Home Issues and Culture Reactions to my melanin undermine my trust

Reactions to my melanin undermine my trust

I grew up playing a lot of sports. I wasn’t stellar at any given one. I never really relished the natural ability I had. I thought it was fickle and could be taken from me too quickly.

I didn’t forget the lessons I learned, though. The lessons about teamwork and hustle and grit.

I used them all on the field, but more so in studying to get good grades and joining clubs and hosting visiting students and mentoring high school students while I was in college. It worked out and now I have a good job. When the time comes, I apply these lessons about teamwork and hustle and grit again. They’re applicable to relationships, family, community.

These lessons don’t apply, however, to how I’ve been made to feel about the amount of melanin in my skin.

I’m the child of immigrants. I’m not from that country, but my name makes it obvious that I’m not “from” this country either. I was born and grew up here, though and have that rebellious, generous spirit.

I learned, through grit in school, that race is not real. Race is only dependent on other people’s collective interpretation of the amount of light reflected by one’s skin predetermined by melanin.

Melanin has no effect on intelligence, capacity to learn, or physical ability. It has no bearing on attitude. My race, in this country is black. I wasn’t ignorant of history before, but many things have caused me to think – quite a bit – about what this means for me – for now and for my future.

Over the last few years, I’ve been really fortunate to attend a Gospel-believing church where I’m a minority because 1) I grew up in a church like that and 2) it’s helpful to start multicultural churches to breakdown cultural weights on the Gospel. I’m proud to be a part of that work.

However, I’ve found myself growing less trusting – I mean with-my-life type trust – of the loving and kind people around me because of things I overhear, things I see posted from people I thought I knew well, social media, and the general undercurrent of national dialogue. Even back in my hometown down South, there’s another level of awareness I have that was more than the general awareness I grew up learning to have. I want to continue to love them and show love, but it’s harder to receive the love I’m shown.

I keep showing up. I don’t give up. However, none of the sports lessons I learned about teamwork are helping me. None of the lessons about hustle are helping. None of the lessons about grit are helping. None of the prayer, none of the reading, none of the commiseration is helping.

It’s been hard to articulate why and I’m still not sure if I can. I did want to share what I hear when people speak in some cases. It’s not what’s said (as if one would be so bold), but I understand logic and systems enough to hear these statements:

I hear that it’s okay to be slightly disrespectful out of ignorance and not apologize.

I hear it’s okay to make broad statements about a race without historical context as to why.

I hear it’s okay to make lewd remarks about women and men if you don’t really mean them.

I hear that I can’t complain about things that affect me because you see things differently, but I’m supposed to understand and believe all of the things that affect you.

I hear that we’re supposed to go international when we can’t even do that well domestically.

I hear that forgiveness is okay unless you went to jail/prison and don’t play for my sports team.

I hear that having a high self-esteem is great until you get to the upper echelon; then act like you’ve been there before.

I hear competition is great until someone gets the upper hand on you.

I hear that saying something charged and claiming it as a joke much later is fine.

The greatest one – I’ve heard it’s okay to say something mean, rude, or false if your opponents would do it; you should be willing to stoop down to their level.

There’s a few more, but it doesn’t matter that much. I’m sure you’re probably saying, “that’s so right” or “wow, I didn’t know”, or “what a stupid inflammatory piece.” I’m sorry. I’m sharing my heart. It’s only a call to you, and to myself, that we should be aware of our words and emotions. I don’t want to forget your pain and that we’re all working through things simultaneously.

I’m processing James 1:2-12 and James 13:3-12. I want to continue to persevere in this internal struggle and I want you to persevere in yours. 2 Peter 1:5-7 says that this should be in addition to and lead to faith and love.

I really do love people and am trying to figure out how to be loved by them through doubt.

Pray for me.