Why Being a Black Family in a Multi-Ethnic Community takes Jesus & WORK

I started this blog in 2014 to “share the easy and challenging lessons of aiming God’s arrows in His direction.” This has definitely been one of those challenges…

In the last 34 years, I have attended and was a member of two black churches for 32 years. Simultaneously, because my parents loved God and culture, they made sure to educate me on the beauty and distinction of being black through all of the art forms, books, dolls, festivals, etc. Not just black culture but many other minority cultures were taught and exposed to me. This is probably what impacted the rainbow of friendships that were welcomed into our home throughout my grade-school years… black, white, Hispanic, Indian and Asian. However, time changed my circumstances, and I found myself having to maneuver through the loneliness and sometimes craziness of being the only black female and/or person of color in certain classes while also dealing with the rejection that came with phrases laced with colorism from my own people. I went through phases of confusion, hatred and then self-righteous pride concerning my blackness; the entire spectrum was felt in and outside of the church.

Enter present day, and man… I never thought I’d be where I am. Although all of our sons grew up in black churches for about five years, through fasting & prayer and a series of only God events, we are now members of a church that is, by the books, multi-ethnic with a majority of the church being white/Caucasian. Unless God says otherwise, this is where they will grow and experience “church” that will be so very different than what my husband and I have experienced. withKennyIt has had its bumps for us as we began to understand the church culture, but considering the heart a majority of this church has towards understanding others unlike themselves, the transition has been bearable because our hope is in one God who made our differences yet knows how they’re useful towards unity.

Let me be clear… I love Jesus AND I love being black. It honestly hasn’t always been that way because I despised both of those entities at certain points in my past life. Thank God He woke me up and showed me why and how to love both beautifully well in their rightful places. So please understand my position – I will NEVER say “race doesn’t matter if we all love Jesus” NOR will I ever say “being black is supreme.” As much as the blackness in me yells “black-owned everything and everywhere!” as it seems segregation was more beneficial to my people than integration, the Imago Dei in me screams even louder that my God has a higher standard and a higher calling THROUGH my blackness.

My blackness was made by my God; therefore, my god cannot be my blackness.

I have come to slowly learn that true community is a specific group of people whom you choose to share your life with. Your weaknesses, your strengths, your space, your food, your house, your kids (and their clothes!), NOT your spouse but your marital highs and lows needing prayer, your joys, your pains, your frustrations, your resources. Sounds like family, right? Well, it is, and we were moved by God to find and become a part of this family. Over two years, we have come to love some individuals and families through prayer, dinners, play-dates and church projects. However, I have realized that being in deep relationship with believers cross-culturally is a completely different ball game now that I’m a wife and a mother. The innocence has been stolen and forming bonds isn’t as fluid as it was when I was younger and alot more naive & unexposed to the harsh realities of the world around me.

Now. I am aware… aware that there are people in pews who sit on unhatched eggs of racism. I am aware that my authentic, non-assimilating presence sometimes offends. I am cognizant that my black boys are cute now but may not be as cute when they grow up alongside young, white daughters. My family and other families of color are an unambiguous presence in a majority-white church where, if I had any doubt or shame or misunderstanding of my blackness, I would easily be swallowed up whole in the mouth of assimilation, unmoved and numb or forsaking of the struggles of my color-felt subconscious.

This is my truth of being a person of color in a space where there is not much of that compared to my past. Being in such a position is not for everyone nor is it for the passive or faint of heart. We, for whatever reason, WERE called to such a space. Two years in, and I’m realizing now more than ever that it’s going to take every ounce of Jesus for me to do life and community here genuinely and Biblically with my co-archer as we seek to raise and aim these beautiful, brown arrows towards God.

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Photography by Rebekah Joseph

So, how am I making it through, and how can you if you’re in a similar setting?

