Belhar Confession & My Racist Posture

I have been thinking a lot about what I believe. Mostly so I can hide from my convictions and not have to face that I am a wolf in Christian clothing. For all intensive purposes, I have no right to be in ministry.

I hold so many biases that you could start a black market economy from my prejudices and misgivings of people. I clam to be a pretty open fellow. The more I question this idea that more I realize that I am a messed up mucky muck kind of guy.

In early June, Mere and I moved to Old Louisville, in an area that has a large African-American population. Our building has ten apartments and two are occupied by Caucasian families [us included] and two are vacant. Sixty percent of our building is occupied by African-Americans. This is very different to me.

I grew up in largely Hispanic/Latino/a, Asian, and Caucasian context. I had very little exposure to African-American. Elementary school I had not African-American friends. In middle school a few African-American friends. None of which came to my house nor did they live in my neighborhood. In high school I had maybe ten close friends that where Africa-American. I played football with them and spent quite a bit of time with them.

I never went to there homes. I never entered their neighborhoods. I never entered their world. It was always on my terms, my space. I was at advantage in the relationship.

College, university, and seminary I had a sparse encounter with Africa-Americans. It may have a lot to do with the institutions I attended. They were largely Anglo funded and fueled, geared towards Anglo institutions.

I would not have called myself racist at all as all of the above transpired, say for a short stint in a bad situation and poor choices on my part as the company I kept. I kept my nose clean. I made sure what I thought was never used to impact a situation or event. I made sure to seek out quality friends and meet quotas so that I could not be accused of racism. I jogged on in life blissfully unaware that I am a much larger part of the problem that I imagined.

I arrive here in June with my new bride, my new life, my new chance at life. We rent an apartment sight unseen in a neighborhood we know nothing about outside of the research I did on crime of the internet. We arrive excited and ready to forge ahead and claim of stake in the American dream.

Only one snag…we live in a totally foreign context from what wither of us are used to. We arrive here in this building. We are surrounded by booming hip hop, tricked out cars with giant ass rims, and a sea of black faces.

I lived in Kenya for a year and am used to black faces. Again, I was in the African context but it was on my terms and folks there have a little bit of residue of the colonial system. My life changes but it was for the better. In Kenya I was part of a terrible legacy, but I was blessed by it. I was hungry often, but I never went hungry. I knew I was going to go home. There was an end date insight for the misery I witnessed. I focused on that and it made it bearable.

With all of this “difference” surrounding me here I begin to question my reactions. Would I feel safer if all of the music, clothing, language, and stuff were coming from a white mouth? Yes. I would feel safer. Would I look at this neighborhood as a sub-par place if it was not filled with African-Americans? Yes I would. If I saw a sea of faces that looked like me I would feel safer. I would not look over my shoulder at night.

We attend church on the other side of the highway. It is in a nice area, teeming with white faces. We like to cross the river in to Indiana to shop, because it is filled with white, suburbanite faces. We had dinner on Bardstown Road Monday. We loved it very much. We joked that we would love to live in this area and not in the ghetto. Why? Because, it had a sea of young, white faces with privilege scribbled across their foreheads. This is a judgment call on my part. I write this convicted and afraid.

So I write this realizing that my every move is routed in classism, racism, sexism, and elitism. I am so part of the problem it hurts.

I do not want to hold preconceived notions of how and why people rooted in non-relationship. Where is Christ in this?

I do not want to shun responsibility to diversity and inclusion because I an uncomfortable in this place. Where is Gods love in this?

I do not want to stay where I am mentally and emotionally because I am scared shitless to trust God. Where is my faith in this?

I do not want to be a part of the problem because I do not want to rock the boat or speak out or answer the call on my life. Where is the Courage to Be in this?

Folks I am a master of stereotypes. A swindler of goodness and mercy. I am a hypocrite in sheep’s clothing. I want to change. In response to Pastor Jin Kim’s riveting sermon at GA and his convicting call to the denomination at Church Unbound I want to apologize for the atrocities I have committed. Not just the ones I am personally accountable for. More so for the things I remained quite about and stood by as others raped cultures and maimed communities in the name of progress and righteousness.

Please forgive me. God forgive me. I pray it does not stop. A half-ass apology on a blog is not the place to end. I want to be a part of a diverse and real community here in Old Louisville. I want to walk with and serve everyone. I want to be challenged and shaped by the struggles of others as my heart moves in theirs. I want to be near God. God present in the hurting, poor, and broken.

The Specials have this great song “Racist Friend.” One of the lines is, “If you have a racist friend. Now is the time for your friendship to end.” The friend part ends but we must wrestle to stay in relationship with each other.

The denomination is looking in to the Belhar Confession. A document created in oppression seeking reconciliation. I read this with hope. A hope that we can truly live this document out.

I am going to explore this document here in relationship to my struggle with my condition. I pray it is fruitful for me and for you.

3 thoughts on “Belhar Confession & My Racist Posture

  1. Landon says:

    join the club, luvah. While in the Ville, we moved from the Seminary campus to 23rd and Date and plunked down roots for 18 of the hardest months of our lives.

    My lady said it best “I have moved to another country.”

    But it’s a good move, and I encourage you to resist the urge to bolt for a good long while. My Spiritual Director while we lived there (find him: Joe Grant) said, when asked what I was supposed to be doing while living there: “We are human beings not human doings. Don’t you think that waking up everyday and being a good neighbor is enough?” Indeed.

    You may not have chosen it, but the HS is work on yo ass (that’s the collective “yo”) whether you want it or not. Rock it hard core, stud.

  2. Carol Frame Matthews says:

    I so appreciate your honesty and passion, Ryan. Thanks for speaking it. I am moved. Really – beautiful.

  3. Pingback: The Belhar Confession & My Suspicious Mind [part 1] «

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