Open Discussion: Vanilla Confessions

Hi, y’all! I am an avid reader and actively seek out diverse fiction yet I am seriously lacking in the life experience department. Growing up in our small rural farming community has a lot of benefits but exposure to cultural diversity is not one of them.

HandsI was taught that we are all the same, regardless of skin color, which is true at the very core of who we are, members of the human race, children of God, residents of the third rock from the sun, yet we are also shaped by our experiences. Although I am still not completely sure why… colorblind doesn’t make it all better.

Fellow Christian fiction enthusiasts, share your thoughts and help a vanilla sister out!

What do you as members of a multicultural community want us backcountry white folks (with little to no exposure to diversity apart from the media) to know?

27 thoughts on “Open Discussion: Vanilla Confessions

  1. Thanks for stepping out and owning not understanding something. That is hard to do! I am also white and grew up in a fairly white area but then moved to a fairly diverse city and then met my husband who is Mexican and became very involved in the Latino community in my area, so my experience is learned through thousands of stories of others, which is what I generally encourage people to do: talk with people who are different than you, become friends with them, and soon you will see what you have in common and what is different.
    For me, it took a bit to understand white privilege and I think it is a constant learning experience. I recently read the book Waking Up White and felt that opened my mind even more.
    I think one thing we don’t experience are the constant, multiple times per day microaggressions (things that people who are prejudiced or racist say or do unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, to people of color). These things happen over and over and over again and wear people down. Here are some examples that I have noticed with my friends or heard from my friends:
    1. My husband refuses to go to a local hardware store because of the way he was treated there (either not being helpful to him, giving him looks, etc.) Prior to him telling me this, it was my favorite store because they were always so helpful and nice all the time.
    2. The person who is usually nice to me at the local grocery store check-out doesn’t smile when I am there with my friend who is Latina.
    3. The check-out person doesn’t greet my friend but greets the white person behind them (happened this week).
    4. Things I have been asked/told when I first married my husband that I would hazard doesn’t happen in non-mixed marriages: Friend from work looks at a wedding picture and states, “Well, he’s not dark at all!” Supervisor (not mine) from work asks me my husband’s legal status, asks me “What made you decide to marry a Mexican?” and on a later occasion says, “My two nieces live in Chile. One of them really likes Spanish men and the other doesn’t. What makes this happen?” The checkout lady at the grocery store who looks at my ingredients for Mexican food and asks, “Do you only cook Mexican food for your husband? Don’t you ever want to eat anything normal?”
    5. People wondering aloud what color my son will be when he comes out of the womb.
    6. I notice a different vibe or look in stores or restaurants sometimes when I am with my husband. But when I go to Mexico (at least prior to the recent elections), everyone is surprised to see an American but very friendly and helpful.
    7. I was visiting my brother in NJ. It was late at night and I slowed down to see the turn. No one else was around so I wasn’t impeding traffic. For the first time in NJ history (my entire life up to that point), I was pulled over by a cop. It was also the first time in NJ that I had 3 people of color in my car. Coincidence…?
    Those are just some thoughts. There are many worse things but these are things I have experienced and have opened my eyes. It makes me sad to know that things are getting worse and those who are racist feel comfortable being so out loud more and more. It makes me concerns for what world my son will have to face when he is a teenager and young adult and no longer a cute toddler who people can smile at and think is cute. I worry that one day he will be bigger and will unwillingly, solely by the color of his skin, turn into someone who others will treat differently, sometimes in very dangerous ways.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes. Most people put a blind eye. Also after i wrote this, i thought about all of the positive experiences that being from a different culture can provide as well. Like collectivism vs. individualism. And fun, different traditions. (Side note: just learned about shoe-throwing from JHud on The Voice).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Seeking out diverse fiction is great, Beth! Spreading the word about diverse fiction, especially to other white readers, is great too! I mean, let’s face it–a lot of white ChristFic readers simply aren’t used to reading diverse fiction because the leading Christian publishers they trust don’t publish diverse books, or they publish very few. And whether it’s conscious or subconscious, a lot of readers assume that fiction by or about people of color is only for readers of color. So it can help when white readers see that other white readers are enjoying diverse fiction, that reading it isn’t an unheard of, strange, or “out there” choice to make as a white person. That it’s perfectly okay to read outside of one’s race. 😀

    Seeking out diverse relationships and connections can also be quite helpful, however it may be possible to make those connections. (Looks like that may be something you’re already doing!) I grew up with the luxury of a diverse environment, but even with or without that headstart as a child, I still have to be intentional about my relationship and community choices now. As much as I *love* fiction, much of what I put into it and get out of it needs real life observation, learning, and experience to add relevance to it.

