Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Living as a Minority: You Must Know Who You Are

We are not that far removed from a world that believed that dark skin meant few brain cells. The residual effects of that prejudice still linger, but in nothing like the strength they held in the Anglo community 50 years ago.

It was in that world that so many of my heroes and heroines here at OCPC grew up. They are the generation that made Barack Obama's life possible. And everywhere, they were a minority, surrounded not by an indifferent, but a hostile majority.

And each of them tells a similar story of what they internalized in the midst of real persecution, and emotional and physical intimidation and violence: you cannot let white people tell you who you are. You have to know who you are so deeply, so strongly, that no person however important, powerful, or intimidating, can change it. You must know who you are no matter how many people deny it, no matter what facts they have to prove it.

Every one of my heroes knows who they are. In the world I grew up in, knowing who you were was a minor obstacle: it meant that you weren't pliant enough to fit into the environment. Majoritarian thinking is always asking, "what does everybody else think/feel/want?" This is death for the minority; the majority always believes it is right/beautiful/normal/appropriate. The minority must be the exception to their rules.

To be an exception, and to be an exception for a lifetime, one must be exceptional. One must be willing to be a living infraction of the rules, and one must be able to do that with grace. That grace is receiving from an internal source all the approval one needs to be able to face the world and look the majority in the eye.

Do you know that Christ holds you in the palm of Your hand? Do you know that your name is written down in the Book of Life? Does Jesus walk with you? Listen to the heart conversation inside my heroes and heroines, and in everyone of them, it is the triumphant and certain YES! to those questions that is the essential spine of their lives. It doesn't matter what the majority says-- it doesn't matter what the majority does. It doesn't matter what the majority wants. I know who and Whose I am, and therefore I know what I'm supposed to do-- and I know what I want. And that's all I need.

Never, never, never compromise yourself. Never give anyone or anything any inroad to who you are. No one but Jesus has the right to say.

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