Blog Post

Let’s Talk: About Becoming Aware

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.

4 Comments

  • David Delaplane

    Diane: As an elderly retired clergy (but still facilitating personal spiritual growth groups and having one-on-ones) I wanted to ask you about a new term used in your comment. “cisgender” . I’m managing to keep up with all the alternative gender terms being used today, but this one is new to me.

    • Diane Weible

      Thanks for asking David! Cisgender means that my gender conforms with my sex at birth. I was born female and I identify as female now.

  • GRANT F SONTAG

    Diane, thanks for this. A family member of mine once claimed that in conversation with him I used the word gay all the time. I wasn’t aware of that but, as a gay man, I tried to explain my perspective to him in this way: “Imagine that, as a straight man, you grow up in an all gay society. Your parents are gay as are all your friends and relatives. The schools you go to are staffed entirely by gay people and all the other students are gay, at least as far as you know. When you watch TV, read a book or go to the movies, most of the characters are gay, although there are sometimes one or two who are portrayed as straight, but they are the exception. all the advertising you see – in print, television or film, features mostly gays. advertisements for such items as jewelry and wedding bands features same sex couples holding hands or looking adoringly at one another as they open their expensive gift. your church is filed with people who are mostly gay, and the church staff is predominantly gay. Just about every waking moment of your life you are immersed in gay culture. As a straight person you are aware from an early age that you are different, don’t fully fit in, although most people accept you because they assume you’re gay too. When you eventually find the courage to come out as straight of course you want people to know. Beginning with those closest to you, you claim your true identity. you find there are places you can go to meet other straights, straight dating sites, straight travel destinations and so on. There are even straight film festivals you can go to where male-female couples kiss. You find this incredibly exciting and feel liberated. Of course you bring up the term straight in conversation – and frequently!” (unfortunately the family member in question did not find my argument convincing!)

  • Garnet McClure

    Thanks for another good reminder that we ALL have fascinating and important stories… and should never make assumptions! None of us knows it all or has experienced it all–but we all have much to learn from one another.

Leave a Reply to Garnet McClure Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts