Crossing the Racial Divide Pt 1: The Pursuit of Racial Reconciliation



Since the Charlottesville attacks, at my church Upper Room Dallas our leadership has been discussing racial reconciliation and how we as followers of Christ should address the tensions in America inside and outside the church. It has been a powerful few weeks of teaching and getting the opportunity to hear candidly from our pastors as well as church leaders in the community and those in our congregation their perspectives, insights and life experiences as it relates to prejudices, bigotry, and racism.

I have grown up in Church my ENTIRE Life and I have NEVER EVER heard the topic of racial reconciliation spoken in Church. This is has been a prayer of my heart since my 20's and I am so blessed to be a part of a church who is willing to approach this topic with a desire to see healing, restoration and reconciliation in the body of Christ and in our community.

Growing up we attended predominantly caucasian churches with the exception of one when we lived in Fort Worth. My family was typically one of maybe 2 - 4 other families that were Hispanic in our tiny country town AG church. I am blessed to say that I have never experienced any prejudices and or bigoted attitudes towards me or my family because of our ethnicity in the churches i've attended.


In 1982, our family moved from Pennsylvania to Texas. I honestly had no clue I was different until I moved to Texas. I was bullied, made fun of, and treated horribly by other kids because i didnt look like them. 

I had never experienced such hatred and disdain and I was 7 years old. In Pennsylvania I wasnt treated any differently never received any type of bullying in school. I didn't understand why this was happening to me. I didnt understand why other kids were so mean to me. Then in the summer of 1983 we moved from the city to the country the bullying & teasing increased and was worse than in the city. I went home crying myself to sleep every night. 

It wasn't until I was in college that I realized most of this behavior was a result of systemic racism and prejudices towards Hispanics in the south.

In middle school I was made fun of and was told I was mexican, my mother is from central american country Honduras. In Texas, Mexicans were (an often still are) considered the lowest class of people. Maybe because of my name or because of my skin tone, I was being basically told that I don't matter or I am not valued because of my ethnicity. I tried to tell them I was white and I wasn't different then them, I even brought my baby pictures to school to prove to everyone I was Born White...They did not relent.





DISCOVERING MY OWN HIDDEN PREJUDICES

When I was sixteen I was volunteering as a candy striper at a local Ft Worth Hospital. I was informed, "You're still a wetback you family just swam further" after I told the 16 year old boy that I was not mexican because my family originated from Spain.

With the exception of that ignorant boy, the tone in which people would ask me, "Are you Mexican?" would quickly change when I inform them I was of Spanish descent.

This perpetual association built prejudices in me towards Mexicans and even my own Hispanic heritage.  I began to have a sense of superiority because my Great Grandparents were from Spain. I even decided I didn't like Mexican Food, as a form of protest.  I began to think since I wasn't Mexican I was better than them. In high school my friends gave me the nick name Estreitta "I'm Not A Mexican" Martin because of the continual question being asked of me and my response.

It took till I went to my Christian college in Minnesota for me to realized the prejudices I had towards Mexicans and my Hispanic Heritage. I repented for my mindset and began embracing who I was and my Hispanic roots. I even went from being called Es-tree-dah to Es-tray-ee-tah.

While most of the blatant prejudices have subsided in my adulthood.  After a ten year break from living in the midwest, I discovered there are more subtle forms of racism that I have seen since I moved back to Texas in 2004. Most of the ignorance is coupled with the fact that while many of the individual may be seemingly nice people, they have unfortunately been raised with a prejudice mindset and philosophy passed down generation after generation within a southern culture that perpetuates and degrades people of color.


DO YOU REMEMBER EVER SEEING THE DISNEY MOVIE "SONG OF THE SOUTH"?


There is a lot of controversy surrounding this movie because it:
  1. Downplays the tension around the reconstruction era
  2. Portrays former slaves as incoherent unintelligent buffoons
  3. It glorifies plantation life as something cheerful and pleasant 
This movie was released in 1946, 83 years after President Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation, 80 years after Jim Crow Laws were put in effect, and segregation was a way of life in the south.  It took about 20 more years afterwards till the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 to become law of the Land that abolished the latter.

I actually have fond memories of this movie, I remember going to the movies to see as a 5 year old little girl when it was re-released in 1980. This movie is etched in my mind and when I recall it often and I see Uncle Remus walking down the cartoon path singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. We even bought a disney record that had this song on it and we would play all the time and sing along.

As a child you have no idea about any of these complex issues or the somewhat subliminal messaging that is being instilled and ingrained subtly.  (There are many other Disney movies that when you see them.)

I remember the first time I learned about Slavery was when we moved to Texas and I didn't understand why the kids were teasing me because I was a Yankee. I asked my mom why they were calling me that.  My mom told me about the civil war and how the Yankees defeated the Rebel forces that led to freedom of the slaves.

