A Personal Inventory
The past few weeks in America have led us back into a global conversation about racial inequality and inequity in our country. I know that we all have different perspectives and opinions about the actions taken and the reasons for those actions. During this Sunday's sermon, I suggested that we all have been at a disadvantage in the topic of race relations because we have not been taught to openly talk about the experiences of the wide variety of people of color, especially in America. I recommended that, in order to recognize the humanity of each person and the value and truth in their life experience, we must return to the basics and learn about people. For this Friday's devotion, I will be touching on some of these basics.
In preparation for that, I thought it might be helpful for us, as members of a predominantly white congregation in our predominantly white Presbyterian denomination, to be honest with ourselves about our own knowledge and experiences with people of color. Below is a list of questions to help us start thinking about how lives intersect with the lives of other people, especially those who don't look or live like we do. I have been conducting the following personal inventory on my own life lately and I invite you to do the same. Write down your answers and whatever thoughts or feelings that arise from this inventory. Please remember that looking inward and doing this type of work can be emotionally vulnerable or difficult and you may learn things about yourself that you'd rather not know. If you need to talk about anything or find yourself with questions, please reach out to me. I am a listening ear and we are here to support each other.
A Personal Inventory
If you were to draw Jesus as a person, what would he like? If you were to describe his character, what would you say? What would you say about God or the Holy Spirit? Where have you lived in your life where there were more people that looked like you than people who did not? Have you ever been the only white person in a room? What does the Bible tell you about how to treat others? Strangers? Those from a different land? How many books in your home have been written by non-white people? How many of the stories you have read involve main characters that don’t look or sound like you? How much of your favorite music is written, played, or sung by someone who doesn’t speak English? Who doesn’t look like you? How many TV shows or movies have you seen that focus primarily (and positively) on families of color? How much of the artwork in your home was created by a non-white person? How much of it celebrates diversity? As Christians, how many times have you seen a person of color in your church? How many sermons have you heard preached by someone who doesn’t look like you? Have you ever worshiped with a black church, a Korean church, a Spanish-speaking congregation? How many of your closest friends grew up with a similar background to yours? Have you shared a meal with someone whose skin was darker than yours or whose first language was not English? How many people do you know were not born in America? When was the last time you had a full conversation with someone who wasn’t white? Do you donate to organizations that support the work of oppressed people? Of the companies in which you have invested, how many were founded by someone who isn’t white or have a person of color in a key leadership role? Are you loyal to certain brand name products? How many of those companies have ad campaigns that feature a diverse array of models? How many languages can you speak fluently? In how many languages can you count to ten or say “hello”? When was the last time you told a joke or said something cruel about someone different than you? When was the last time you laughed at one? Have you ever referred to someone who wasn’t white by a derogatory name? Have you ever made an assumption about someone based on their appearance or the way they spoke? When was the first time you had a person of color as a teacher, workshop leader, boss, conference speaker, or co-worker? These are just a small variety of the questions we can ask ourselves.
Let's start here, together.