I contributed to racism in elementary school by not speaking up when I saw it happening right in front of me. I remember I was so happy that it was not me that was the target of my peer’s attacks and so I kept quiet. Maybe I even helped with the bullying, I don’t remember, but oh God, I hope not. However today, 30+ years later, I still think of those times and I wonder how she turned out. I regret my actions back then or rather my lack of action to stop it or to tell a trusted adult. I cared more about my own self and safety than for that other person. In that situation, she was the only white girl in our seemingly all black school there in Birmingham, Alabama where I grew up. I attended a K-12 school at the time and she was bullied because she was different. There was really nothing else about her except that her skin was obviously lighter than everyone else’s and so that was her crime. She paid for it often. Back then, I was noticed for other reasons as I was also lighter than most people there. But most times it worked out in my favor. In my case, looking like I was Asian somehow meant that I knew “Kung-Fu” and could beat people up when in fact, at that time, I had never gotten into a fight in my life nor had I ever taken any form of martial arts. I remember being so thankful that that stereotype worked out for me and so I just went with it. But what about her? And nowadays, what about those with darker colored skin or a heavier build? It is always wrong to treat others differently – and especially to MISTREAT AND ABUSE others – simply because of the color of their skin. That is something no one got to choose and it cannot be changed. How do we live with and appreciate what God has given us? God has created all of us a little different and yet we all, both male and female, bear HIS IMAGE. So instantly, we all have value.
My brother and I are mixed / bi-racial. He is 2 years younger than me. Growing up in the South, I kept hearing over and over the question, “What are you?” As I looked different than everyone else around us. My father was from there, he was black. But my mother, who wasn’t around, was Korean and Chinese. I tried telling people this when they would ask me these questions and I would get a lot of responses. The main one that stuck with me was that since my dad was black, I was automatically black. That is what I was. I often wondered about that because I knew my mother contributed as well and yet it was dismissed in a way because “once you’re black, you’re always black” and other things I would hear from people growing up. These weren’t said by my grandma and my Aunt who raised me but from other people around me in my life. In questionnaires I would fill out, where only one box was allowed, I would mark “black” because that is what I was told. These constant questions and comments growing up caused me to wonder about myself and helped me to form my identity. So, for me, my opinions of myself has always been multi-layered: what I thought, what other’s thought/said, and then later once I became a Christian as an adult, what God had to say and did.
A quick search on Google says
“rac·ism/ˈrāˌsizəm/Learn to pronounce noun: racism
prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
I’ve never thought that ‘my own race was superior’ but my actions and lack of action towards others who were being violated spoke volumes about me. Maybe it meant I did not care or it meant that I agreed with what was happening because I didn’t do anything about it. I definitely saw it. I rationalized it by saying, “well, it has nothing to do with me.” If that was really true, then why is it still on my mind today? I knew, even then, that wrong was wrong and I just let it happen and I did nothing. I wonder, when the same thing happens to me, who will speak up for me?
So many thoughts on my mind
When I walked into the church building on Sunday here in South Korea my mind was filled with so many thoughts and concerns in my heart from the #racialtensions, the #politics, #violentprotests and other news on T.V., from posts on social media and from all the discussions (some of them tense) with friends and loved ones; throughout all of this I continued to wait patiently with faith in the Lord. (I did a lot of watercolor!) How can anyone ignore the hurt, the division and also the miscommunication (and apathy) happening all around us especially as a person that follows Christ? At the very least, our neighbor is hurting, crying out to be seen, for fair treatment and justice and to be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else created in the image of God. But I remember how I was, before I knew any better and could only think of protecting my own self. So, I pray. This has been so heavy on my heart and I struggled to find the right words really as I wrestled with my own thoughts as well.
I also think of my little brother who has had a different experience in life than I, even though we grew up in the same households and we both went and served in the same Army. Yet how we were regarded by others was so much different and I know that was due to several factors such as what we thought about our own selves, how other’s treated us, and our character – what kind of person we were – mattered greatly. But now today, I know what my brother looks like and I know how he dresses and the fact that he doesn’t smile. Does that mean he is at risk simply because of these things? Yes, yes it does. That is crazy to acknowledge but that is the reality we have all learned to live with all these years but why does it have to be this way and is this all we can hope for? Can we do better as a people or is this it?
