This fall, we have collaborated with Destino (Latino ministry), Nations (Native American ministry) and Impact (African American ministry) to write an article called, “Six Postures of Ethnic Minority Culture Towards Majority Culture.” We hope it provides language and categories to further discussion about these significant topics. We hope you take the time to read and discuss it with your teams, families, and churches or organizations.
You can find the article here, if you want to read in its entirety, or share it with others.
But to allow for easier reading and interaction, we have decided to break up the article into posts as well on this blog. We have posted a question at the end of each post to engage. No matter where you are on your journey, we hope you will feel inspired to share your own thoughts and stories here!
Posture # 2: Angry and Wounded
By Adrian & Jennifer Pei, Destino Kristy, Donnie & Renee Begay (with personal stories by Destino, Epic, Impact, and Nations staff)
The second posture that we have observed is best described as Angry and Wounded. The history of ethnic minorities in the United States is filled with wounds, many from years of oppression or injustice. Some of that pain is reinforced by a lack of apology or even acknowledgment of past wrongs, or insensitive exhortations to “forget the past” and to “just move on.”
Still others may feel their present experiences are minimized from well-intentioned people who claim that “things are different now,” when racism and discrimination are sobering realities that continue to this day.
For many ethnic minorities whose wounds are so deeply personal, whether from their own lives or those of loved ones, this can build the foundation of a posture of anger towards the majority culture.
This can manifest itself in many different situations, and to various degrees of intensity. Some choose to separate themselves or retaliate, seeing the majority culture itself as the enemy. Others maintain a high level of mistrust, finding it difficult to listen to (or share with) Caucasians without some suspicion of motives.
Anger can be overt and direct, but it can also manifest itself in more subtle ways, especially in cultures where expressing anger is difficult or even considered sinful. Maybe you feel a surge of emotion when you see cultural stereotypes in the media, or you respond with sarcasm when your coworker remarks about your skill at speaking English. Maybe you find yourself acting defensively, or even with arrogance, when there’s a display of cultural ignorance or insensitivity.
We believe that anger is not bad in itself – in fact, anger has its foundation in the very attributes of God’s holiness and justice. One ought not to devalue feelings of anger, since they so often originate from a desire for righteousness, and experiences that have violated that.
However, when anger becomes part of the motivation in a ministry context, it can perpetuate the very mistreatment it stands against. Ministering out of anger can shut off dialogue and relationships, and discourage those who sincerely want or need to learn. It can separate us from the body of Christ, and all the ways that we need to learn from Jesus through those who are not like us.
If you find anger consistently surfacing within you in ministry contexts, consider what or who might trigger those feelings, and why. Consider its impact on your relationships, and whether it has moved you towards, or away from others. Has it led to greater honesty and accountability, or to silence and avoidance?
As we learn to identify our anger and wounds, and bring them to God and our community in a healthy manner, we can find great healing. God wants us to be part of His healing and sanctification process in community, in a way that does not trivialize pain, but works through it to build greater strength and character. In addition, as we share our stories of pain to the majority culture, we can model both truth and grace, without sacrificing one to the other.
We can communicate with an honesty that does not minimize the past or present, while leading towards healing and restoration, as we learn to extend grace as Christ did.
Anger can sometimes stem from experiences of betrayal. In 1868, American settlers violated the Treaty of Fort Laramie, and seized land that belonged to the Native Lakota people. More than a century later, a Supreme Court ruling offered the Lakota over $150 million for this wrong, but the Natives refused to accept payment. They felt betrayed by the loss of their land, but also their dignity. Many settlers were attempting to “civilize” them, requiring minors to have an “English education” at mission buildings.
Many Native Americans today have attended similar boarding schools, where they were discouraged from speaking their native language, and forced to cut their hair — which is sacred to them. I remember hearing stories of relatives and friends who were abused at the hands of teachers and even priests. Because of these betrayals, many do not trust churches, and will not listen. This is our challenge, as Natives who remember and feel the pain of our people in all of its agony, and as Christians who work towards redemption. – Donnie Begay
A few years ago, I was talking to one of my Caucasian friends who has a heart for serving in urban communities. As she told me of her passion, she stated, “most black kids can’t read.” At first, I reacted strongly, as this brought back painful memories of similar statements, and the (often unintentional) condescension behind them. However, because I knew my friend and her good intentions, I decided to have an open and honest conversation with her about how her comment made me feel. She apologized, and asked me for further insight and wisdom, for her own learning and understanding. Although I was tempted to withdraw when I first heard her statement, my friendship with her kept me engaged, and led to a deeper understanding for us both. – Patrice Holmes
For discussion (please post in the “Comments” below):
- What stories or memories from your cultural history have resonated with you? How do you think those memories have impacted you or your family today, and the way you relate to the majority culture?