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 that you can engage at the end of each post. No matter where you are on your journey, we hope you will feel inspired to share your own thoughts and stories here!
Posture # 3: Silent and Resigned
By Adrian & Jennifer Pei, Destino Kristy, Donnie & Renee Begay (with personal stories by Destino, Epic, Impact, and Nations staff)
The third posture that we have observed is best described as Silent and Resigned. Although this often is caused by wounds described in the previous posture, the difference lies in the response. Those in this posture don’t see the majority culture as an enemy that one must fight, but as an overwhelming force that cannot be resisted.
As mentioned in the previous posture, some minority cultures discourage the expression of emotions, or sharing their pains beyond the tightest circle of family and friends. Thus, instead of expressing anger outwardly, many minorities turn it inward upon themselves. Instead of being silenced by others, they silence themselves in despair. Rather than banding together with others to form a common voice, they resign themselves to isolation or victimhood, because they feel that nobody sees or hears them. This can lead to depression, and even high rates of suicide in some cultures.
This perception of never having a place or voice in society, often rooted in painful experiences of marginalization, usually stems from a false belief that one has nothing valuable to offer. So a person, and those he or she may be leading, stays on the margins.
Sometimes we may assume this posture in subtle ways, without fully realizing it. Maybe we find ourselves constantly questioning or second guessing the thoughts in our heads, while we sit in meetings. Maybe we tend to retreat or withdraw when faced with conflict or opposition. Maybe we find it difficult to receive praise or recognition because our self-doubt runs so deep.
But we serve a God who sees the invisible, hears the voiceless, and remembers those who have been forgotten. He teaches us to voice our pain to Him. He reminds us that we have worth and dignity because of who He created us to be, not because of the way society may perceive us. And as we lead out of this truth, God empowers us to lead even in contexts where we feel we have no voice!
Moreover, we don’t need to be seen, before we can see others on the margins; we don’t need to be heard, before we can hear the voiceless. We can advocate for others, even more so because we understand their pain. How can we empower others to live out of their unique beauty and dignity, which we know has been hidden for too long?
Picture two people, if you will. A Japanese American woman who visits museums and schools, bringing books and pictures of Manzanar, a concentration camp in California. She speaks of the suffering, of all her relatives and friends who would say, Shikata ga nai, translated as “It can’t be helped.” But she also speaks of her Christian faith that gave her hope. She says, “I want to make sure people never forget. May my children and grandchildren always remember.”
Second, a Navajo man travels the world, meeting with tribes and speaking before churches and councils on behalf of Native Americans. He has a vision that every man and woman should have a voice in this country, though they live in remote hogans with no electricity, phone, or Internet. These are real people we know. God is looking for those who will not let their voice be drowned out, nor silenced. He’s looking for advocates who will speak for those who cannot do so themselves. – Adrian Pei and Donnie Begay
For discussion (please post in the “Comments” below):