I have a son that I am raising today and suddenly he is almost my height. Do I just teach him how to navigate in this world by helping him to be aware that other people may view and treat him differently just because of what he looks like? Is that all that I can do? I also have another brother but we do not share the same parents and were raised together in the same home. He is our brother. He would pass as fully white but really he has a bit of Asian in him but anyway, he is not black. My brother serves as a police officer. He cares greatly about his squad, has worked hard in his career and has many thoughts about what has happened and has been happening in America. He sees a different perspective than I do since he is law enforcement and now he is the target of attack simply because of what another police officer did. Does that make them all bad? Even if several police officers did wrong does that mean ALL police officers are wrong? Now we know this is not right yet look at what many are saying and how many are responding. I have ALL THESE THINGS on my mind as I see and hear the responses from people.
We are about to move back to the United States later this year in the middle of this mess. All of this has been there though, just brewing under the surface erupting only for a bit and impacting only those close enough to care. But now, as my friend Dara described it, “this is a sickness. An infection that has erupted with pus and it is gross and it is messy.” Absolutely, This is messy. I think many people just want it to go away and to not see the mess but it is here. And now we see it. So what do we do? How do we respond? If you are a Christian, you respond in prayer.
Prayer. Prayer is not passive. It is an act of submission to God to bring our emotions and our thoughts and our actions under the will of the Lord. That we would wait on the Lord. That we would not operate on our own but according to God’s Will because we are God’s people. That takes great self-control especially when you want to respond in so many ways. So, we pray. We seek the counsel of the Lord and we remind ourselves of Truth from His Word because if left to our own devices we might twist it up a little differently to fit our needs at the time because we are all people affected by sin. We choose to trust that God sees. We believe that God hears. We know that God is responding and we look around to see evidence in what He is doing while we reflect and remember what He has already done.
I’d like to share a bit of my reflecting and remembering with you. Now you may say this is nothing but I know this is indeed something. We want God to respond in huge ways of gigantic proportions such as through sending fire and destroying a city, or opening up a hole in the ground swallowing up the wrong-doer and their entire family or even that the perpetrator would be struck with sickness but God doesn’t always do what He did and He doesn’t always respond in ways that we expect. That does not mean that he is not at work and so in faith we look for His Hand and we do see it when our eyes are opened.
God is responding
This past Sunday God had something planned for me that I didn’t expect. I am SO THANKFUL to God for Sunday. Let me share with you how God showed up for me and how I know that He is responding to our needs right now including addressing racism. You can miss it you know. God’s presence in your life, you can miss what God is doing if you don’t know what to look for. For me, I expected God to respond and to act because I was praying. I wasn’t praying for no reason you know. I know that God hears me and that He cares for me. So I pray and I wait with expectation that God will respond. I have learned over time that God’s responses may not look like what I expect but they are His responses nevertheless. I have also learned, through experience, that the very thing I think my heart wants may be the worst thing for me. It’s kinda like my children pleading for more candy or more TV or to not receive consequences for their actions when I know more than they. I can see more than they can see. They think this is just this one issue and it’s ‘not so bad’ but I see the shaping of their character and a desire to set them on the right path. Nothing in my parenting of them was without love and care. God is the same way with us and with me (but on a higher level). I have learned and I trust that He knows and that He sees and that He is good. It will work out and however ugly and crazy it may look from my point of view, God IS doing a great work in the lives and hearts of many including, and most importantly even, He is doing a great work within my own heart as well.
First of all, I acknowledge that God placed my family and I here in South Korea during this time. In fact, we live here in Daegu which was the #1 city of the most number of infected persons outside of China with the #coronavirus back in February and I saw the stark differences in leadership and in the responses and actions of the people to the same unknown situations. (See the Coronavirus in daegu and other blog posts.) Several weeks later, we watched from afar how our Nation responded during COVID19 hoarding supplies, fighting over toilet paper, blaming others, and not caring about those with compromised immune systems, the elderly, those who needed to work to provide for their families yet had no answers for how that would happen to pay for rent and other bills that needed to get done. I saw the arguing, the different news being highlighted or twisted based on their own agendas depending on who you got your news from, the politics, the fear of the unknown and the hate. I saw and I see the same things again from these several acts of violence committed on Black Americans broadcast over and over and over on TV and in social media. It is like a wound that never healed but keeps getting ripped open over and over and over and you cannot escape it and worse yet you feel like nothing really is being done about it or that people even really care. So I see these things from afar but I know we will be coming back to this soon because it is our time to move back to the United States and my son will be in the 8th grade.
