Living in Limbo [Creating Space]

Creating Space

Creating Space is a 5 part series that will be featured on Hugs & Lattes every Wednesday through the month of November. This is the 4th installment. To view last three posts, see here and here and here. Please note that the interviewee’s experiences are their own; they cannot speak for anyone and everyone in their circumstances. While stories may be similar, each individual has their own perspective. 

I have no idea how I first came to follow Divya’s blog, but as I noticed her posting pictures on her Facebook page, I realized that a lot of the background scenery looked eerily familiar – like – she was living where I grew up. Let me tell you, friends, coming from small town East Tennessee, you never expect to find someone on the Internet who lives where you are from. I reached out to her about a year ago and we compared notes about life in rural East Tennessee. I have loved following Diya’s blog; she has so many wise observations about the world, self-care, and life. My all-time favorite post is one of her most recent posts where she recaps her sister’s wedding in Cancun. And now I am determined to somehow be invited and/or crash an Indian wedding one day because oh. my. word. They know how to party! I’m glad that I have the opportunity to introduce you guys to an amazing blogger who is sharing her experiences growing up in America and transplanting to East Tennessee. (Which, let’s be real, is like being in a whole ‘nother country for some of y’all.)

Creating Space

Tell me About You

Tell me a little about yourself, your family, where you grew up, etc. 

I spent 30 years of my life as a resident of California. (Seriously. Moving day was ON my 30th birthday). I grew up in Southern California, attended UCLA for college, and then, after I completed my Masters and credentialing program I moved up to the Bay Area to begin teaching up there. I’m a special education teacher and I absolutely adore spending my day figuring out how to connect with little ones and identifying how to best meet their needs.

What has it been like to move from California to a small town in East Tennessee with a small minority population?

In June of 2016, I moved across country to rural Tennessee so my husband could pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. From spending most of my life in a big city or the surrounding suburbs, I went through quite a bit of culture shock when I moved out here. Not to mention, I look a whole lot different than the average resident.

I was fortunate and found a teaching job almost immediately and spent the months between August-March teaching as a 4th grade inclusion teacher at a local elementary school. In March, I decided to quit. It was really difficult to be an outsider coming in and suggesting changes being made to a pretty cemented system. I figured I could be a better advocate for my students if I wasn’t an employee of the county. Now, I’m temporarily working an administrative job at the university my husband attends school at.

Tell me about your faith and why it is important to you. 

My faith. Oh, my faith. It’s a tricky thing to explain to people. I grew up in a divided household. Both of my parents were born Hindus. My mom continues to practice her faith and my dad identifies as being somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic. Because Hinduism is so much more than a religion – it’s got a bit of culture tied into everything – I grew up practicing a lot of the traditions and participating in the prayers because it all blended together. It’s hard to really categorize each holiday or celebration as being “religious” or not.

My mom has a mandir (a shrine with statues and images of all the gods and goddesses) both upstairs and downstairs in my childhood home. And – from the day I popped out of her womb – she has been committed to praying once in the morning and once in the evening. She would make us stand at the mandir before an exam or before a big presentation. And she would make sure we repeated the Gayatri Mantra (a sacred chant) before we were allowed to open our eyes and step away from the mandir.

My father, on the other hand, believes that religion is so much more than standing in front of a deity and praying. He believes religion is in your day to day conduct. Your behavior. Your ability to stand in front of a mirror and say, “Was I the best possible person I could possibly be today?”

My father grew up in India at a time when the Muslim/Hindu riots were at a really high, stressful point. He was just a child, but he can still vividly remember homes being burned down, people dying, and horrible things happening. Because of religion. So, needless to say, he hasn’t been a big fan of the whole religion thing.

So, it’s hard to really know what MY faith is when I grew up in a divided, confusing household. I feel fortunate that neither one of my parents pushed anything on me or my sister. They gave us room to figure it out on our own.

Today, I identify as being a Hindu. And in the Hindu religion, we have many gods and goddesses. It is an all-inclusive religion. Hindus believe there is a single eternal path, but do not believe that any one religion is the only valid religion. The “eternal path” is seen reflected in all religions. And that kind of acceptance and love for all is what draws me to identifying with being a Hindu.

Creating Space

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood and was one of the few minority kids at my elementary school and high school. I, naturally, gravitated toward the other Asian kids. But despite my friend group, I still felt as though I stuck out. Sure, the color of my skin. But in other ways that were a little less obvious. When my friends came over, I would apologize that my house smelled like masala. When it was lunch time at school, I shamefully kept my sandwich inside my brown bag as I tore up piece by piece so my friends didn’t have to see that my mom had thrown in the Indian leftovers in between two pieces of toast. When my grandparents called on my cell phone, I would step away from the crowd I was with so they didn’t have to hear me speak in Hindi. It was a really challenging time to grow up in a place where you felt so different. I didn’t quite feel 100% Indian. But I didn’t quite feel 100% American. I was in limbo. And it was really, really confusing for my young brain.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

When I went to college and met other people who looked like me, grew up like me, celebrated the same traditions as me, I started embracing my culture. Surprisingly, I didn’t gravitate toward the Indian crowd the way other Indians tend to do in college. It was nice to know that they were there. But I just sort of observed them from a distance while I found a good group of friends through the organizations I was involved in. Because there was SO much diversity in college, I felt way more comfortable talking about my culture, sharing my Indian food that I brought from home after the weekends, etc.

What do you love about your culture?

Something I love about the Indian culture is the community. I spent my entire life calling random strangers “Aunty” and “Uncle” and, when I was younger, I genuinely thought I was related to every single person that came over to my house. But, turns out, that’s just what we do. It feels like family when I come across someone who is Indian because we know the same language, we eat the same foods, we celebrate the same holidays. And we’re loud and rambunctious and obnoxious. But when you’re in the midst of all the chaos, it just feels good to look around and feel at home.

Creating Space

Racism in America 

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

Most of the microaggressions have been due to a lack of understanding and (hopefully) not malevolent. I’ve been called Mexican quite a few times. Anytime we had a substitute teacher, I would cringe when I heard the sigh and then the lack of effort as they started to spell out the name. Since moving to the small town in Tennessee, I’ve had a number of people ask me why I’m here. Because I stand out. Again, none of these situations have made me feel unsafe. It was just me coming across people who were confused and/or curious.

What has been your response? 

Before this year, if anyone made a comment or a general judgment about Indian people, I could feel my blood boiling. I got really defensive and angry and wanted to throw it right back in their face. I remember – so vividly – an interaction with someone who was born and brought up in rural Tennessee. We were celebrating a co-worker’s birthday and he popped his head into the room and said, “Do they celebrate birthdays in India?” I was so taken aback by the question that I immediately fired back, “No. We’re all monkeys out there. We don’t really understand the concept of a birthday.” Everyone around me laughed. Most of them realized I was joking. And this man joined in on the laughter, but I could tell he felt a little uneasy. Like maybe he wasn’t sure if I was telling the truth. Like maybe he couldn’t tell if he offended me. It wasn’t until I went home later that evening that I realized that he probably didn’t know. He was asking a question. An honest question. And, instead of using it as an opportunity to share things about my culture, I just shot him down. I was pissed at his ignorance. But I didn’t offer a way out of that ignorance. I could have very easily opened up the channels to communicate about our different cultures, but because I was so defensive and uncomfortable at being viewed as different than the majority here, I just got angry.

How do you reconcile your faith in your religion/faith in humanity with the racial tension we have witnessed this past year?

I’m learning. Living here has been one of the greatest opportunities I have been given. Because it’s forcing me out of my California bubble. It’s forcing me to feel uncomfortable and move in closer to people who may have never met an Indian person in their entire life. It’s teaching me that I don’t have to blend in. That I can stand out. Even if it makes me feel awkward and unusual.

What is one thing you wish the white community could understand when it comes to race and racism in America?

I’m finding that I am living in fear more than anything else. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of feeling disconnected. Fear of criticism and judgment. Fear of thinking that people will be threatened by the color of my skin. And, with the current climate of our country, I worry that someone is going to view me as a terrorist. I don’t think this is something that is in the forefront of my mind all the time. I don’t fear walking into our local grocery store. I don’t fear going out to dinner. It’s just this dull fear that lives in me. All the time. That forces me to assimilate and acclimate to the culture around me so people don’t think that I’m any different. I notice myself doing it when I’m at the airport. When I’m sitting in the exit row in an airplane, I think to myself, “Make sure you give a verbal “Yes” with eye contact and a friendly smile so they don’t think you’re going to take this plane down.”

It’s small things like that. Where I alter my behavior so that I don’t even give someone the opportunity to question me.

Creating Spcae

Unity

What does unity look like to you?

I’m currently reading Brene Brown’s, ‘Braving the Wilderness’ and it’s shining light on all the things that we, as a society, are doing to make us more and more divisive over time.

This quote speaks to me. So much. And I’m hoping that, with time, this stuff comes to me naturally. But I’m so grateful for the opportunity – today, tomorrow, and the next day – to keep showing up and trying.

“True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. If we are going to change what is happening in a meaningful way we’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We’re going to have to sign up and join, and take a seat at the table. We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness.” – Brene Brown

Divya Mathur is the blogger behind Eat Teach Blog. A recent transplant to rural Tennessee from sunny California, she is currently struggling with how to dress herself when the temperatures drop below 65 degrees. She experienced her first snowfall in January of this year and she is loving this new adventure in Tennessee as her husband pursues his dream of becoming a doctor. She loves reading, experimenting in the kitchen, and going on long hikes. She’s also a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur and – if calories didn’t count – would live off of french fries and froyo!
You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook 

Loving Who I Am [Creating Space]

Creating Space is a 5 part series that will be featured on Hugs & Lattes every Wednesday through the month of November. This is the 3rd installment. To view last two posts, see here and here. Please note that the interviewee’s experiences are their own; they cannot speak for anyone and everyone in their circumstances. While stories may be similar, each individual has their own perspective. 