I was so heartbroken over this horrible history in our nation. Yet, I was proud to carry the label of a Yankee. Understanding fully at 7 years old that my being a Yankee meant that I was on the right side of history.  So when they teased me the next day I proudly declared, "Yes, I am a Yankee. At least, WE won the civil war! You are the losers."  They had no rebuttal.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP

This last Sunday at church two members with whom our pastor Michael Miller has been meeting and discussing the issue of racism regularly were asked to share their stories.  Very Eye Opening and once the message is made public I will add below.  At the end of the service there was a call for repentance and renouncing of mentalities that may have been unknowingly taught to us.

I encourage you to search your heart, mind and spirit. Seek the Lord for any roots of racism, bigotry, or prejudices towards a people group because of your upbringing, or the part of the country you grew up in or your parents and grandparents attitudes towards people of a different race or being a recipient of mistreatment from certain people groups because of your ethnicity. It is an eye opening experience, one that is terrifying and revealing but the outcome is totally worth it. 


Repentance & Renouncing Generational Racism, Bigotry & Prejudices is the first step to crossing the racial divide.


Here are some of the recent Messages that I HIGHLY Recommend:



A Different Warrior




I wrote this poem after taking a class at Northwestern College called Biblical Racial Reconciliation. I wrote it as part of my final paper for the class.My own experiences coupled with hearing stories of friends who experienced the same kind of injustices of racism and prejudices from all over the country branded me today with the desire to speak out and hold fast to pursue racial reconciliation in the communities i belong to inside and out side of the church:

A DIFFERENT WARRIOR

Written by I. Estreitta Martin (1999)


To change one's perspective
To know one's pain
To be a person that's differnt
Sometimes pay the price to feel a little bit the same

To sense what it was like, by walking in their shoes
For Family
To God
Their cries echoed
Through the night

The life they were allowed to live
There wasn't a lot of choices
They had no choice to make

All they knew was
One Day
Some Day
Even Any Day,
Freedom would be in sight

To hear their heart wailing for change
The barriers that seem to never Go AWAY
Knowing that this victory would not be done in vain

No matter if anyone else might try
Try to Stop
Stop the Truth they have to say

The warrior is crying within them to pursue this to the end
Something must be done
Something must stop this agony flowing through their veins
These issues are vital and but be made amend
Their Leader is the Almighty and His presence ultimately rules and reigns

No obstacle, nor distraction can hod back these warriors
Warriors ready to stand and fight
They do this in honor and acknowledgement for the One who is their Guide
To the One that empowers and and strengthens them
With Him before them, around them, and behind them
They will truly see and walk in his might
They will rise up against the enemy to fight
Suited up are these warriors of light
Their journey begins with roaring chants that God is on their side
Which will lead them to victory and the devil's final demise

They keep faith, and not loose hope
So God makes a way
Pulling out all the roots of bigotry, along with strife, hostility and shame
For they know that love, peace and joy will be the enemy's dismay

All dressed for battle holding the sword of righteousness
Cutting out all bondages of demonic strongholds that have plagued out society even to this day
Their mouths filled with truth to break the powers of darkness over the centuries of lies

Keeping the vision in their hearts and souls
Staying prepared
For the path that is rugged and steep
With the knowledge that there is much work ahead

This warrior of a different kind
To some may appear to be weak, inferior, insignicant
But this warrior is determined to pursue justice that he is called to defend
They have a Christ centered Message
With confidence
that ignorance, prejudice, and racism will finally come to an end

They keep moving forward
Pressing on til unity is positioned in it's rightful in place
Because when it does
Everyone will know
The Message will finally be heard of what needed to be said.






Close Encounters with A Smile



Check out the recent Talk Amongst Ourselves Podcast on this topic:

WHAT SMILING DOES FOR YOU


They say when you are having a stressful day to put a pen or pencil in you mouth horizontally because it makes your brain think you are smiling and alleviates stress.  I know it works because I have used this tactic during my college years when I would be studying for a test and I could feel a stress headache coming on.  

From what I understand, the messages a smile sends to the brain activates the pleasure & reward mechanisms and produces feelings of happiness, tranquility and comfort. Your body feels like it just won the lottery and ready to face what ever comes your way with positivity and focus.



WHAT SMILING DOES FOR OUR CULTURE


I have noticed over the course of my 41 years on this earth that the simplest kindest thing you could do for another person especially a stranger in passing is gaining eye contact with them then say hello (acknowledging their existence) with a smile (a gift with no expectations).



When I was in college at what is now known as University of Northwestern... This was part of the campus culture, an unspoken one, but whenever you'd pass by someone especially walking to and from class to the dorms you'd always say "Hey, how's it Going..." Or "Hello" with a smile, wether you knew that person or not. When I attended there we had under 2000 students attending so it was small enough to be close knit but yet as large as the small town in Texas I grew up in.

In the back roads of small country towns of Texas like I grew up in, there was a thing I noticed even at a 10 year old that was different from the east coast where I was born.  My father who grew up outside of Philadelphia, moved us to Texas so he could fulfill his life long dream of owning a farm in the southwest and become a cowboy.  seriously though.  My dad was the kind of guy that could talk to anyone anywhere at any time, there were no such things as strangers for Bill Martin.  I mean even wrong number calls my dad would engage with them and get to know them.