    And, you’re right. Being colorblind doesn’t make things better, especially when it’s time to combat racial prejudice and ignorance–a very real battle that no one race should be fighting alone. Being or choosing to be colorblind would just lead to fighting ignorance with more ignorance. Not only would colorblindness make you unable to see, acknowledge, and appreciate valuable differences in people (I don’t want folks to disregard or be blind to my blackness any more than I want them to disregard or be blind to my womanhood), but colorblindness would also make you unable to recognize privilege. The racial and social privilege you’re afforded as a white person, the racial and social privilege that people of color don’t have. And, yes, unfortunately, racial and social privilege isn’t absent from Christianity.

    I don’t think God has called us to colorblindness, as there are reasons why He’s given us various enthnicities. I think we’re called to empathy and justice, to learn about and respect each other, not to act as though we’re all exactly alike or to try to love each other “in spite of” our differences, as if it’s somehow wrong for us to be different. I think we’re called to complete love: love that’s mature enough to embrace what we have in common as well as what we don’t.

    And to bring it back to books–I hear tell that reading fiction does indeed help people to be more empathetic toward others. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nadine, thank you so much for sharing your insights and encouragement. I think you hit the nail on the head by clarifying our need to love one another through embracing BOTH our commonalities and differences. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the awesome discussion, Beth Erin! I think Allison and Nadine brought up many good points. I’ll just add think before you speak. So many hurtful comments would be lessen if you thought about how you would feel to hear the same comment. I know some people think they’re being nice when they say “I don’t see color” but that’s one comment that really gets under my skin. Are you saying you don’t see me and that you’re ignoring every injustice that I’ve been through? Just something to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Colorblind” as I was taught and referenced above was really just a bandaid for our limited chance encounters with diversity (rare occasions when we would travel for the most part). My mom would remind us not to gawk at folks who don’t look just like us and treat everyone with equal kindness and smiles.
      Thank you for giving me a specific example to consider. Please just consider me the clueless white girl who is trying to understand and eager to not only learn but share what I learn with others.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I remember how much it blew my mind to learn that being “colorblind” was a bad thing as that is what I was taught was right, growing up. I think moving past “colorblindness” is part of our journey as a culture/society. Even we look of our journey as a country, it went from the horribleness of treating people of color like they were “savages” or animals to owning them and then from freeing them into segregation. Then a beginning attempt to see as equals with the idea of everyone is the same (i.e. colorblindness). But now we have moved to realize the injustice in that and how it ignores people’s heritage and also their sufferings.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my sweet vanilla Beth! I love you and your heart! This is such a great discussion – thank you for saying what’s been on my mind too! Loving these comments. Learning from others is the first step to bringing about change.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never commented here before, but Beth Erin, this is exactly where I am too. I want to understand. I’m now intentionally reading diversely–never noticed before that I wasn’t! because like so many white Christians, I was raised in “colorblindness” with the logic that “God loves us all the same” and the frequently referenced “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” It’s only been in the last year or two that I’ve finally seen/heard/understood WHY colorblindness is hurtful, that it is not God’s plan for His church, and that its very existence is proof that the life experiences of us vanilla folk are intrinsically different than the experiences of people of color. I want to do better at seeing and hearing, especially my brothers and sisters in Jesus. But I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to offend or hurt someone by asking the wrong things. So I’m mostly lurking and listening and trying to learn. And praying for God to fill in my gaps.

    Thanks to all the commenters for opening your hearts, and I pray we are all able to reflect God’s glory more fully as we walk together in the paths He has marked for each of us. I hope my own path will intersect more frequently with my Christian brothers and sisters of color. I will most definitely blunder sometimes, and I’m sorry for that. But I promise I will not be blind to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The assumption that people from other cultures are not educated can be an issue too. I did a masters here and like to work with dreams. Just because I was raised in Ireland and lived beside bogland I am not “from the bog,” something an Irish person might say about an uneducated person.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I also met people in my counseling practice whose qualifications from another country were not recognized here and so they would have to do work that had nothing to do with their education/qualifications/experience.

    Like

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