I believe that I found Ro through Twitter, and boy am I glad that I did. I was instantly attracted to her blog, Chicken and Bliss, purely by the name. I thought it was fun and quirky, and knew that I would find a fun and quirky writer, too. Ro is a newlywed, so we’ve found common ground in newlywed life, being in an interracial relationship, and our love for exploring. I love how Ro articulates her heart and thoughts, and she has brought some more thought provoking gold to Hugs & Lattes today. I’m excited that you all get to meet her and read about her experiences growing up as an African-American and being in an interracial relationship.

loving who i am

Tell Me About Yourself 

 

Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, your family life, what you do, etc.

I grew up in Pennsylvania where I was the youngest of two children. My mother worked as a nurse and I believe that seeing the sacrificial heart that she had helped me to develop this love for helping others.

I am currently a teacher working in an inner city school, serving a wonderful group of energetic and intelligent 5th and 6th graders. When I’m not teaching, I’m exploring with my husband, spending time with family and friends, or brewing up blog posts.

What has your experience been as an interracial couple?

Honestly, it’s been great! I feel that although my husband and I come from different cultural backgrounds, we truly respect each other and genuinely desire to understand the other’s background. While I am definitely not fluent in Korean, I make an effort to learn the language out of respect for him and his family. Although he doesn’t understand some things about African-American culture, he’s always open to conversations about it.

It’s also really nice to be able to be with someone who gets it. Koreans have dealt with oppression in their history and so have African-Americans. We often share stories that have been passed down from generations of the pain that has afflicted our communities and how they’ve risen from it.

It’s so refreshing that although we’re both from different cultures, I don’t have to explain why something is offensive to my culture and neither does he. We both truly respect each other’s culture.

What are some things you and your husband celebrate about each other’s culture?

Other than getting to eat a lot of delicious Korean food, I love being able to participate in Korean events with my husband and our family. For example, my husband’s mother is a wonderful dancer and sometimes has performances where she’ll perform traditional Korean dance. It’s always a pleasure getting to see her perform and getting to learn more about the history behind Korean culture.  

For my husband, it’s been the same thing. It’s really an exchange of information and I feel that we learn something new about each other, about our cultures, and about the world through our conversations with each other.

What has been difficult being in an interracial relationship?

Honestly, it was difficult in the beginning because we would get some of the nastiest stares from some people we’d walk past. I’ve had people walk past us and say, “ching chong” to my husband as we walked down the street together. I’ve witnessed other men glaring at me as if being with him means that I suddenly despise my heritage that I love. Although, thankfully I don’t notice it as much as I used to, it bothers me sometimes when I see it. I remember, recently, there was a woman who stared at my husband while we were walking on a beach in NJ, so I glared at her as if I was shooting darts in her eyes. Probably not the nicest thing to do, however, hahaha.

Additionally, the assumption that by marrying my husband, I must hate myself or my race or must be looking to have “mixed” babies is hard to deal with.  It couldn’t be the furthest thing from the truth, but the people who make these assumptions don’t care about that.

I love who I am. I love where I come from and I love my race. I am proud to be a black woman, but I also love my husband. If my husband was a black man, I’d still marry him. It’s his personality, his love for God, his values, and his heart that I fell in love with. It’s just sad that for some people, I cannot love my race and yet love my husband, who just happens to be Korean, at the same time.

loving who i am

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

Growing up in America has shaped my identity because everything I’ve known has been here. I believe that I am very blessed to grow up in a country where I can be open about my faith without fear of persecution and where we have access to so many things. I am definitely aware of how blessed I am to be an American.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

Yes, I’ve had memories that have both strengthened and weakened my perception and identity. While I had a strong mother who encouraged me to not be afraid to advocate for myself, I also had the media consistently portraying negative images of black women as lacking beauty. It was hard sometimes to believe it when family would compliment me, because society often portrayed images of women who looked nothing like me growing up as more desirable. I had internalized this is ways that I didn’t realize, but also articulated in a couple of posts on my blog.

What is something that you love/embrace about your race/culture?

I admire the perseverance and strength of my race so much. Despite the hardships and oppression my culture has faced, there’s this consistent theme in every challenge of not giving up. My ancestors were knocked down so many times and yet time and time again, they continued fighting for the rights owed to them and I admire that so much.

What is something that is difficult to embrace about your race/culture?

Honestly, I think other people’s perception of my race as being lazy and moochers. It’s not only an incredibly offensive generalization, but I would like to think you have to be pretty strong and determined to be able to endure years of racism and still be standing.

loving who i am

On Racism and Faith in America

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

I’ve been so blessed to not have experienced overt racism before. Most of the racism I’ve experienced has been covert. It’s the compliments that are actually insults in disguise or use of the n-word, despite knowing it’s offensive origins. It’s a nervous look when I walk past someone who’s uncomfortable with the color of my skin. It’s when while reading a text that’s talking about fried chicken and watermelon, your professor looks you in the eye in the middle of a lecture class and says, “you know what I’m talking about – right?” Yep, that really happened.

What has been your response? 

Sadly, my response to these things have normally been to be almost over-polite to prove to them that I am not as harmful as they’ve assume that I am. I make sure to say “excuse me” in the sweetest voice that I can when passing them. Regarding the n-word, I have spoken about it before, but the conversation is usually met with the “why can’t I say it?” Lately, I’ve definitely been more vocal, when led, about these issues.