I attend a local English-speaking church service which is a part of a larger Korean church. Those that attend come from many nations (and languages and cultures) and we have many different skin colors but we are united together because, well, we can speak/understand English for one (haha) but really it is that we all suffer in the same one way. We all suffer from sin and the effects of sin on our life, in our heart, in our health and in relationships with others. We look to the same hope throughout all of our struggles and the cure from our sins are the same – Jesus. Salvation is possible from no one or no thing else. It is not in what we do or what we did or did not do. It is all in what Jesus has done on our behalf; may we recognize this and take hold of it. If you do not yet understand this, I wish I could convince you and help you to see what I see and know but only God can do that. I have family members that are set in their ways about God and you may have family members or friends that are set in their ways about racism. So in Christ we put our hope and we put our trust. We continue to lay our burdens at His feet and we pray. We continue to read God’s Word, fellowship with other believers and hold fast to Truth living it out in everything that we do because we do everything for the glory of God.
What happened on Sunday?
Sunday started off with someone reaching out to me to let me know that prayer before service was starting back up that morning. We have experienced a lot of limitations here due to the #covid19 #socialdistancing procedures especially when it comes to churches in Korea after being closed to the public for 14 weeks.
I was happy to know corporate prayer was back on and without me having to remind them, my children were already up and ready to go for the day and so we left early and I was able to participate. That was another small (but noted) blessing. So, sincere prayer with others for the church and even an opportunity to share my own personal prayer requests (to which by the end of the service I knew God had already responded by placing a sense of peace in my heart about what I had shared that wasn’t there before). There was heart felt worship and a pouring out before God which I don’t tend to do as I’m still sometimes overly concerned about what others may think of me. (God and I have been working on this issue; it has gotten better, thankfully.) However, while wearing my mask, which we are required to wear at church, God saw me opening up to Him and He reminded me through worship that He can do ANYTHING, ANYTHING. Isaiah 59:1 ‘Behold, the Lord ’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; ‘ Even in seemingly hopeless situations, I was reminded that God is able. After worship, there was the SERMON on “The Bible and Racism.” My Korean pastor opened with his own personal experiences of racism and spoke directly about the injustices brought to light in America. We have a serious problem, not just in the United States but everywhere, he said as he recounted instances of racism in different countries in which he lived simply because of how God had made him. He showed from the Bible HOW RACISM IS WRONG and then HOW WE ARE TO RESPOND as Christians. He closed with a call to examine our own selves and how if we might have inadvertently or intentionally committed such acts of racism and/or violence to repent.
I repent God.
But more than words that I write in a blog, my actions reflect a changed heart from the one that did NOT act 30 years ago and one that did NOT know you like how I know you now. Because I am made new in you, I look to you God to help me with my selfish ways and that the Holy Spirit would empower me to do what is right even when it is scary. God, you gave me a changed heart that I can not sit idly by any longer because I know that that is not what Jesus did. He spoke about about injustice and He was there for the broken. He gave his whole self as an act of obedience to God the Father and everything was rooted in love. A sacrificial love for others more than for protection of his own self. In fact, the more I understand what Jesus did for me the more I love Him back and want to live like how He lived extending the same grace and mercy that He gave to me to others. That is why I am so thankful to God. Thank you Lord for responding to my prayers on Sunday. I see and definitely appreciate how you worked in various ways and through different people to show me how you hear me and that you see me. You are in every part of my life. You said to cast my burdens on you and I did and you came through God. Thank you Lord, thank you. You know what we need and your timing God is always right. I praise you Lord.
I pray that where ever YOU are that YOUR church is also having talks, preaching from the Bible, and opening conversations about racism and any other difficult topic/social issue as well. I guess I didn’t think this conversation would happen here in Korea at an “off-post” (non-military) church since not everyone who speaks English in our service comes from America. But, God doesn’t disappoint. Thank you to Pastor Ha for being willing and obedient to the Lord in this way. There are so many things that I am thankful for and since I’m trying to express my thanks more and more for what we are now slowly able to enjoy again, I want to share my thanks everywhere because I recognize that things do not happen by itself. It takes God and it takes people working together with God and one another for things to happen and to happen well. Each contribution matters. So, thank you.
Thank you so much God for prayer time before service with CJ and Joanita. I appreciated the welcome table friendly welcome from Jordan (including the safety measures put in place due to #covid19 from the church deacons and staff), opening jokes and announcements through Val, the praise team’s ministry led by Chelsey, the Word of the Lord as given by Pastor Ha, the A/V support by Stephanie, and all the behind the scenes that I don’t know about- all the prayers in private for our church, the preparation for the message, and prayer for and by it’s members- thank you. Thank you all. Every hand, every foot, thank you. I am SO PROUD of my church body. I also appreciated the in-person conversation (keeping our masks on, of course) right after service about how God worked everything together for HIS GLORY which was so TIMELY and encouraging and convicting for me to hear. Thank you God. I enjoyed that fellowship, however brief because my daughter came over to give me ‘the look’ that she had enough of waiting and that it was time to go. 🤣 I had to answer yet again (see previous blog post here https://sejanashines.com/2019/01/27/why-do-you-talk-so-much/ ) the question of ‘why do I always have to stay and talk after church‘? Well, my child, that is a part of being the church. We are in community with one another and so we take time to talk and to listen to one another. We build relationships and that takes time. We can do it online or over the internet but to able to be IN PERSON TOGETHER face to face was so good for my soul. Thank you for Sunday. Thank you God. Thank you for hearing and responding to the prayers of my heart. You know what we need and before we ask even before we even say a word.
