It Starts with Understanding – 10 Stories to Combat Racism

We like to think we’re not racist or xenophobic.
But racism is insidious. With all the racist abuse and violence in both the UK and US at the moment, it pays to re-evaluate our hearts once in a while and examine whether the roots of prejudice have taken hold.
The best way I know to do this is to listen to the stories and wisdom of people who’ve experienced racism and xenophobia. It’s so important to hear the lesser-told story – all change starts with understanding.
These excellent articles couldn’t have been more timely:

The GuardianSix Real Life Stories of Migration

“Bringing up our children in a free country is priceless,” says one migrant; another recounts, “A GP’s secretary told me flatly ‘we do not take Romanian patients’.”
This article is well worth a read. Six Real Life Stories of Migration
1. Chine McDonald for Christian TodayI know you’re not a racist. Now is the time to prove it.
“I’ve already been told to go home.”
Director of Communications for the Evangelical Alliance and author of Am I Beautiful?, Chine McDonald writes about the aftermath of Brexit and how we should respond. Chine McDonald – I know you’re not a racist. Now is the time to prove it.
I love being part of The Mudroom team, masterminded by Tammy Perlmutter. For June, the theme was race, culture and identity, and all the writers are women of colour. It is a BRILLIANT series – grab a hot beverage and read the whole month’s worth. These particularly stood out to me:
2. Alia Joy HagenbachComing of Age in this American Life
“I was 12 before I ever read a book with an Asian American character in it. We don’t have stories worth hearing, because when you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all. After all, we are all the same, right?…
“But the normative experience, the default, the factory settings are white, white, white—if for no other reason than the sheer abundance of options. With whiteness we do not have the danger of a single story because white is seen as varied and nuanced and individual.
“White people get to be whole people.
This quote is one of the most helpful definitions of racism I’ve ever read.
On how subtle racism can be, and the damage it can do to your identity – beautiful piece by Alia Joy Hagenbach – Coming of Age in this American Life

3. Marlena Graves The Place of Privilege in the Kingdom of God

“I often begged God to explain why the cards were stacked against me as a Hispanic-Latina woman born into a poor family that was plagued by the effects of mental illness.
“I used to despair, but no longer. I finally realized that the gospel is especially good news for the poor, people on the lowest rungs of society.
On race and privilege and how the Kingdom reverses it:The Place of Privilege in the Kingdom of God
4. Grace SandraAin’t I a black woman too?
“When I was told I was not allowed to be baptized in that white church on account of being black my heart experienced the first tightening of the lynching cord. And when in the 7th grade my best friend told me I couldn’t come to her birthday party because her mom didn’t allow blacks in her home, the noose burned a bit tighter. Her father sat on the school board and was a prominent leader in the church.”
On identity as a biracial woman, and how Beyonce’s Lemonade helped her – Grace Sandra – Ain’t I a black woman too?
“I believe our picture of God is made fuller when we include the voice and viewpoint of both women and men. In the same way, our understanding of who God is deepens through racial and cultural diversity.”
On how she reclaimed her true identity by exploring the Bible. Vivian Mabuni – Asian. American. Christian. Woman. 
6. Dorcas Cheng TozunThere Are No Experts
There is no such thing as an expert on race, no such thing as a person who holds no stereotypes and always intervenes to stop an injustice.
On the paradox of being humiliated by an anti-racism activist – Dorcas Cheng Tozun – There Are No Experts.  
7. Mihee Kim-KortRemembering Vincent Chin
“The American Dream may not be applicable anymore but whether it’s appropriated by immigrants or reinvented by the majority culture, there really isn’t an American Dream anymore…it’s just the Dream, and every human being has one, and has a right to live it out.”
On the differences and similarities between first generation and second generation migrants and the racism levelled at them – Mihee Kim Kort – Remembering Vincent Chin

8. Marvia Davidson – Oreos and the Image of God

“I’m not saying God is black. I’m saying I am an expression of His image on the earth, and as such, I can accept that black is beautiful, brown is beautiful, baby fro is beautiful, black guitar-singing-paint-slinging-art-journaling-goofy-me is beautiful.”
On the journey of accepting that black is beautiful – Marvia Davidson – Oreos and the Image of God
9. Alexia Salvatierra – Ojala Primero Dios
“I understand. We can’t all care about everything and everyone. Not enough bandwidth in the human psyche. Me too. But—the world knows that Jesus has come because of the unity of his followers (John 17:21). This has to mean more than Methodists and Baptists getting together. (I have noticed that denominational ecumenism doesn’t seem to convince the world that the Messiah has come.) How can our love cross the boundaries of race, culture, national identity?”
On the challenge of opening our hearts to refugees – Alexia Salvatierra – Ojala Primero Dios
“Race hierarchy goes against the God of creation and humanity itself, and against the teachings of Jesus Christ. God did not create a ‘race’ of humans, nor did God create categories of superior and inferior human beings. God did not designate Caucasians, i.e. white Americans as dominant. The white American narrative is one among many narratives, and Caucasian peoples are but one of many ethnic cultures with a role in human history. Therefore, the social, political, and economic construction of race and racism continues to mar the image of God.”
An intellectually stimulating short piece about how the study of history can challenge our prejudices about the superiority or inferiority of races – Rev Dr Velda Love – Sankofa and the Ministry of Reconciliation
Want to keep listening? Do follow the writing of all who are mentioned here:
  1. Chine McDonald
  2. Alia Joy Hagenbach
  3. Marlena Graves
  4. Grace Sandra
  5. Vivian Mabuni
  6. Dorcas Cheng Tozun
  7. Mihee Kim-Kort
  8. Marvia Davidson
  9. Alexia Salvatierra
  10. Rev Dr Zelda Love
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One Response to It Starts with Understanding – 10 Stories to Combat Racism

  1. Heather 6th June, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    These are awesome quotes! The one about Asian representation in stories shows the importance of diversity in literature; being able to identify with someone’s narrative validates a person’s existence, even if in a small way. Thanks for sharing!

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