How do you reconcile your faith with the racial tension we have witnessed this past year?

The events of this past year have left me feeling angry at times. I’ve found myself really becoming enraged with the hate crimes occurring and just the evil actions of the people in this world. Yet, I remember my husband and I were talking one day about despite how hateful they’re being, I am no better than them if I am sitting there wanting bad things to happen to them. It was honestly one of the hardest things to have to get to a place where my husband and I prayed for supremacists. We prayed that their heart would be changed and that they would come to faith. It was so hard praying for someone who hated people who looked like me so much simply because I looked different. As much as this grieves the heart of God, I know that He wouldn’t want me to fight hate with hate and would instead want me to do what he commands us to do in Matthew 5:44.

I’ve also found myself praying more about how God wants us as a church to respond to the injustices in the world.

How has your local church responded/how has the global church responded in your opinion?

Our church has been holding drives and having very difficult conversations about race in church. I know conversations about racism can be uncomfortable to have in any setting let alone church, but I’ve been so grateful for their transparency and for them condemning it head on. I believe these are conversations that the church should be having, globally, because it is something that grieves God.

However, I have been disappointed in how some churches have been responding to this. While it’s probably easier to not have these discussions, it is an important conversation to have – especially if people desire to end racism and seek reconciliation. It starts with having adequate representation in leadership in the church and not just in the pews. It starts with prayer and acknowledging the plight of people in the world rather than ignoring it for the sake of not ruffling any feathers. It starts with boldly condemning racism, but unfortunately I’ve only seen a handful of churches actually do this.

We were all created in God’s image and as the body of Christ, seeing our brother or sister hurting should grieve us. It should move us to the point where we want to pray about it and want to do what we’re being called to in order to help this issue.

What is one thing you wish the white community could understand when it comes to race and racism in America?

Hmm, I’m not sure how to say this, so I hope this comes out the right way. I would love for them to know that acknowledging privilege is not a bad thing. As an American, I also have privilege because there are people in third-world countries that don’t have half of what I have as a result of where I was born. However, the question is do we live acknowledging that privilege and then turning a blind eye to the oppression of those around us that don’t have the same privileges or do we lend a hand? Do we lift one another up in prayer? Do we advocate as an ally for our brothers and sisters?

loving who i am

 

On Unity

What does unity look like to you?

To me unity looks like how the body of Christ that’s talked about in  1 Corinthians 12. I believe that each person has a particular gift and a unique calling that God has given them. I believe that each person has something to offer and that when one of us isn’t doing our part or is saddened, it’s felt throughout the entire body. I would imagine that unity looks exactly like that. It’s being unified, despite our backgrounds and upbringings, for a common goal. It’s supporting one another by grieving with those who grieve and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It’s by helping one another and not just when it’s convenient to us or worthy of an Instagram post. It’s genuinely living in community and loving our neighbor.

What are practical ways the white community partner and align with the minority community?

This is a hard question that I often feel like I don’t have the right answer to, because it’s one I find myself still wrestling with. After conversations with friends of mine who are white, I realize that it can be difficult to find ways to do this without seeming like as an ally they’re taking over or washing out the voices of African-Americans who are experiencing these struggles. As someone who stands as an ally alongside groups of people that I don’t necessarily identify as or with, I can understand the difficulty with this.

I’m still praying for wisdom in determining this, myself, but in addition to prayer, I think that publicly denouncing racism and to continuing to advocate on behalf of people in the black community by contacting representatives regarding certain issues is helpful.

Thank you so much, Ro, for sharing a convicting, yet uplifting post on the raw effects of racism in America. Next week we will turn to Divya from Eat, Teach, Blog, to hear about her life in a small town of East Tennessee.

 

creating spaceRo is a believer in God, a wife, an educator, and a self-proclaimed coffee-aficionado who loves traveling. She is the blogger behind, Chicken and Bliss, which is a faith and lifestyle blog fueled by copious amounts of coffee. When she’s not teaching or drinking coffee, she’s writing, serving, reading, taking photography, and spending time with loved ones. To connect with her, feel free to reach her at any of the links: TwitterPinterestFacebookInstagramChicken and Bliss

 

On Realizing I am Black [Creating Space]

Creating Space is a 5 part series that will be featured on Hugs & Lattes every Wednesday through the month of November. This is the 2nd installment. To view last week’s post, see here. Please note that the interviewee’s experiences are their own; they cannot speak for anyone and everyone in their circumstances. While stories may be similar, each individual has their own perspective. 

creating space

I found Asaake in the blog world a couple of months ago, and quickly fell in love with her writing style and her hair. (She rocks the gray hair and I absolutely love it.) Over the past couple of months, she has taught me more about Nigeria and we have compared notes on the similarities and differences between Zimbabweans and Nigerian culture and food. Nigerian food is way spicy, which I think I would like! When I was thinking of people to ask to participate in this Creating Space series, I knew I had to ask Asaake to share her experiences growing up in Nigeria and moving to America.

on realizing i am black

Tell Me A Little About Yourself

Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, your family life, what you do, etc.

I was born and raised in Nigeria. I come from a pretty big family so I lived with my siblings and cousins for most of my childhood. I currently work in the medical field, working on my masters and blogging in my spare time.  

