Today, I have the privilege of being featured on my Naval Academy classmate, Justin Nassiri’s podcast, Beyond the Uniform. We talked about a lot of difficult topics like race and gender for the first time. I hope it will inform and encourage you on the journey to justice. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Here is a feature:
Justin is the Founder & Host of Beyond the Uniform. Previously, he founded StoryBox, a venture-backed marketing technology company used by over 35 Fortune 500 companies. He has also worked as a Consultant at McKinsey & Company and as an Officer in the Navy onboard submarines (USS Alaska SSB 732 & USS Chicago SSN 721).
I just published my first article/essay at the Canadian magazine,Comment.
“I don’t see colour.”
I cringe every time I hear this sentence. In most instances, people say it in an attempt to let me know that they are not racist, or that they value people regardless of their race. But I’m afraid it communicates something quite different. The alleged colour-blindness devalues me as a person of colour, and it does not foster the trust, healing, or intimacy that is needed within our churches and the broader culture. When I hear this statement and others like it, I wonder, “What are you afraid of?” What would seeing my colour say about me, and about you? I want the speaker to come face to face with that question. Then, I can share the truth that I know: God made us different on purpose, and that is good.
Because of course we see colour. We acknowledge its beauty when selecting fashion patterns. Colour contributes to our enjoyment of food, and it’s one of the many things we appreciate about nature. All able-bodied people see colour. So, if we claim that we do not, or if we refuse to see colour when we look at the body of another person, we are inherently acknowledging that something is wrong with our gaze. Something is indeed wrong, but it is not the colour of the other person’s skin.
The negative connotations and actions that are imparted because of the colour of a person’s skin is colourism. Colourism is one of the affects of racism. The idea of racism or being racist is what people are desperately seeking to avoid. Some Christians are under the false illusion that we will somehow all get along if we just ignore the issue of race, preach Galatians 3:28, and raise “colour-blind” kids. Ignoring colour or denying the fact that racism exists, however, will not solve the race issues in America, nor will it enable the racial reconciliation that is needed in the American church.
Black Lives Matter
Author Patricia Raybon is the product of the civil rights movement and Jim Crow era. She is also a black woman and the mother of black children. In her foreword to Amy Julia Becker’s book White Picket Fences, Raybon writes candidly about the toxicity, trauma, and terrorism of American racism on black bodies. She writes about the luxury allotted to families and children who do not live under this constant threat. It is a luxury that children of colour are not afforded, because too often black children and black bodies are targets for the violence of white supremacy, which is carried out in very visceral ways.
It wasn’t that long ago a guy in a yellow shirt would interrupt our television entertainment to ask that annoying question. Even as I consider the ridiculousness yet genius of that marketing campaign, I realize how important his question is today.
Some time ago, this same guy started showing up in another commercial for a competing phone service. But he was asking the same question, “Can you hear me now?” The narrator then would ramble about all the ways that this company offered a better service than the guy’s previous employer. Both companies were trying to get us to do two things that we want and need to do: connect to and communicate with other humans. Additionally, they were offering us tools to accomplish both things.
As we survey that land over the past few months, we cannot escape the fact that the world is changing all around us. As we watch the church trying to adjust to the new normal and figure things out, I am glad that we have the resources and technology to give people what they want and need. I have appreciated the work and dedication of our church staff who ensure that we have online services and Bible studies. And I am also asking myself and others, What do you think God is speaking to us, the church, right now?