“When we desegregate our Sunday morning worship experience, we open ourselves up to more and more opportunities for friendships with people who are not like us in appearance, culture, history, perspectives, political viewpoints and even issues of faith.” from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/09/why-a-pool-party-fight-in-texas-can-help-us-all-consider-who-we-call-my-people/
I was a Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher for many years before becoming an ordained minister last year. For a time I taught in a multicultural school. Well, the hallways were multicultural, at least. My classrooms were not. My honors Spanish classes (and all other honors classes) were filled with white, middle- to upper-class students. My ESL classes were filled with mostly latin@ students. There were very few opportunities for the students to build relationships with people who were from a different race, ethnicity, language or culture. Or even socio-economic status. There were the “haves” and the “have-nots.” I’m quite certain I don’t have to delineate for you which were which.
There were numerous examples of injustice that I witnessed and that I even experienced as a teacher of the marginalized students. I will share only one. One day I was walking down a hall right after school. There was a latino student walking a few feet in front of me. The principal at the time walked up to him, put her hand on his chest, looked at me and asked, “What’s he doing here?”
At the time there were about 700 latin@ students at this school. I happened to have him in one of my classes. I answered, “I don’t know. Michael, what are you doing here?”
He said, “Nothing. I’m going home now.”
Well, there were probably about 40 kids in this hallway at this moment. All of the other students were white.
The principal then turned her attention to me and said, “We can’t have these latino students staying after school. They’re going to get in fights, write graffiti and get girls pregnant.” This was the first conversation I ever had with this principal. What would you have said or done?
I asked her if all of the other students were supposed to be there. She looked around and said, “Yes.” I asked her why there were not latin@ students in the hallways after school. I asked why we didn’t have activities that our latin@ students would want to participate in.
She responded with the same thing she said earlier about latin@ students. Then she added, “When I was here before, it used to be the African American students who stayed after school but we trained them to go home.” Yes, she used the word, “train.” Needless to say, I was appalled. This was only the beginning of our relationship, and let’s just say it was a rocky one.
I share this story because I know racism and discrimination exist in our schools and in our communities and in our world. I share this story because as I look around the churches I have attended and been a member of and served, I see mostly white faces. I see mostly middle- to upper-class white faces. I love these faces, but I want to see other faces, too.
I share this story because as Tapestry we are intentionally trying to build relationships based in the love and forgiveness of Jesus, of a God who loves us so much he sent Jesus to die and to rise and to conquer death for us. I share this story because the Holy Spirit is moving among us, pushing us to build meaningful relationships among people who are different from ourselves, among people with whom we might never have a conversation, among people who show us God’s love and forgiveness in this world, love and forgiveness that is for us and for our neighbors, too.
I share this story because as people of God we are called and sent to share the kingdom of God with our neighbor.