What was it like for you to move from Nigeria and settle into life in America?

For the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. I had family members here already so settling in was fairly easy. However, I did have a hard time making friends for the first few years because I just felt like Americans just didn’t get me. Everything here was so different and people’s definition of “fun” seemed very different. Things have been adjusting fairly well now that I am much older and have become my own woman.

What was the biggest culture shock for you when you moved to America?

For me it was the fact that Americans could call their elders by their names *gasps*. In Nigeria, everyone older than you or perceived to be older or in a higher status has to have a “aunty” or “uncle” before their name. It’s just a sign of respect. That was very uncomfortable for me to grasp.

creating space

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

It wasn’t until I moved to the US that I realized that I am a black woman. I wasn’t sure how to relate with white people when I first moved to the Us and so i found myself always gravitating to black people and Africans because that was familiar to me. I ended up applying to a HBCU for that reason. A year later, I just didn’t quite fit into the HBCU experience.

The US made me realize that I am “African” and not “African American” but I am still Black. I learned what it truly means to be a minority here. I learnt colorism here- being a light skinned Black woman and feeling like I’m not black enough most times and not worthy to on “hashtag Melanin Monday”.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

I have had some pivotal memories that have both strengthened and weakened my perception of who I am. In relation to the topic of race in America, I think my first experience dating a white guy was pivotal for me. I knew it was allowed, my family is actually extremely open and accepting when it comes to individuals of other races. However, I don’t think I truly understood how to relate with white people without feeling like i’m losing my own self or my black identity. With dating my first white boyfriend, It taught me that I could still whole heartedly love someone of a different race and share my life and experiences with them without feeling like I’m losing some of my “blackness”. And that I could truly embrace other races and acknowledge our differences in Love without betraying the black race. From then on, i found that my relationship with white people blossomed. It opened the way for me to develop amazing friendships with non white people.

What is something that you love/embrace about your race/culture?

I love the culture, the people, the language and the food! Nigerian foods are one of the tastiest I have ever tried. Our languages are very distinct and our people can be very welcoming. I also love how communal my culture is compared to the individualistic culture here in America.

What is something that is difficult to embrace about your race/culture?

One thing that’s hard for me to embrace is the fact that many families desire a boy child more than a girl child. Male children are treated differently. Gender roles are taken to the extreme. I’m blessed to be from a family where this isn’t really an issue but It bothers me that there are people who actually deal with this.

creating space

On Racism and Faith in America

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

Omgosh so many!

I cannot stand when people ask me how my English is so perfect. Ugh, it’s 2017 people… We really do speak English in Africa.

Also, when people ask me if my hair is real -_-. I would never ask a white girl if her hair is real, I don’t know why people think it’s okay to ask black girls that. There’s just this wack belief that black girls can’t have long hair and so when you see a black girl with long hair you’re curious if it’s real or not. It’s actually annoying.

I’ve be followed around in stores especially in Asian stores and then having them try to nudge me towards cheaper items. Sometimes they even go as far as stressing the price of an item i want to buy as if unsure that I can afford it.  Quite frankly, I dread going to Asian stores for that reason.

Lastly, being told that I’m not “like other black people”. LOL listen. Don’t do it.

How do you respond in these instances?

I often just don’t respond because I’m just not a confrontational person. I have not learnt a productive way to respond to microaggressions so i’d rather just not respond. However, I might leave a smart comment here and there because I have a smart mouth.

How do you reconcile your faith with the racial tension we have witnessed this past year?

It is comforting for me to know that we are all one under Christ regardless of which racial group we belong in. Jesus sees us the same and loves us the same. As a christian, I know I am called to love others no matter what. This keeps me grounded even in my response to people who do not like me because of my skin color.

How has your local church responded/how has the global church responded in your opinion?

My local church is amazing. I go to a predominantly white church that is very much racially aware! We have lots of white families who adopt black children and seeing that every Sunday warms  my heart. Same goes for seeing the support these families are getting from members of the church. My church does not shy away from the issue of diversity and topics like racism etc. there  seems to be an open and warm environment for people to discuss and interact with members of different races. Our pastors do not hesitate to speak up on the racial divide and tension in the country. More so, the church does not hesitate to denounce white supremacy and any other form of racism no matter how minute.

What is one thing you wish the white community could understand when it comes to race and racism in America?

I really do wish the white community would understand that black people who fight for the rights of black people and the rights of minorities in America so not hate white people. Speaking up against racism and discrimination of minorities by white people doesn’t mean you hate white people.

creating space

On Unity

What does unity look like to you?

Unity looks like Christ! It is loving those we do not necessarily like with the Love of Christ. It is acknowledging that though we are different, we do not have to hate each other for our differences. We can actually enjoy those differences, learn from it and enjoy the beauty that it brings. Diversity is beautiful!

What are practical ways the white community partner and align with the minority community?

The history of race is uncomfortable. It will always be uncomfortable. Running away from this issue doesn’t make it go away. The white community need to accept this and decide that NOW is the time to face it. I must say that I am truly proud of those who have the courage to embrace it in their own little way- whether is having the discuss with their friends, neighbors, etc.

