Race & Culture

Courageous Story Telling: “Going Back to Go Forward”

This is part of our new Devotional series on “Race & Culture” where we will be covering topics that relate to Hope, Humility, & Healing as well as taking a look at some of the stories from around our fellowship. This particular devotional is a combination of story and personal reflections by Kofi!

You can Check out all of our devotionals from our new series on Culture & Race here

You can check out all of Devotionals here


Going back to go Forward

by: Kofi Manning

 

The tragic event of George Floyds murder and the events transpiring after has led me to a deep time of reflection. It made me question who we are as a society, what truly are the grounds that we are standing on, and who am I in all of this. And after doing some research I discovered that I am truly entrenched, right in the heart of this issue of race related problems in America. Suddenly the parts of the United States that my parents are from mean that much more to me. It is that much more intriguing and relevant to who I am as a person. The history of America, and of the south is suddenly a part of my story.

My Story

My mother is from Columbus Mississippi. My Father is from Williamston, North Carolina. They both being born around 1955 means that they were born when Jim Crow laws were still in effect (Jim Crow was “off the books” in 1964 but continued beyond in many places). Although President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 which legally ended the segregation that had been institutionalized by Jim Crow, there’s no doubt that race relations would remain a major problem throughout the country and would influence their world views.

Interestingly, my Father and mother did not meet each other in the South. Their parents both left their Southern homes with their youngest children to seek opportunities in the North. My parents met when my mother’s family moved into Stamford, CT, they were actually neighbors! My mother was about 14 years old when she met my Father and I came along about 5 years later in 1974 when my mother was 19 or 20 (I am their first born).

What I’m Learning

Growing up my dad often talked to us about race as it related to being black in the United States. He often would talk about racism and the plight of the “black man” at the hands of the “white man”. He would talk about “the struggle” and would point out different times in history where bigotry and racial injustices were played out against black people. He told us about Huey P. Newton and the Black Panthers Party. He pointed us to Malcolm X. He talked to us about many of these things, and in all honesty, I didn’t fully understand what he was trying to tell us, or even understand him in all of it. I seriously thought that my dad had some racial issues and I never felt compelled to adopt those views.

How little did I know, how little did I see, how little did I understand! My Father had witnessed so much and knew so much. He had seen very clearly and had known so thoroughly America’s history of racial injustice and its present state of inequalities.

I have always understood that there was some prejudice and bigotry in this country. I knew there was a history of slavery (“a long, long, long, time ago”). I was taught that it was really bad for a white person to call us the N-word. I even vaguely understood that for some reason a black person might get discriminated against because of race and skin color and sometimes not be treated as nicely. However, what I didn’t know or understand (even up until recently) was the true extent and the severity of racism in America. I did not see how the foundation of racial injustice and inequality is still crippling us in the U.S. and strongly hurting and dividing people. I certainly believe now so much more that this truth needs to be thoroughly exposed and destroyed. Especially in the church.

My Hope for the Future

John 17:20-23

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

My desire for us in the church is that we would be unified in exactly this way, with exactly this love in God and Christ and I am confident that we can have this kind of amazing harmony amongst us.

I do think that there are things that each of us can do a better job with to make this more of a reality:

  1. Appreciate the differences in cultures – One thing I intend to do differently is learn to appreciate the differences in cultures, backgrounds, and experiences of others. It is much too easy to question, dismiss, and even find fault with the likes and interest of others. I think it’s important to take more of an interest in the things that make others different and unique. We can explore different foods and try different music, and listen to the stories of others as they tell of their upbringing and the things make them who they are. It is just as important for me to listen and know the story of others as it is to be known and to share my story. I believe that making this one simple change would begin to tear down walls and barriers that typically divide in terms of race. How rewarding and fulfilling would it be to experience relationships with one another in this way!
  2. Learn the History – Another thing I think is very important for us to do is to take some time to learn the true history of the United States, especially as it pertains to race. I dare to say that many of us haven’t been truly informed, or have had history white washed, and therefore have been blind to the reality of many of our social and relational issues in this country. I see that racism has been a major characteristic of the United States for a very long time. It has been built upon and weaved into America’s makeup.
  3. Remember & Honor – I also see that black men and women of the past, those who fought for civil rights, who fought for this country that refused to declare them equal, those whose homes and property were destroyed simply because they too wanted to be productive citizens, those who although on paper were American citizens yet instead were inhumanely hung from trees and segregated, and those whose children, and fathers and mothers were stripped away or sold away as property, these black American men, women, and children should be remembered in high regard and honor. Their story, as horrific as it is, will forever be ingrained in the American fabric.


I feel so blessed to have come from a lineage of African American people whose story of struggle, resolve, fight, and triumph is undeniably the true story of American History. It is them that made my liberties possible. Although their story may be buried in the chronicles of America or only sporadically brought out into the light, it is one that is as American as Abraham Lincoln.

 

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