A couple of days ago, Jasmine Holmes posted an article or blog titled, SINGLE BLACK WOMEN IN EVANGELICAL WHITE SPACE: EIGHT THINGS WE WISH YOU KNEW. It was a wonderful article. She has also posted a Facebook Live video in response to comments and to answer any questions other may have about said article. You can click here to view the the video.
Again, Jasmine did a great job of writing from the experience of being a single black woman in evangelical white space. As I read her article, my headed nodded in agreement because of my ability to relate to most of her points. But, I wanted to keep going, though, hahaha! Most of my experiences in evangelical white space has come since being married and commissioned to serve the LORD in places where our family were literally the very few, if not only, in evangelical communities and churches. So, my husband and I wrote discussed and jotted down our own list, based off our own experiences in the ‘evangelical white space’.
Again, these are our experiences pertaining to this topic or being the minority in a christian community and what experienced or have observed, and what we think are important to know.
We are NOT the whitest black people that you have ever met.
Yes. Brothers and sisters have said this openly to me or my husband or to us both. Wisdom calls here. One, we realize that you may not realize the implications of such a statement, whether it is the intention or not. We have gently corrected and explained what we hear the person or persons are saying to us. A few things that we hear are:
-That the color of my skin makes us that different, like there is a line between the two us, even though we come together in unity in Christ as one flesh, one Bride.
-You think that I don’t like being black because I have become like you, white.
-You think that being white is the standard to be met or achieved. The standard in how to live in day to day life, you know because we are not like what has been depicted of “our kind” on t.v. or in the news. The standard in education, we talk educated, like you.
-We’re the ones who made it out of the ghetto or the hood. We are the ‘success’ story.
2. Our black sons are cute and adorable as long as they are little, cute and adorable.
I don’t know what or how this happens. But, I have observed this. Most times not in the most overt or obvious manner, it is definitely observable. When a black male is reaching teen years and voice is changing and facial structures change, their is the sharp awareness all of a sudden, that this once adorable little brown boy is now a black man. Sometimes, this plays out in the all of a sudden becoming uncomfortable with your son, and sometimes more so, daughters befriending them too closely. Or sometimes it is not knowing how to handle this now, grown or young man.
3. Jealousy. Not knowing how to handle the gravitational pull between other minorities.
It is sort of like the school cafeteria. No one is given assigned seats. But if you take a bird’s eye view, you will undoubtedly notice that there people tend to gravitate to those who are a part of their ethnicity or culture. In most cases, this is NOT a harmful thing. It is not the individuals being racist. Often times, you can see this socioeconomic status…those who are in the same socioeconomic class tend to gravitate to one another, regardless of their ethnicity. In the church, especially, if there are few African Americans, they will gravitate towards one another. And this gravitational pull does not diminish the love for you, my white brother and sister. It’s not ‘race thing’ in the context of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
4. We are loud. Just because we are loud doesn’t mean we are angry and about to fight, or steal or cause a scene. Most of the time, we don’t know that we are loud, until an introverted family or friend, tells us to quiet down.
Now these have been my husband’s and my REAL struggles. Please allow grace.
5. I am NOT the angry black woman, who is not submissive to her husband and cannot be tamed.
No, I am not! God told Eve in Genesis 3, that her and every other woman who came from her would try to rule their husband. So in that area, I am no different from any other married woman. Second, I am not angry! I am expressive. I may be trying to keep my cool so that you don’t think I am ‘the angry black woman’.
When I was in college, I can remember so vividly, the manager of the cafeteria, telling me how I responded and handled a situation, with so much force in his voice. He was very upset with me. I remember wondering what he was talking about, because I had done nor said no such things. But, it was how he had perceived me, not my actual words or actions. Often times, because we are black, we are easily considered or assumed to be unapproachable.
6. Black male leaders are not subservient to white male leaders.
My husband was told, as pastor of a predominantly white church, “We don’t want you as our lead pastor, we want you to preach.” Sometimes, it is hard for our white christian brothers and sisters to admit, that they may be having a hard time following the lead of a black man (or woman, for that manner).
My husband and I have served the body of Christ across several states in the U.S., where we were very few, or the only black (or African- American) family. We have come to believe and love that our Lord has chosen to send us into places that are far, far different from where we are from and from were we who most likely choose to go. We consider ourselves called to answer and correct statements or attitudes like those listed above, love and gentleness. We often say to one another, with a chuckle, “I am so glad they said that to us and not our mother, cousin or brother, because it wouldn’t have otherwise went well for them.” We have heard things and seen things from one extreme to the next. For example, a couple of years ago, we were camp counselors a Christian camp. Our children were with us. This camp is located in the middle of nowhere (to us) and lead by wonderful Jesus loving people and in no way would I consider them to be racist. Anyway, it was nearing the end of the camp week and the seasoned campers wanted to play a game called, “Find the counselor” (I could have the name wrong). This game was only played at night. So, all of the counselors, who were 99% white, dressed in dark colors and some even–brace yourselves– put on brown or dark makeup on their faces as camouflage. Hey I get it. But, we were stunned but, just chalked it up to “them” not knowing any better. Much grace. But then, a few started to say, “You guys to don’t have to worry about getting found. You’re already dark. This is why we put this makeup on.” ————-WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT—————————–
Again, much MORE grace.
I mean don’t they know history…
Ahhh, but there was one. There was a college intern, who was white, who had been traveling across the U.S., from D.C. to California, to study christian churches and camps, to observe how they deal with diversity, among others things that had to do with worship. I sat down as we were all waiting for this game to start, she brought her chair over to mine, and asked if I was okay? If my husband and kids were okay? She said she was mortified when she saw the counselors come in with their faces painted, and immediately began to cry and called her mom to tell her of the situation and how she felt bad for us. I thought that was sweet. I told her that the Holy Spirit has given us discernment and we know that it was truly ignorance on their part. They were thinking of the game and not of offending us. I told her how we choose to allow the Lord to use us in circumstances like these and glad it is us. With that said. Of course, it is still NOT okay.
Our hope is that by sharing these concerns and experiences, that we the Church can love one another better in our differences, no matter how uncomfortable, well. Our hope is that we would learn from one another and teach others and not be okay with being ignorant. This is important especially if we are living the Gospel and wanting to take it to the nations. Well sometimes, taking it to nations begins with your black or Mexican or Asian brother or sister on the pew next to you.
Also, we share the hope that this will encourage us all to be more aware of our own personal biases or stereotypes that we bring into the Christian living. We have so many awesome brothers and sisters that we are able to be honest with and who are not afraid to ask hard questions, aiming to understand the differences in cultural thoughts and ways.
If you are in a church that is diverse, praise our Lord for a glimpse of heaven. Have you be-sistered or be-brothered (I know, I made those words up) a brother and sister in Christ is maybe ethnically different from you?
Disclaimer: There are a thousand disclaimers that I am not disclaiming…love you.