Pastor’s Column: What to do with the Non-Optional Race Card

BHM Pastor's ColumnNon-Optional Race Card

Due to the color of my skin racism is for me a daily inescapable fact. Thus, I call this my “Non-Optional” Race Card.

Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

This issue is embedded within aspects of loving one another.
Dr.  Mahmoud El-Kati, esteemed History Professor at Macalester College recently stated that racism is basically White Supremacy. Not everyone takes the Word of God literally when Jesus said in John 15:15 “I no longer call you slaves, but friends.”

I would like to ignore White supremacy, and issues of prejudice, and simply love God and love others. But I do not have that freedom. In fact, until we are all free of such mindsets and its resulting affects, this issue is embedded within aspects of loving one another.

Covert Racism

As a child on a family trip from Minnesota to the South I recall tangible tension of fear when we stopped at night time in a town.  Fast forward to the nineties when my staff protected me during a period of racial unrest. But not in the South.

Racism in Minnesota is most often covert.
We were in Anoka, Minnesota where I operated an outreach coffee house. Racism in Minnesota is most often covert, but nonetheless, a fact.

When our family moved from Minneapolis to a suburb I had no idea how difficult my teen years would be. In middle school boys taunted and teased while girls excluded me. The emotional stress was a factor to my grades falling. I was also having to work twice as hard to achieve the same success as my Caucasian peers.

In my youth group I was told that I clapped wrong, ate funny food, and wore strange clothes.

…racism brought on mounting sadness.
Although my best friend was blonde haired and blue eyed, my brother’s choice to date her almost split the church. We could love God and each other. We just couldn’t date each other.

In high school racism brought on mounting sadness. One teammate forgot that I was standing there when she said a friend’s summer tan “was as dark as an N—”. I was learning who my true friends were.

Again and again I chose to forgive rather than to become angry. Befriending Caucasians was truly the grace of God at work.

In Bible colleges, both in Minnesota and Texas, my “card” was getting tattered. Being overlooked, expected only to excel in certain fields, dealing with false social expectations just got old. On one occasion when a professor was clearly ignoring me, several classmates stood by with raised hands until I was acknowledged. When it was discovered that a roommate was secretly prejudice the dean decided to remove the “problem” – me. Why not the student who was racist? Why should I be punished for her sin of hatred?

During my banking career, negative reviews and promotion refusals were constant. By now my sadness was turning to sorrow.

Racism in Ministry

When my calling shifted into a ministry role; rather than seeing racism fading it became more pronounced. Caucasians would say directly to me, “I’m not prejudice”, but then do something that was clearly racist?

I wanted to get rid of this non-optional race card…
Often I saw an attitude of pride, and an unwillingness to learn or listen to people different from them.

Being weary of constantly yielding my rights, my opinions, my culture, I wanted to get rid of this non-optional race card. I was a victim deciding to become a racist. It’s their turn to feel the pain, the rejection, the mistrust. I would become the victimizer.

From Victim to Victor

There was one problem. My Lord Jesus Christ didn’t approve. But that’s part of the problem. Others who call Him Lord caused some of my pain. The equation wasn’t working.

Instead of being a victim, or a victimizer, I became a victor!
Except the Lord doesn’t call me to compare myself with others, just Him. So I yielded, and continued down my path to love no matter what. He set the example, and provides the grace. What a relief to come through this personal crisis. In fact, I was filled with joy! Instead of being a victim, or a victimizer, I became a victor! As the victor I have the freedom to live a lifestyle that allows others to experience freedom, true love, and become victors.
Victors are reconcilers to God’s intended purpose of unity with diversity.
Victors are reconcilers to God’s intended purpose of unity with diversity. Racial reconciliation is never easy, but it is possible for those who want to be reconciled to God’s intended purpose of unity with diversity.

When people have refused to trust or support me as a minister, or tell me to my face that I will not be successful, I have victory in knowing that I can forgive them, and at times graciously challenge them. But the results belong to God. When my ethnicity is patronized or treated unjustly I am required to seek first the Lord for guidance. He might ask me to fight spiritually, speak up on behalf of another, or seek ways to bring change to an individual or institution.

Coming full circle, I now minister in North Minneapolis where in the sixties I became a Christian and my parents experienced the riots on Plymouth Avenue.

When my ethnicity is patronized or treated unjustly I am required to seek first the Lord for guidance.
It’s my turn to bring hope, healing, and speak out for justice. This is done through prayer, action and choosing to love, one person, one situation at a time. Consider joining our prayer movement that deals with root issues, declares lasting transformation, and leads to acts of justice.  Let’s together make friends, gain trust, and honor everyone carrying non-optional race cards.

 

Melanie LeehyRev. Melanie March Leehy has been ministering for more than thirty years by operating, teaching, and mobilizing in the areas of evangelism, the arts, prayer, worship, and the prophetic. She is an ordained minister and the founder of Mobilizing And Releasing Caring Hearts, Inc. (M.A.R.C.H.) through which she serves the Body of Christ as a catalyst for transformation of lives and communities locally and globally. As a tri-vocational woman of God she also serves in local government, and operates small businesses. Much of her direct ministry time is spent as the Executive Director of Community Renewal Greater Twin Cities.

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