The Crippling Effects of Racism (A Personal Story)

In June of 2001, less than a week after my high school graduation, I went on a mission’s trip to Argentina. I was ecstatic and had waited the majority of my senior year for this experience. This was not my first mission’s trip; just the summer before I went to El Salvador. It was during my trip in El Salvador that I sensed God confirming my call into ministry, specifically missions and pastoring. In just a few short months after my trip to Argentina, I would be starting my freshman year at North Central University, a small Bible College in the Twin Cities to pursue a degree in missions, rather Cross Cultural Studies (the formal name of the missions program at that time). Surrounded by these two realities, going to Argentina was very significant to me and I was ready to be challenged.

But the challenge that I received was not what I was expecting. A friend and I were the only two black people on that trip that consisted of nearly 40 youth and three adults. There was one other person of color, who was Latina. But I was aware of this fact some two or so months before as our team gathered in Waupaca, WI for mandatory training and they all seemed nice enough, so cool, right? Wrong. I had never felt so ostracized in my entire life than during those two weeks on that trip. Many times after a day of ministry, I would come back to the place that we were staying at the Bible College in Buenos Aires and weep my eyes out because I just couldn’t put my finger on why I was treated the way I was. All throughout I kept questioning whether it was me; was I saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing?

There was a pastor who was there with his youth group, and they made up the majority of our missions team. Together they would take pictures, hang out and do other activities, but my friend and I were never invited to participate. Seldom did that pastor interact with us; in fact I can’t recall one instance where he actually did during that trip. I internalized his treatment towards me, wondering what the basis of his actions were. He didn’t even know me.

Tonight as I was praying, grieving over a different issue that I am facing in the present, this trip and all of its accompanying feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, worry and fear came to my remembrance. It has been 12 years and never have I once thought of what happened on that trip until today; I left and buried those memories in Buenos Aires, Argentina back then and walked away. But God resurfaced it, and all of a sudden I felt all of these emotions that I didn’t know what to do with. I wept for that girl who experienced this so long ago, because no one should ever be in a place where they feel discounted as a result of the color of their skin. I weep for that same girl, now a woman, today because it is unfortunate that I still encounter the same hatred, the same resistance, the same despondency which makes me second guess myself and ask: was it me, was is something I said? Am I not qualified enough? Not beautiful enough? Not spiritual enough? Not networked enough? Not bold enough? Not proud enough? Not humble enough? Not brave enough?

But no, its just racism waving its ugly head in the most insidious ways. So often it’s so subtle and covert that you wouldn’t even know it’s there. But it’s there, and it has a nasty bite that has a tendency to cripple its victims and disarm its opponents. And the most terrible thing about it to me is that it is often perpetrated the most by people who claim to be God’s own. It’s time for a change.

7 thoughts on “The Crippling Effects of Racism (A Personal Story)

  1. Tarra

    Thanks for sharing your experience with this deep and bitter bite of racism. I know it all too well. Even after double masters, I am still surprised when racism plants its poisonous little fangs. It always come out of no where to strike me once again. Accusations of never being acceptable followed by Isolation; discounted as unknowing, ignorant I asked God why He has continued to allow it to continue for so long. What was the purpose for tis suffering After many years I conclude that it is a lesson that He wants to teach the world through Black, Brown and poor people and to us. Through you and me. He wants to teach the love of Jesus to those who hate. His demonstration of love through our actions and reactions demand that they see and recognize the Savior. And to me, because I too am a sinner and need to experience and grow in His unmerited grace and love. To be like Jesus. To totally lean in on Him as being more than enough and that this life is not the destination. Blessings, Tarra.

    1. ebonyjohanna

      Amen Tarra! I agree with EVERYTHING you said. And this piece really gets at it – “Through you and me. He wants to teach the love of Jesus to those who hate.” That is the challenge for us today. Will it be easy? No. But by the grace of God, it is a vision worth fighting for.

  2. Tarra

    This is so cool!!! I just got my Word of today.
    The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.

    ~ Psalm 69:32, NLT

  3. Unfortunately, racism is still within the church today. We might be united in salvation through faith in Christ, but divided in how unwilling some of us are to live out Christ’s love to our neighbors. Don’t allow racist attitudes of others to second guess yourself or devalue who you are as God’s precious daughter. May Stephen’s attitude and prayer be truly yours, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”

    1. ebonyjohanna

      Thank you for the words of encouragement. In my spirit, I sense that God is up to something very powerful and unprecedented in the Church and believe that many of these superficial walls that we have put up between each other will fall. I will keep praying, and please pray along with me!

    1. ebonyjohanna

      Amen Marque! God is doing an amazing work of redemption in me, and I see him doing it in others, too! Yes, I have followed the stories that Christena has been sharing on her blog of others who have experienced this kind of thing on their campuses and think that it is amazing people are willing to share their experiences so that others can understand what it is to walk a mile in their shoes. We need more of this kind of awareness raising and truth-telling so people can really know the hell people go through as a result of racism. It is a very pivotal step in our quest for reconciliation and shalom.

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