Thank God I Don’t Understand

I sat in our district elections as the rule was explained. As confused and shocked faces starred back and forth around the room, I could tell what they were all thinking. “White…white…black…hispanic…white…black….” I wanted to leave. It hurts me to watch that happening. High school kids that previously had no opinions of eachother based on their race, all finally were looking around the room and realizing they were different. It truly bothers me.
This particular statement in our bylaws says that each district may elect 2 conference representatives, however if one of these representatives is an ethnic minority the district may elect 3. This rule was created in the spirit of diversity. To encourage a larger base of races represented. However, this rule is all too often explained as “You’re a minority. So we get a bonus rep!” or “We should elect HER so that we can pick someone else, too!”
It breaks my heart to see that switch. To see the exact moment when kids look at eachother differently. And to know that it’s not because of the way they were raised or the society around them. It’s because someone is standing in front of them saying “You’re different because of the way you look.” As much as they’ve been taught that all of God’s children are made of the same image, that the color of your skin doesn’t matter, to not judge people on what they look like, we still stand in front of them and say “The color of your skin changes everything.”
The rule is there to encourage diversity, and I’m sure there was a time when this rule served the students of the church and made the team better. But I feel like my generation has been blessed by those that come before us in a way that we don’t have to fight the same fights-internally or externally. Our thoughts and morals and prejudices are completely different than those our parents or grandparents had in high school. Our struggles with society’s prejudices are more often over our pants size than our race. By enforcing a rule such as this, we stir up something that wasn’t there before. We a sorting machine in our heads that labels everyone as “majority”/”minority.” We create a prejudice among our youth. Isn’t that we’ve tried to avoid all along? Isn’t that the thing we’re so afraid of? So afraid, in fact, that we make rules and bylaws thinking we can fix it on this giant regulatory scale.
I don’t think that’s right. I think that this is the wrong scale to handle an issue like that on. I feel like “dismantling racism” or “breaking barriers” or whatever you want to call it is something to be fixed on a much smaller scale. On the scale of our own minds, our own conversations, and our own actions.
It’s a nice thought. It really is. But the thoughts it shakes up are far from nice. They are disturbing. I hate hearing people introduced as “bonus reps” or watching someone’s face drop as they are called the “minority” over and over again during a district election. As far as I’m concerned, the true minority is the group that isn’t worrying about being or not being the minority.
It wouldn’t bother me as much if it was even just SLT, but I see it all over the church. People fret over something that I, as a member of the Internet-Youtube-No-Good-For-Norhin’ generation, don’t even notice until I notice the fretting.
Martin Luther King, Jr said that one day he hoped we would all be judged not on the color of our skin, but on the content of our character. I don’t think my generation knows the true meaning of the civil rights movement. We can’t grasp the gravity of this giant cause that people died for. Thank God for that. Thank God that the world has come so far that my generation will never be able to comprehend the pain of those before us. Thank God we don’t understand.


One thought on “Thank God I Don’t Understand

  1. It makes me happy to know that at least some of your generation truly is blind to those superficial differences of color. And to be reminded that probably most of your generation is as far removed from the civil rights movement as much of mine is from the Korean War speaks volumes about the distance we have come in this country. My generation, at least those of us from suburban areas, is one of the first with absolutely no personal experience with legal segregation. I was raised to see the person, rather than the color of their skin.
    Unfortuntely, I have experienced backlash from ethnic minorities over the years, usually part of my generation, and been told, on a couple of occasions that I owed that person something because “your people enslaved my people.” I was astounded, and momentarily speechless. Pointing out that my father’s family came from Germany well after the Civil War and the end of slavery, and my mother’s family was sharecropping themselves thus too poor to own anybody, while it gave me a sense of satisfaction, it went over the head of the person to whom I was speaking.

    I’m curious as to the reasoning behind the “bonus rep” situation… I mean, is it really a nod to diversity, or is it an indicator that a minority rep needs to be counter-balanced somehow by adding an extra person?

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