  1. It’s important for white people to listen and hear black people/POC out when issues like this arises. Listen to these voices and don’t try to invalidate their experiences.
  2. Seek out friends in other races. The easiest way to learn about how you can support minories is from minories. If you don’t have people in your inner cycle to learn from then this becomes harder.
  3. Acknowledge that white privilege does exist and use that privilege for good. I’ll be honest, when i see issues about race online, i follow the thread just to see what white people have to say about it. It truly makes me happy when I see white people speaking up against racism and discrimination in a thread. It’s these little things that truly matter.
  4. Don’t be color blind. And don’t say you’re color blind either. It just never comes out right. Don’t say.
  5. If you’re one of those who say “all lives matter” when you hear “black lives matter”… please stop!

Thank you so much to Asaake for her vulnerability and authentic conversation on race in America. Join us next week as we talk with Ro about her experience with race and identity being in an interracial/intercultural relationship.

creating space

I’m Asaake, a 26-year-old Jesus lover & part-time blogger. I enjoy blogging about green beauty & slow living. I am currently transitioning to minimalism and totally enjoy the process of letting go of stuff and embracing living a beautiful less with fewer things.  I spend my time drinking tea and learning about how to live a simple yet fulfilling life.I’m everywhere, InstagramFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Unapologetically Asian [Creating Space]

creating space

Good morning and Happy Wednesday! Can you believe it’s already November? October flew by WAY too quickly, but I have been looking forward to this day for quite a while. Today is the start of November’s Creating Space series. I have several amazing ladies lined up to share their experiences with racism and faith in America. Be sure to join me every Wednesday for a new post on Creating Space.

Today I have Kriselle joining me on Hugs & Lattes to talk about her experiences growing up Filipino American and going to a small, Christian school as one of the few Asian students on campus. I met Kriselle through blogging several years ago. While she no longer is blogging full time, she has some pretty exciting things happening in her career.

Creating Space

Tell Me A Little Bit About Yourself

Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, your family life, what you do, etc.

I grew up in Los Angeles in a suburb of Los Angeles. It was a very diverse neighborhood. My parents immigrated from the Philippines in the 80s; I was born here, so I am Filipino-American. English was my first language. After my parents divorced, I grew up going to a Baptist/Christian church when we stayed with my dad, and a Catholic church when we stayed with my mom. I didn’t grow up in a “fully Christian” environment because of this, and it wasn’t until college that I lived in a pretty Christian environment all day, everyday.

I know that you lived in Australia for a short period, how did Australia approach race and culture differently?

Here in America, you have a lot of people who are Hispanic, Latin American, and black American. In Australia, you are going to find more people who have a Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. Black people in Australia have immigrated from Africa. I noticed that Australians are more accepting of the Muslim and Sikh religions. It is also more natural to have intercultural friendships in Australia, whereas in America, homogenous friendships are more common. I will say, though, that Americans are more open to talk about race.

creating space

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

While I was made aware that I was considered a “minority” in society, it wasn’t something I thought about a lot when I was younger. I grew up identifying with my ethnic background (Filipino) because there were so many of us in my hometown, but when I went to college, I identified with my Asian background. My college was predominantly white, so I realized that I could stand in solidarity with my other Asian brothers and sisters.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

In college, people thought I was an immigrant or an international student because I was so unapologetic about being Asian. There was one guy that knew me for 3 years before he realized I grew up here in California. All of these microaggressions really opened my eyes to the true state of America today and caused me to reflect on my own views of race and microaggressions I may even have said in the past.

What is something that you love/embrace about your race/culture?

What I love about being Filipino American is the food and language and motherland. It’s all so rich and now that I’m older I really want to preserve my culture and pass it down onto my children. Even though I hated it as a kid, I want them to grow up eating rice and sinigang or adobo like I did and I want them to crave it the way I do now. I want them to know the food but even more so, know the language. I even downloaded a keyboard for Baybayin, the pre-colonial Filipino script. It’s not in use at all anymore, but it makes me feel more connected to my culture.

What is something that is difficult to embrace about your race/culture?

The hardest things for me to wrestle with in Filipino culture is the desire to be white in skin tone. As a kid I was made to think that darker skin was “bad,” and my parents bought tons of whitening products for my sister and I. Whitening soap, whitening lotion, whitening deodorant, even baby powder. When I played tennis in high school and got really tanned from being in the sun every day, I was called ugly. Pair that with both Philippine and American media both portraying primarily light skinned people (and in America white people in general), and you got some self-hate. I wanted to be whiter so I could be more well-liked and be seen as beautiful and it’s only in the last maybe two years or so that I’ve really started embracing my skin at every shade and being intentional with not feeding into that mentality. It’s been a long and hard journey to remind myself and decolonize my mentality of whiteness as “better,” but it’s been a great time of growth because now I love my skin and really try to empower other people of color to love theirs too. I’m a #magandangmorenx.

creating space

Racism and Faith in America

How has your local church responded/how has the global church responded in your opinion?