  • Relationship. You must seek OFTEN to understand your relationship to your Maker, God, through Jesus. This will then help you understand your identity as a person of color, how to handle your relationships with your brothers & sisters in Christ, and all of your surrounding neighbors. This you must teach and exemplify to your children. Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 3:1-4
  • Prayer. You must, through relationship and prayer, know God led you and your family to wherever you are. There were Sundays when the wave of majority culture overwhelmed me & I wanted to leave. Prayer has kept me. Reminded me that God did this and knows what’s best for me. Wherever you are, prayer will remind you that you are there for a reason that involves every facet of your being, internal and external, including race/culture. Seek Him to know that. Psalm 32:8
  • Acknowledgement and Education. You and your family must fully acknowledge your identities. Learn of your past and present as a people of color & how it fits into society (where it will not often be spoken of or viewed accurately). Learn of yours and learn of others. This serves your neighbors. Reflect on your experiences, bad and turned around for good. This acknowledges your God, your Sovereign Maker. Deuteronomy 4:9
  • Being uncomfortable. Schedule play-dates with white/Caucasian families AND families of color. At your house, their house, the playground, museum. Wherever. It will not be convenient. I remember when there was one week we had two play-dates and a field trip scheduled because I kept pushing things back. We did it though! We made it, and it was worth every minute. Establishing community must take sacrifice and intentionality. Also expect the awkward moments at times. It will remove you from time you could be using for other things. It will also reveal your weaknesses, biases, and self-righteousness. Remember the Savior of equally-made souls. Philippians 2: 3-5
  • Being Reflections. Depending on your church, representation of people of color may not be seen often, if at all, in leadership positions. Be willing to serve in small capacities (like Children’s Church or VBS/Summer Camp) in the church organization so other families of color can see that representation. Philippians 2:4
  • Patient love. There will be hurtful and maybe even anger-rending situations that occur. Do not be quick to pull the race card. Be patient in prayer alone first, patient and prayerful in conversation with your family, patient and prayerful when you DO have to address hard issues with other people. How you respond teaches our arrows how to respond and what value to place on people. Make sure it’s the same value that God has. Proverbs 15:1
  • Authentic communication. When you establish those relationships with others, be honest. I have a dear friend who is white that, FROM JUMP, asked me to be honest with her in response to anything she says, especially matters concerning race and race relations. So… I am (in love!). Her humility in stepping to me like this (rare!) and my willingness to be honest with her in response has made this new friendship one of the most genuine ones I have cross-culturally at this church. I’ve been told my honesty was rare and needed from another sister friend; I personally know that kind of freedom only comes from God. Ephesians 4:25
  • pelicansBe intentional with other people of color. God called them to that place too, and sometimes encouragement is needed. Having chosen to live in a section of our city that’s majority black when I grew up otherwise, the benefits have outweighed the inconveniences and preferences. We’ve seen our sons take joy when our black neighbors come over to play, they pass by black kids on the baseball field, or we hang with other families of color from church. It can be life-giving to an exhausted soul because there are often times cultural sacrifices you all are making in being where God placed you in multi-ethnic settings (ie songs, culture-related references in sermons, call & response etc.). Spending time and encouraging one another as people of color can remind you of why God placed you where you are and to be humbly proud and unashamed of who you are. Proverbs 12:25

I feel like I’ve said SO much in this post, and honestly, there is so much more to be said (I deleted almost five paragraphs!). In conclusion, I do believe in transparency for the sake of pointing others to Christ – my strength and joy in where I am – and I pray my doing so here on this topic has been beneficial. It is my prayer that just ONE PERSON would be filled with a breath of fresh air in reading this and not give up where they are. For people of color, yes, you will have to exist a little bit differently in these settings than if you were in a homogeneous setting of your own race. However, that doesn’t mean you lose who you are; just BE who you are. I pray these thoughts above have challenged, inspired and pushed someone to yes, see the WORK it takes to be a person of color in majority white settings, but then remember that, with Jesus, that WORK? Oh, it truly is HIS work to do through us. And what a beautiful work it is.

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Here are a few resources that have helped and do help me where I am:

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