Please pray and take time to tune into this service posted below. There is a lot to be said about #racism in the Bible which was the topic yesterday. I hope you are able to receive hope from God from what was presented on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Is there anything that stood out to you from this blog or from the worship service recording? Let me know! I’d love to talk about it, pray with you about it or just to know. I hope it is encouraging to you to continue to pray to God about the wrestlings within your heart. I pray that you will grow to trust in Him with your day to day happenings as well as your eternal destiny with God which is made possible through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus.
A military example
Yet another thing happened on Sunday which God used to respond to my prayers. US Army leaders from USAG Humphrey’s led the way by hosting an open town hall community event for anyone to come or to comment online with their questions, their stories, their concerns about #racism in our military community overseas. The event was called the “USFK Town Hall ‘Stronger Together’ Event” which was streamed on the USAG Camp Humphrey’s Religious Services Office FB page for those there were not able to attend in person. Even though it was a difficult discussion to have, they did it. They had the discussion and I felt that it was well done for a start. It was attended by the highest leadership starting with the US Armed Forces Korea Commanding General, General Abrams and voices were heard so that changes can be known and addressed. It was brave of those to come and/or to be able to share honestly and it was brave of leadership to host this open event and to listen. I do not know how we can move forward as a Nation and a people without listening and acknowledging this as a problem that needs to be addressed that affects all of us, especially when America is literally crying out to be heard. If you’re not sure how to begin this discussion, in the spirit of the US Army, someone shared an acronym that we can all use to get started when broaching the subject of racism.
“Care with 3 E’s” C.A.R.E.E.E. by LTC Williams
Create a safe space for dialogue.
Acknowledge the current situation. (There is a problem.)
Recognize how it affects unit morale, Soldiers. (and even you)
Empathize with Soldiers and those affected (Everybody).
Emphasize the resources available (Chaplains, Behavioral Health, MFLC’s, other leaders)
Empower leaders with knowledge.
What really stood out to me other than seeing an example of what courageous positive leadership looks like, was to experience how saying the truth at the wrong time or using the wrong words can impact how it is received by those that are hurting. If truth is not delivered with care, it can seem dismissive or even hurtful to the listener. I noticed that because I struggle with this myself. I want to tell the truth but there is a right time for all things including weeping when someone else weeps. This requires self-control, wisdom and discernment. I also heard a few high ranking leaders confess that they didn’t do enough to try and address this issue earlier in their military career but we know that no one can change the past. However, we can learn from it and make new changes in our present. So all of these persons that showed up and contributed to the discussion or to listen Sunday night mattered. Even me, I helped to add +1 to the number of viewers and I shared my comments within the chat. Those things matter even though they were small, easy actions to do. And this morning I shared with my husband why I was impressed with the town hall and we had a discussion about what was said. The organizers of that event do not know these things but in faith and with hope that having the conversation would help, they put it on and offered it to the military community here in Korea. We may never know the full impact of our actions but in hope we do what we can do while we continue to respond to what is happening all around us.
May we care about what the Lord cares about. The greatest commandment in the law, Jesus responded to the one that asked him, was to Love God and to Love our Neighbor. (Matthew 22:34-40 https://my.bible.com/bible/59/MAT.22.34-40 ) What does Loving God and our Neighbor really mean? Is it loving when we stand by and do nothing when we know that something we see is wrong? I’m not saying to act on our own; I’m saying we need to bring all these things to God. May HE lead us and guide us to respond in the best ways because He knows way more than we do about all things. He is already at work in all of these situations and in all of our hearts. Let us join God in the work and true change and transformation that He is doing and that only He can really do. We can keep going back to the Lord all throughout this process as we examine our own selves, listen to God and our neighbor and use wisdom and discernment in our actions and responses (especially online because it is easier to miscommunicate when we aren’t face to face). These are the things that I have tried to do during this time as I have prayed and am continuing to pray. I hope that throughout this journey, you can see growth and trust in your relationship with the Lord that He sees, He hears, and He IS responding to racism (and to many other issues as well) at this time.
Thank you for reading.
The audio is also uploaded to YouTube here for easier sharing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WMDzW2NFgY&t=4s
Here is a song to close out this time today.