Ashley Diaz Mejias,
I write this as 34 year seminarian and old mom of two girls; my husband is haitian and puerto rican, and I am cuban and white. I am part of a church that, over the past year, has walked through race dialogues in an effort to begin bearing witness to what we all believe to be God’s heart for the world — diversity and inclusivism that neither fears nor dilutes difference, but rather teaches us to bear with one another in the places of tension and suffering. I helped to craft the curriculum that we walked through, and we tried to encourage our church to understand that race is a socially constructed category — in one way, it *doesn’t* matter– and yet it has so profoundly shaped our history, tradition, and experience — so it absolutely matters. We’ve done fairly well, I suppose.
As a student of race and theology in graduate school, I think we have worked very hard. Unfortunately, though, even as the church strives to be inclusive racially, we are still pretty terrible at it. Our church manages to do some things well — we are in a diverse area in Richmond, we do talk about race, a LOT, we are confessional in our theology, and we are beginning to look things like privilege, whiteness, etc. However, my kids — and the kids of many Americans — fall between the cracks in the public conversation on race. My daughters will never have a church that is exclusively for them, they will bear the curse that I’ve born of having people look at them in their colorblindness and assume they are white (I’ve had people say things like, “oh! your last name doesn’t SOUND caucasian” “you’re not really cuban though, I mean, you aren’t right? you’re too white.”). My husband’s ethnicity evokes all sorts of reactions. I realize the understanding that all of these demands is really, a return to a more curious posture towards our fellow human. I often leave these race conversations slightly hopeful and mostly grieved, though, because I know we have so, so far to go. We still give in to the pull towards “colorblindness”, which means, for me, I go unseen.