers and sisters, it is still there. And while it might not be recognised by anyone else but me, it can still be empowering and humbling at the same time.
While I have been a victim of racism, I shall not live as a victim. Instead, I choose to live as a Child of God.
Way way way way way way way way easier said than done. But we have to start somewhere.
It’s funny how everything I read out of the bible now seems to be talking about racism and the intrinsic wrongs and sins it highlights. Jesus says “whoever loves [so-and-so] more than me is not worthy of me.” At first, that sounds pretty arrogant. But then I remembered Jesus also said along the lines of “what you did to the least of these, you have done to me” (Matthew 25:40), which parallels what one of church leaders told me some time during my youth, that we only love God as much as the person we love the least.
These are all sobering thoughts. Not just to point out how little we must love God, but to remind us what it really means to love at all. I mentioned that I played the victim a lot in my life, but I failed to recognise how I victimized others. In my own self-deprecating tenancies, I neglected to see how I projected anger inappropriately and added that to tension in both my personal and professional life, and how I just inherently blamed others for my situation instead of seeing how I have been and continue to be blessed by God in my own way.
Have assumptions been made about me because of how my face looks? Yes, but I’ve also made assumptions about others based on how they look. Have I been treated unfairly by law enforcement because of the colour of my skin? Yes, but I’ve also made snap judgments about police officers because of their uniform. Have I felt less loved by my peers because I don’t look like them? Yes, but I’ve done the same exact thing to them for the same exact reason.
It can be a lonely world. But I think that together we have a message of love and hope that needs to be proclaimed. This is a message of good news and welcoming community. This is a message of radical togetherness and breaking down barriers that have systematically kept us from fully working together to make the world a better place for us all. This message of peace and inclusion that reminds us all that we are all worthy, all welcomed, all loved by the God of the universe and hopefully the followers of this God. All of us. And if we just started to see that in each other as well as ourselves, then that is the first step in seeing how we all do belong in God’s kingdom and family.
This is a long and difficult road to embark on, but it is necessary. It is necessary for the sake of the marginalized, for the sake of the outcast, and for the sake of ourselves as we might not recognise how our own racism has affected others who don’t look like us or even those who do. It is necessary because that is what we as children of God are called to. It is necessary as we are relational beings, gifted with diversity and deemed worthy of God’s love and salvation.
And as difficult as this is, I am glad to be walking it with you all. We are in this together, and together we are stronger.
Peace be with you all.