A big issue that we don’t realize we face is minimizing and sometimes ignoring the experiences of people of color in the Church. For instance, at my Christian school, they tried to say they didn’t need a department of diversity. The department was created to create a safe space for people of color as well as educating others who may not be aware or really comprehend the experiences we go through and how we operate. It’s not to be anti-white or anything like that, but rather, to give those who are marginalized a place to feel safe and to feel at home.

In the larger picture of the Church, I rarely see pastors speak up about racism in the midst of tragedy, and it truly makes me sad. People of color make up a large portion of the church, and we just want to know that our pastors see us and intentionally make a point to remind us that they care about us, especially our black brothers and sisters in Christ. Many think it’s a political issue to talk about race, but in reality, it’s the lived experiences of people around us, and we as a Church need to do better in caring for these marginalized groups.

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

I’ve had questions like “Where are you really from? When did you learn English? When did you come here?” When I was in college, I was passing out fliers for a diversity event on campus and as I handed this guy a flier, he said, “Diversity is for black people.” I would have people say and assume Asians were the “better” minority, or people would say they are colorblind.

What were you experiences discussing faith and racism in America with your peers?

Reflecting back on my time in college, I definitely did feel like an odd one out at times because I was so passionate about talking about issues (aka race) that people weren’t so comfortable talking about. I like to think that people didn’t intentionally do that, but I do think that it affected people’s interactions (or lack thereof) with me.

Thankfully, I had friends that did talk about these issues with me, but none of them were in my major classes because almost all of them were Psychology majors, so in my communication classes (I was a Communication studies major), if something in regards to race came up, I was always the first to speak out but I could definitely feel the vibe in the room of people feeling slightly uncomfortable. I also think people weren’t used to an Asian person (a girl much less) going against the stereotype of “submissive” and “quiet” Asians, even if they didn’t consciously think that.

However, outside of school, I think that I’ve had some really great conversations with friends of mine about how faith and race come together and how we should approach it. I’ve had these conversations with both white people and people of color. I think that we really need to keep having these conversations and keep loving others the way Jesus loves.

creating space

On Unity

What does unity look like to you?

Unity looks like love. And God is love. Unity is acknowledging everyone’s different life experiences and cultures and loving them through every part of life. It is talking about the hard topics because we care about one another. Unity is celebrating what is different about everyone.

What are practical ways the white community partner and align with the minority community?

White people need to call out other white people. Call them out, even when it hurts. Some activists would say, “Call them out, it doesn’t matter how you do it.” But since we are Christians, I would say you need  to call them out and speak in love. Another thing you can do is allow room for minorities to speak, but don’t make them speak if they are not comfortable in doing so. Take on the burden of helping them out. We are burdened with racism every day, so it helps when you take on the burden of speaking out. For instance, if you get into a conversation on Facebook where you have called someone out for a racist comment, don’t just automatically tag in your friend of color to participate in the conversation. It takes vulnerability to talk about this, and it’s tiring, so sometimes we don’t want to say anything for the sake of our sanity and sometimes even our safety. Sometimes people of color don’t speak up to keep themselves safe from people who might come after them for speaking on their own experiences, so it’s important for white allies to come by us and fight with us.

A big thank you to Kriselle for speaking out in a hard, but necessary conversation. Join us next week as we talk with Asaake about her experiences growing up in Nigeria and in America. 

I’m Kriselle, 23, married, and a creative entrepreneur who loves to help others start and run their businesses on a budget. I am a fighter for representation in media and am fighting against eurocentric beauty standards to promote that beauty comes in whatever shade you are. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, my mini-podcast, and at GG Creatives 

Celebrating Color

 

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Sage the Blog in April 2017. 

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

I didn’t grow up thinking white people were better than any other race, but I never grew up around anyone who wasn’t white. When I was in middle school, I discovered the Fresh Prince of Bel air and crushed hard on Will Smith. In high school I befriended the two black guys in my high school. One of whom reminded me of Will Smith. I knew they were black, but I didn’t think anything else of it. I’m sure the words, “I don’t see color” fell out of my mouth a few times.

It wasn’t until I was in college and started dating my now-husband that I realized how many things I had done in ignorance could be perceived as racist. When  Mr. M and I started dating, I had that safe place to ask the ignorant questions. I learned about systematic racism, I learned about the white savior complex. I learned that saying “I don’t see color” whitewashes the incredible experience and story each person of color carries.

My parent weren’t the least surprised when I called home one early spring day to tell them I was going on a date, and the guy I met was from a country in Africa. In fact, my dad once said, “Christina, I would be surprised if you marry a Caucasian.”

I had one of those moments on my first date with Mr. M- I knew we were going to get married. (He did not have that moment until several months later.)

Mr. M and I live in East Tennessee. We have more than one stoplight, so we aren’t pure rural Appalachia, and we are lucky enough to live in a college town that does have quite a bit of diversity. I never knew how large the African community was in our area until he and I started dating. I guess I just never noticed.

Nonetheless, I could still feel the eyes. A couple of times I noticed (mostly from the older generation) people staring at us as we walked, hand in hand. And in my lack of graciousness, I would look them dead in the eye as I held on tighter to my handsome chocolate man. Once, when we went home to see my family, I noticed someone staring at us as we were stopped next to each other at the stoplight. I turned to Mr. M and said, “Kiss me” and then made sure I kissed him passionately. He thought I was being sweet. I was being rebellious against the ill-conceived notions that races shouldn’t mix.

