The Power of Relationship

A friend of mine posted an interesting experiment on Facebook the other day. She asked people to share a photo of a time when they (or their children) had been a minority in a situation by 4 or 5 people. For instance, as a black woman, she shared photos of herself with our running group from St Petersburg where she was often the only runner of color. Many of her friends had to admit that they had no photos of themselves in that type of situation.

It reminded me of a conversation my husband  and I had at least fifteen years ago, not long after this photo was taken at our high school graduation. We were just friends then, by the way. Who could have guessed we would someday end up as husband and wife?

graduation

We were home from college and went to a movie theater in Sarasota. As we walked in, he commented, “I am the only person of color in this entire theater.”

I looked at him and asked, “Do you really notice that?”

He said, “If you were the only white person in this theater, you would notice.”

His comment struck me. I realized I had never been in that situation. Ever. I grew up in a town that is 95% white. My husband is one of very few minorities in our town. I had never known what that felt like.

When I returned to college, I began to seek out those opportunities. The first way I did that? I began attending a predominately black church. What an incredible experience.

We now live in that predominately white small town where we grew up and my husband and children are always the minority. Always. I don’t know what that feels like. And unless you’ve lived that, you probably can’t imagine what it feels like either. But I would challenge you to find those opportunities.

family1

I believe that one of the greatest ways we can overcome racism, prejudice and stereotypes is through relationship. It’s moving past the idea of “them” or “us” and recognizing our common humanity. It’s getting to know people whose experience differs from your own. Learning how to put yourself in their shoes. You may not agree with their political opinion – get to know them anyway. You may not look like them – get to know them anyway. You may not follow the same religion – get to know them anyway.

Once we’re in relationship, we have the freedom to ask questions. To start to understand each other better. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has answered questions about, “Why is it offensive when I say this?” There is a difference between being naively ignorant and willfully ignorant. Be willing to ask questions. Be willing to learn. And be willing to have your presupposed notions challenged.

For instance – this week, a good friend made a comment that to me falls into the “naively ignorant” category. This person said about my husband, “Let’s be honest – he is a white black person. I mean, he’s educated and…”

“Stop,” I said, “That is hurtful.”

This person looked at me with wide eyes.

“Think about what you just said.”

I could see this person replaying their comments in their head with horror. They never meant to be offensive. They had no malice in their heart. But their words were hurtful. First, they insinuated that black people aren’t educated. The family I married into certainly defies that stereotype – the amount of higher education in that family is astounding. And to say that my husband is a “white black person” implies that he somehow had to rise above the color of his skin to be more “white”, or that somehow he has denied his race by the way he lives. Comments like that only deepen racial divides.

But here’s the thing – my friend didn’t get defensive, and didn’t dismiss my feelings. My friend was immediately repentant and had an eye-opening experience, and even thanked me for pointing out how their words had been hurtful. Because we were in relationship, we could have an honest conversation about the power of words and the impact they can have.

It’s all about relationship.

And so I want to ask you the same question my friend posed on Facebook – tell me about a time when you or your children were the minority in a situation by at least 4-5 people. For some of you this will be easier than others. Can’t think of a time? That’s okay. Start to look for those opportunities. Start to build relationships with people who are different than you. And by doing so, we’ll begin to bridge the divides in our society, see our common humanity, and heal the brokenness we face.

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

9 Responses to The Power of Relationship

  1. Katie

    This is powerful. Thanks for the post and encouraging some self-reflection this afternoon.

  2. Kate

    This is beautiful and challenging in the best way. Thank you for sharing and for the patience you show with people who want to be better but need to keep learning (myself included).

  3. The first Medea movie was out in theatres. Diary of a Mad Black Woman, I think was the title? Two friends in the choir I directed at church, mother and daughter, told me I just had to come with them to see the movie…that I would love it. These ladies are black. We set a date and time and I met them. I walked into that theatre and I was in an obvious racial minority. I was glad to be there with friends; they made me feel like I belonged. It was a very positive, memorable experience watching that movie with that audience. I wasn’t made to feel “other” by anyone there. But had I been going alone, or with white friends, I may not have so quickly felt comfortable. I did enjoy the movie. 🙂

  4. Melissa

    Wow this post definitely made me stop and think on several different levels. It really is about relationships and that is something we can all do. I almost missed this post but I’m so glad I didn’t. I hope more people read it and share it. You shared that message so very well. Thank you!

  5. Caroline Alves

    Every year I go to NYC to escort a bus of children who come to my town through the Fresh Air Fund. When there I purposely seek out opportunities to be in a place where I am a minority (usually some of the neighborhoods these children come from) and then I am certainly a minority on the bus of children who are many difference nationalities, ethnicities and shades but none identify as “white.” The reason it is important to me to visit their neighborhoods is so that I know what it feels like for them when they come and visit our towns and are the minority.
    Most stay with white families.
    We have some very real and open conversations on that bus and I have learned so so much.
    Great post!

  6. Michael

    I have a friend who is a black professional who works in a 99 % white professional environment. He told me about his experience going back to the black neighborhood where he grew up. He was rejected and vilified for having become “White”. He also told me about his experiences for being pulled over for a dwb.Driving while black. He is an amazing person who continues to overcome lots of difficulties that are not of his own making.

  7. Erin Garcia

    Hi Callie, I have enjoyed so very much your posts over the last few weeks. When I was in youth group at Venice Bible church Rich Hart took us on a trip one Spring Break to serve in the inner city of Tampa. I fell in love with the ministry there. I loved the pastor, his family and the church. I asked if I could come back during the summer. (I was maybe 13/14 or 15) Well I did, moved in with the pastor and his family, (yes they were black) and I worked my whole summer at their church in the inner city of Tampa where they offered free summer camp to kids. I had my own class I was allowed to teach, (I think at times there was someone else helping me), I attended church on Sundays in this amazing little church in the inner city, met so many amazing people! There was one other white family that came to the church. It felt like family to me being in their home and with them for the summer. I did get stares from other white people when we went out to dinner that made me mad, and I must of said something to the pastor because I remember him telling me to forgive them :). I actually am so thankful for that summer, I grew so deep with the Lord. I developed a passion for truth that summer, and when ever I had question about the Word, Pastor Moten would direct me to his study Library and tell me search it out.

    If I was being treated as a minority….I only new it when other people that had the same color of skin as I did stared at me and me and made me feel uncomfortable. I never felt uncomfortable or like a minority in the summer camp, where I was the only white person, or in the Inner city church where I was one of two. I have not thought about the Moten’s in a very very long time! Thank you for bringing them to my mind! xoxo

  8. Nalu

    This is such a powerful post. Thank you for bringing out points that some people are afraid to discuss.

  9. Crystal

    Thank you for using this blog as a forum for these important issues, and for doing so with kindness and grace and love. Looking forward to more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *