MISS MOOX + wonderful


It's something I've thought about a lot lately.

Not that that is anything unusual--it's often in my thoughts, either subliminally or as a flicker when something happens to arouse it, sometimes more as a conscious thought pattern. I think recently it has been pushed to the forefront by moving back to the United States (no offense, Americans. . .)

Racism came to my life early. In the area of the northeastern United States that I grew up in, it was a tension that split our culture in two. Ever-present, nobody that I knew would acknowledge it openly. It was just there, evidenced in the way that blacks and whites did not live together or do things together. In my circles, when someone who was not of a white skin colour was spoken of, it was obligatory to mention that he or she was black. Dark-skinned people lived in separate colonies (everyone knew where the "black section" of town was); worshipped at separate churches, and had separate social lives. When people of different skin colours did meet, it was nearly always in the public sphere: at work, in the store. The worlds did not mesh but only touched and stayed apart. The order of the day when it came to feelings between the two cultures was one of suspicion and sometimes open hostility.

My parents, I know (though I love them) had, and I think still have, some racist feelings, deeply-entrenched. This is probably largely due to the fact that they grew up in a generation one removed from mine. My father, to do him credit, had several work colleagues who were black, and frequently commuted with one of them. I know he was as friendly with black folks as white. Yet, when it came to the issue of inter-colour dating (I won't use the term "interracial" because I believe it is inaccurate at best), he was vitriolic, as he was on many topics: white girls who went out with black guys "were just looking for a sensation, looking to cause attention."

My mother, when I asked her what she would think if I married a black guy (as a teenager, I wanted a black boyfriend), responded, "We'd rather you married someone from your own culture." How a fellow American of a darker skin colour could possibly be said to be from a different culture still mystifies me. (I don't dis-acknowledge the existence of different ethnic and cultural roots--I know they affect me just as much as anyone else).

One of my most uncomfortable memories is of being twelve years old and seated in the back seat of our family car as a work colleague of my father's, an intelligent, cultured black woman, leaned into the window to talk to my parents. "Oh, hi, Anne," my mother said, in a high, quick, too-polite tone that I knew meant that Anne was BLACK. I squrimed inwardly, hoping against hope that Anne didn't notice but fearing she couldn't but.

As children, I think we had little racism, as children do: they see with open eyes and have not generally been taught the prejudice that exists among their elders. We had fewer black friends than white, simply because the cultures did not collide; but we had some. One of my earliest friends was a dark-skinned girl called Marianne; however, the friendship ended abruptly when she decided to do an experiment to see whether my rescued baby squirrel could swim and tricked my brothers and me into leaving while she did it. I came back to see the poor blind thing feebly and futilely stroking away at the water, and my rage ensured the end of Marianne's visits.

Later in our next childhood home, a black church met in a property almost directly behind our backyard. Playing in their parkinglot, which offered a wonderful paved space for countless games, we couldn't help but meet our peers when they were released from the seemingly endless services. One boy in particular became a friend and others, frequent playmates.

As a preteen I underwent a brief and embarrassing feud with a girl from the "black" apartment just up the street; we'd meet for pre-arranged insult matches, cheered on by our respective groups of friends. I think that our skin colours were an incidental excuse for a rivalry that in reality our gender and emotional problems fueled. It never escalated to physical violence; and later with more maturity the girl and I enjoyed a cordial relationship of "hellos" and smiles as we passed on the street.

At the age of nineteen, I had the privilege to move to what by informal accounts ranks as the most multi-cultural city in the world: Toronto. There, at my college, at church, in my wider circles and in encounters on the street, I had what I count as the inestimable privilege of being able to meet, talk to, and befriend people from literally almost every culture and major country in the world. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Africans, Indians, West Indians--you name it, I met and talked and ate with them and became close friends with many of them. What that experience taught me, not to mention hard evidence (more of that later), is that all people, no matter what culture, what country, what skin colour, what facial features, are just the same inside: people. Same thoughts, same feelings, same loves, same sorrows, same experiences, same humour, same soul that's been created in the image of the eternal God, same proneness to depression and emotional problems, same hopes and dreams of falling in love or having a good career, same need for a love that goes beyond them. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.

This tallies with what the Apostle Paul said in what is one of the theme verses of my life:

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' Acts 17:26-28, emphasis mine

Certainly culture exists. Certainly differences that are caused by growing up Asian or African mean that people will perceive things differently, think differently, act and react differently. But no matter the differences in the expression of culture, the cliche remains true: our basic similarities are greater than our differences. Some of my most cherished memories are of time shared around a meal with people from two or three or more different cultures, bonding, sharing experiences, and learning from one another. Why is that possible? Because in spite of our divergent experiences, we are the same race and are enriched by our discussions with each other.

One of the things I personally can't wait for is heaven. One of the things that I most can't wait to experience is this:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9

This comes about because, as we are told earlier in Revelation:

And they sang a new song: "You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Revelation 5:9

I can't wait. Jesus' whole purpose for dying was to bring a people to God, a people who are completely united in thought and purpose and love. And these people are going to come from every race, every nation, every language, every tribe, every people group: and we will meet and worship as one at Jesus' feet in total rapture and grateful abandon forever, all differences still gloriously present yet beautifully harmonized as one. Racism gone, prejudice gone, hatred gone, the curse erased, no longer even a memory--just as God created it to be. Wow. Makes me long for heaven even more. And in the meantime, for our churches, which are little outposts of heaven on earth, to look like this.

Check out this great article for a scientific perspective on the myth of "race" (popular level read, non-technical)

art, church, family, god, HOPE, inspiration, Jesus, person, relationship, time, and more:

Relevant to: Racism + wonderful