I don’t necessarily recommend that route. It’s rooted in pride, and while I am proud to stand next to, and be affiliated with my husband and his family, it is definitely not the most Christ-like approach. Mr. M is much more gracious in his responses.

In the spring, on our way back from a friend’s wedding in Savannah, Georgia, we stopped at a McDonald’s in South Carolina to use the restroom and grab a cup of iced coffee to fuel us on a road trip. I was leaned against Mr. M while waiting in line. There was a man in the back of the restaurant who stared at us until Mr. M looked his way, to which Mr. M smiled and waved and the man slowly shook his head in disgust. I promptly turned around and shot fire darts from my eye. I imagined what I would say if I worked up the nerve to confront him. I never did. I’m more talk than game.

But Mr. M is compassionate. He speaks the truth in love and he is gracious towards those who don’t understand or disagree. It’s something he has had to accept and learn growing up in America. He told me that when they first moved from Zimbabwe to the United States, as he and his brothers became pre-teens and teenagers, their dad sat them down, making them aware that in the United States, they were more likely to receive prejudice, so they needed to make sure they carried themselves well, dressed well, were respectful at all times to authority figures, etc.

As parents, of course, we would tell our children this anyway: “Be respectful, and carry yourself well. Don’t tarnish the family name!” But for the minority groups in America, it’s more than tarnishing the family name, it’s survival. Over the past several years, through conversation with Mr. M, reading and listening to accounts from other moms of African-American, Latino, or biracial children, I find this is something that is stressed more so to children who do not look predominately white.

So what can we change? I’ve written from my hopeful millennial perspective about why it is important that we support our friends trying to use their voice.

But how else do we support our minority brothers and sisters?

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

 

We see color. We celebrate color.

When I am home alone with Mr. M, I sometimes forget that we don’t look like each other. It’s in those moments where I’m getting ready and he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me that I see our colors contrast. When we are lying down, and my arm lays against his and he says, “Oh my gosh your arm is translucent!” I remember that he is black and I am white. I see and bask in the color of his dark skin. It is, after all, one of the things I am most attracted to in him- aside from his compassion, and the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles, and the way his heart seeks to right social injustices. I celebrate his dark brown skin because it carries his heritage. He is a Zimbabwean who still speaks in his native tongue when he is with family. His Shona name is a badge of his culture. The way he thinks and sees the world has been shaped by growing up in two different worlds – a third culture kid.

I want to say that our relationship is more than the colors we reflect, but in a sense, our relationship is the colors we reflect. When you see a married couple who are both white, you don’t automatically think, “Oh, I bet they have a lot of compromising they have to do.” (Which, by the way, is still totally untrue, as you married people know.) But when you see my husband, me, and read our incredibly long (but phonetic) last name, you probably wonder how it works.

And here is how it works: We love hard. We listen well. We learn from each other. We celebrate our differences, and embrace the cultures and traditions we each grew up with.

For instance, in my mind, I had a perfect American wedding planned out. In reality, our families threw the biggest Zimbabwean-American wedding anyone has ever seen. Our dance floor was packed the entire time, whether Zimbabwean, South African, or American music was playing. Our guests had their choice of Zimbabwean food: sadza (a cornmeal patty), collard greens, and beef stew, or my favorite American food: chili and potato soup. Our friend surprised us with a communion meditation that was given in both English and Shona.

If I didn’t embrace who Mr. M is and where he is from, I would miss out on the blessing of finding a new piece of the world. If I didn’t ask questions and learn, I wouldn’t fully be able to say I know my husband. It is important to me that our relationship’s foundation is first of all on the word of God, and secondly on celebrating who we are.

celebrating color & creating safe spaces

Mr. M and I were humbled and amazed by the responses I received on my most recent post, When You Call My Husband the N-Word. One thing my husband and I are careful to acknowledge is that we do not want to play the victim card. Playing the victim doesn’t offer any options for victory. We are victors in our circumstance. We want to find ways to embrace each other’s cultural identities and differences. But in order to do that, we do have to acknowledge the hurt and pain that comes with racism.

Our culture makes it clear that we cannot just be silent. Desmond Tutu said that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

White people are not the saviors in defeating racism. White people have the responsibility to reverse the curse we brought into this country 400 years ago. I asked a friend how white people can be an ally to the minority community, and she said “Listen.”

There is a desperate need for raw and vulnerable conversations between the white community and the minority community. In order to align ourselves with our brothers and sisters who suffer under the institutionalized racism in our country, we have to listen. We have to hear their stories, and we have to be willing to acknowledge the generational pain our ancestors brought upon minorities in our country. Then we must create space. We move off the stage to allow room for the minorities in our country to speak.

For the next several weeks, I will be hosting conversations with some friends that I have been privileged to make within the blogging community on identity, racism, and how the white community can continue to create space and take action racism in a healthy way alongside our brothers and sisters. Check back each Wednesday in the month of November for a new installment of “Creating Space.”

never
trust anyone
who says
they do not see color.
this means
to them
you are invisible.
-is

Nayyirah Waheed