Monday, March 27, 2006

Self-reflection on the Topic of Race (part two)

In the summer of 1993, as I was a rising 12th grader, I attended the Youth Theology Institute (now called Youth Theology Initiative) at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. That is the place where my ideas about race were challenged. It was the first year of YTI, and I really did not know what to expect except I was looking for a challenge in that month-long experience.

I knew I had been called to vocational ministry around the age of 12. I had always thought that I would be a missionary or something. I was attracted to the religious aspect of YTI. And my time there lit the spark for many of the things I stand for today.

The course that I chose to take at YTI was about liberation theology. I had never heard that term before that time. That was one thing I learned about. Another was our trip to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth house and the Center for Nonviolent Social Change. I first heard of the Koinonia community, and their struggle for civil rights. I attended various churches of all denominations. But most importantly, I met other students, the same age as I was, who were passionate about serving God and changing the world. Of course, I don't think I was so focused on changing the world at that point, but my worldview did change during that month.

I remember sitting in my home church after my experience in Atlanta. I wondered why we couldn't let a woman preach. I wondered how many members in that congregation had ever been to a black church for worship. And I realized my own life had been changed. Things started to bother me with our "ordinary" worship. Suddenly, it was not a foreign mission field that needed my attention but the mission field that was my own local community.

And, by the way, my future husband started writing me letters when I was in Atlanta that summer. I do not think that we would have started dating if I had not gone there. It wasn't the letters. He was Chinese. My own views about race had changed. I could look beyond skin color and see him as a child of God.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Self-reflection on the Topic of Race (part one)

Wake County, North Carolina libraries chose the book Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson as their reading book for this year. I didn't read it in time to attend any of the book discussions (and I doubt I would have found time to do so); however, I am very glad that I chose to read this book.

The book details the authors' experience of small town life in Oxford, NC. When he was 11, a black man was shot in Oxford by a white man. The black man allegedly made comments about a white woman. This happened in 1970. There were riots. The man accused was found not guilty. This was 1970. The book challenges the reader to think about where ideas about race come from. It tells the reader about the struggle for civil rights that continues even to this day.

In my mind, 1970 wasn't all that long ago. Initially, I felt that I live in a different place and time in the South. But I have been challenged by things in my past as well. I was born in 1976, and 1970 doesn't seem that long ago.

When I married my husband ten years ago, my mother was very concerned. My husband is a first generation Taiwanese immigrant, and therefore, Chinese. His race is what caused my mother some concern. She worried about how our kids would be perceived. His race did not matter to me, and I really couldn't understand where she was coming from. However, 1970 wasn't that long ago.

Chinese and white are different from black and white. Are they? It is two different races when you start to think about it. When I was in high school and had just started dating this man who would become my husband, one of my friends came up to me with the gossip that such and such white acquaintance was dating a black guy. The secretive whisper was there. The accusation that some sin was being committed was there. Yet I immediately wondered why this friend was telling me. I was dating someone of another race--wouldn't she think that I would be offended by her whispers? Why was she telling me this?

I know where this friend was coming from--I had been there, too. There was within me something inbred. It instructed me in some myth about white superiority. I have reflected about this in the past few days, and I know it was present in my life at some time early on. Maybe it was the all-white elementary school I attended in the 1980s--all-white because there were no black families that would dare to drive through our community, let alone live there. Maybe it was the way the n-word was tossed around so casually--to describe the state of the yard, for example (though never to describe a black person, at least in our family).

How did I move myself away from this myth? How did God direct me to a place where I can know that my thoughts about race early in my childhood were wrong? These are questions I still ask myself. I marvel that I am at a place where I can face my past and realize that God has led me away from this sinful way of thinking.

I will be reflecting more on race and how my thinking has been shaped in future blogs. There is simply too much to say.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What day is it again?

I have the toughest time remembering what day it is.

My week starts out fine. I know it Sunday because I get my family ready to go to church. Sundays feel like Sundays. My job is to get my two boys and my husband up and out of the house in time for morning worship service. Sunday afternoons are lazy here. My husband carries a feeling of dread because Monday is coming. My boys like having him around on Sundays and try to lift him out of his mood.

Monday is a day that I usually have nothing special planned. Unless it is an appointment with a doctor, dentist, orthodontist, etc. Mondays feel like Mondays.

Tuesdays are a different matter. Tuesdays always feel like Wednesdays to me now. This is because my baptist church decided to have mid-week services on Tuesday instead of the more popular and traditional choice of Wednesday. So Tuesday evening is where I end up thinking it is one day later than it really is.

It means that I remembered "Pancake Day" late on Tuesday. I was already to Ash Wednesday before I realized I missed the pancake suppers of Shrove Tuesday. Not that I had time to go to one--I teach the preschoolers at my church on Tuesday (feels like Wednesday) night.

Then my Wednesday feels like Thursday. My Thursday feels like Friday. So as I type this late Thursday, I am thinking that tomorrow is Saturday--but I'm wrong, of course. I have another day in there.

Blame it all on my upbringing.

I went to church 3 times a week growing up: Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. My whole childhood revolved around those times. Sure I had school; but even in the summer, there was church creating the routine of my week. The only time I was confused then about the days was during our week-long revival.

It also means that when I didn't go to church regularly (even once a week) in college, my weeks were so long. I could never get to Sunday in my mind. Something about being revitalized, maybe? Perhaps it is to reconnect with believers or God? Whatever it is, I do know that it is vital to my life and week.

Have a great Satur-- I mean, Friday.