To all of InterVarsity Red River and Friends,
It has been an incredible year. While ministry has grown and flourished across our three states onto numerous campuses, simultaneously we have witnessed one of the darkest moments of racial tension in recent years. Many would argue the tension has always been present but the recent unarmed shootings of Black men and women and more the pool party incident in McKinney have simply unearthed what was never dealt with. All doctors—and moms—know in order for many wounds to heal, they need to be exposed. The hearts and history of race and ethnicity is being exposed in our country.
Personally, this year has been tremendously painful. While friends and colleagues have prayed and encouraged our Black students and staff during events of Baltimore, Ferguson, and McKinney, it has been traumatizing for many of us to see on a regular basis people who resemble family members—even ourselves—on the news. However, these events, as numerous and national as they have been, do not tell the complete story. There is much to celebrate and there is also much to grieve. While tremendous progress has been made, there is still much work to be done.
Racial incidents are happening around the country and they go beyond the historic black/white confrontations. There are cross-cultural tension points across ethnic groups and our ethnicity is a gift from God and must be included in our view of who God has shaped us to be. My belief is that as believers, our job is not to analyze or correct what we perceive are the issues of another community, but to enter into those communities with open eyes, ears, and hearts. We must “walk a mile in [their] shoes” in order to understand where any of our brothers and sisters of any ethnic background are coming from.
How do we respond to events like McKinney and, sadly, what may be future events? Let me give three suggestions:
- Awareness: Become informed about events in your places of residence. Learn about the history and experiences of other cultures. A couple of great resources:
- The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings From the Asian American Diaspora by: Amos Young gives a gripping Christian interpretation of the intersection of Asian faith and culture in the US.
- Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America by: Eugene Robinson will shed light on issues within the Black community and will help interpret the wide responses Black people may have to current crises ranging from apathy to anger.
- Beyond Racial Gridlock Embracing Mutual Responsibility by: George Yancey helps call every voice at the table to take steps to move forward on the multi-ethnic journey.
Action: The goal learning is not simply for information but transformation. In becoming aware, we must respond. Look for organizations, church gatherings, peaceful protests, to participate in, that call for equality across racial and ethnic lines in our communities.
Advocacy: As we learn, as we take action, invite someone with you. Help others learn what you are discovering. Do not simply take action yourself, call others to do the same. Bring up these topics with friends, co-workers, classmates, and even your pastor, especially there hasn’t been much discussion around these issues this year. Remember, healing happens when wounds are brought to the light.
My hope is the words of Scripture would become true, “that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). That is the only path forward. It is viewing each other in light of the cross of Christ, addressing the concerns equally of all voices at the multi-ethnic table.
Sean M. Watkins
Black Campus Ministry Regional Coordinator
InterVarsity Red River