Pastor’s Column: What to do with the Non-Optional Race Card
Non-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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
Victors are reconcilers 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.
Rev. 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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