When my father immigrated to Canada in the 1960’s, he was bullied in a variety of ways because he was Italian. They called him Sandy – because they couldn’t pronounce his Italian name. He told me about his experience when I was a kid.
He moved us into a multicultural community where we were the visible minority. We attended a church with people from over a hundred nationalities. Most of my friends were all first or second-generation Canadians with English spoken as the second language at home. I had friends from India, the Caribbean, China, Ukraine, Egypt, the Philippines, El Salvador, and Italy. We never saw each other as different. Over the years I have been surrounded by teachers, mentors, and authority figures from all different backgrounds and skin tones. As a teenager, I was mentored by a man from Jamaica. One of my first churches I served as a pastor, I reported to the Senior Pastor who was from Trinidad. The couple who performed our premarital counselling and officiated our wedding was from the Caribbean. Today, some of my friends do not look like me. They are Latin, African, and South Asian. The funny thing is – these facts only occurred to me in the last couple of days. I grew up with the idea that people are people – no matter their skin tone. We’re all part of the human race. Skin tone should not matter.
To be honest, when I saw the video of George Floyd, the first thing that came into my mind was “Why would that police officer exercise such force on that man?” I didn’t think “black man,” just “man.” Then as I watched the news and scrolled social media I saw how years of hurt as a result of racism had boiled to the surface once more. When I talk to my friends – my black friends – its not just boiling to the surface because of something that happened in Minneapolis. It’s boiling to the surface because it represents what many have faced over the years and still have to face each and every day. It’s boiling to the surface because my friends are being treated differently at school, at work, and in their community, because of the colour of their skin.
Over the last few days I have experienced a myriad of emotions: anger, sadness, hurt. I’ve written paragraphs as to why racism is wrong, how it has resulted in the genocide of millions over the last one hundred years, and how systemic racism is undercover here in Canada. There are people much smarter than me who have been writing about it for years so I decided not to include it.
I don’t understand fully the pain of my black brothers and sisters. I don’t have all the answers but here’s what I believe.
I do believe in the Christian ethic. I do believe that we are all created in the image of God. I do believe that sin (living life how we want) causes chaos in our life and our world. I do believe that racism is sin and at its core is found in the individual’s heart. I do believe that the only way to live is to give our sins to Jesus who can change us from the inside out. I do believe that as we walk in a relationship with Jesus and allow the Bible to change our life – we will be able to better love God, ourselves, and others. I do believe that Jesus is the bridge not only between God and humanity – but us & our neighbours.
I do believe that even Christians struggle with old ways of thinking before they encounter Jesus and it takes time to embrace a new mindset once they follow Jesus. A friend pointed out to me how racism in the past has actually been led and justified by Christians. Another friend pointed out to me how it took over twenty years for some early Christians to get rid of racism in their own life (Acts 6, 10, 15).
I hope that this season isn’t just one that comes and goes. I hope that we are not simply recognizing #blacklivesmatter #blackouttuesday because it’s the thing to do. I hope we aren’t content with simple platitudes without a personal change in our own life and place of influence. I hope that we won’t just say #wemustdobetter – we will actually do better.
I hope that we will check our own hearts to see if any racism exists. That we will stop and choose to change. That we will intentionally include other cultures around our table. That we will make sure our children have friends with other skin tones and nationalities. That we will support the business and services of people no matter their background. That as leaders we will build diverse teams and foster a culture of equality. That we will become aware of our own biases and preferences. That we will be open to doing things a different way even if we aren’t comfortable with it. That we will ask questions about areas we don’t understand and seek to make things right. That’s we won’t stay silent but will speak out against racism when we see it.
I believe we are all made in the image of God and we must dream and work towards a world where treat each other that way.