By Conference Minister Diane Weible
As a white, cisgender, female Christian, I live in a world where I take things for granted and don’t always see what I need to see.
And, I’m working on it. I’m working on seeing the world around me in new ways and seeking to find new awareness.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to explain to my daughters the work I’m doing in this area and I was receiving a lot of pushback. They reminded me that they grew up in Japan where they were the only white children in their school. And, while they are quick to admit that this had many advantages for them because they were white and from the United States, they also were deeply aware of their differences and were sometimes made to feel like outsiders. Moving from Japan to Hawaii did not change this for them. In their school with few other white students, it was assumed that they had come to Hawaii from the Mainland. On the rare occasion that someone would state their assumption out loud, “You are just a haole [white person] from the Mainland,” they would have a chance to say they had never lived in the Mainland and had, in fact, grown up in Japan.
They were explaining to me that they understand that as children of two white, cisgender, Christians who did grow up in the Mainland, they know they are aware of their privilege even as they also understand that they had been living in a multi-cultural setting for many years and that has shaped the way they experience reality.
While I know it is never wise to be envious of another person’s life situation because you never know how their experience is lived out, I realized that they had had experiences in their life that brought them an awareness about other cultures and ethnicities and experiences that I did not begin to encounter until I was an adult and that I continue to seek and understand for myself.
The more I get to know people who have had experiences very different from my own and the more I read books and watch TV programs and movies, the more my world opens up. I realize that my story that has always seemed so large in my life is but one small story in a sea of stories and experiences that I have yet to understand and learn. It is daunting and it is exciting.
As the Northern California Nevada Conference of the UCC continues on its journey of “Deep Conversations for Deep Concerns,” we will soon be offering opportunities for online conversations around books and movies and stories that help bring us to new awareness. My prayer is that as you see these opportunities advertised in the coming weeks and months you will join us for these conversations. The more we are willing to be open, the more we will receive and the more we will learn. These are the first steps towards authentic dialogue that can invite all of us to be part of God’s amazing work of transformation.