So as a little girl, my dad would take my mom, brother and I on Saturday drives and we would just drive drive drive all over the back roads between Azle, Decator, Weatherford, Peaster and Springtown just sightseeing listening to oldies music as we drove around in my Dad's pick up truck.  The thing I noticed is in Texas you would signal a driver that was coming from the opposite direction and you would raise your hand and wave with a smile.  When ever I go visit my family who still live in the area the drivers still do the same thing as they did 30 years ago.


WHAT SMILING DOES FOR OTHERS


A few weeks ago, I was walking inside a local QT to grab a drink and as an older black gentleman was walking out and I said, "Hello" and smiled at him. He immediately stopped dead in his tracks looked at me, Smiled and went back and grabbed the door.



It was a kewl moment where two strangers who will probably never cross paths again intersected for a moment and kindness was shared.  Smiles transcend cultural, religious, economic and racial differences and if more of us, Especially those who are believers in Jesus this should be part of the great commission. Smiling shares the Love of God, Smile offers compassion and understanding, Smiling offers Hope. A Smile doesn't judge it just lightens up a room.  And you really don't even need to say a word... Just Smile... The words will come as you step out in do it more.


The thing about smiling at a perfect stranger is that more often than not they will smile back at you.  I only once had someone give me a scowl when I smiled at him. It was an elderly man on a train in Germany. 



We were traveling to the airport with a huge group (36) of friends from church.  We Americans are a little more rambunctious than our German counter parts. We were singing and laughing and having a good time. 

Then I could feel these eyes staring at us and I looked at this Man right in the eyes and smiled.  You know this man who had a sour face just tightened up his scowl even more then when it was time for him to get off the train he got us shook his head and mumbled "AĆ¼slander" which means foreigner and got off the train. 

So even if your smile gets rejected its still better to give one as you never know how that may impact on the person.  A Smile is the perfect gift we can give the world and it doesn't even cost us anything.  Yeah it might feel awkward at first, but just like with anything you have to step out and take the first step and the more you do it it becomes more natural and you don't even think about it.




Yesterday was World Smile Day, but I think everyday should be World Smile Day! Try to make an effort to smile at those you encounter you never know how profound that moment could be!




Principles of Sowing & Reaping - Walking in the Fruits of Spirit


THE PRINCIPLE OF SOWING & REAPING

2 Corinthians 9:6

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously


The biblical principle of reaping & sowing is so much bigger than just the financial benefits of giving and tithing then receiving supernatural financial blessings. Most of the time when we hear this message it's about giving your tithes and offerings but I believe that we can apply this to how we walk out the fruits of the Spirit in our everyday life.

The principle says that if you sow or plant something you will reap something.  There are lots of other factors that contribute to the growth of the thing you plant. It has to be good soil and you have to cultivate it by taking all the rocks out and taking the weeds out and watering regularly and it will grow.  While I may not have a green thumb when it comes to plants, I try to apply the principle in my life by how I respond to circumstances or people that may come my way.

I was thinking the other day about with the Help of the Holy Spirit I am able to walk in the fruits of the Spirit and when I do that there are supernatural benefits to it:  

For every deposit of love I sow, I will reap supernatural love
For every deposit of peace I sow, I will reap supernatural peace
For every deposit of joy I sow, I will reap supernatural joy


That means, when I make those deposits I have the ability to supernaturally cash in and cancel out any hate, anxiety, fears, poor thinking... and the reason is because of  how I have sowed the fruits of the Spirit in the past. 

So every deposit we make, it is put in an account for us ready and waiting for us to get it when we need it. and it just gets added to our account everytime we walk in the fruits of the Spirit. And it is waiting ready for the taking in our time of need! No when we have sown the fruits of the Spirit, when a challenge comes - we get to make a withdrawal to help us walk in the fruits of the Spirit even when every evil thing comes against us.

It's because it's supernatural and only thru the Holy Spirit can we walk in the fruits of the Spirit in the face of crisis and destruction.



APPLICATION OF WALKING IN THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT


A few months ago when there were some questionable things that popped up on my mammogram and the doctors wanted to do a biopsy. I struggled with so many emotions and I felt old fears and anxieties creep in.. That I had thought I dealt with 8 years ago. I walked through it trusting in the promise that I am an overcomer and that I would not be a victim of cancer!

I had a choice in this instance... Was I gonna let my mind kill and destroy every good thing... every dream... every vision the Lord has put in my heart for the last 8 years or was I going rise above this and trust that God would indeed show me how I am an overcomer again.

When I got the news I was with my husband... We were both in shock... Confused and at a loss for words. He had to go back to work.. And I didn't want to go home and be alone with my thoughts. So I immediately went to one of my BFF's Rhonda's house told her what was going on and her family rallied around me and prayed for me. The heaviness I felt creeping in dissipated. My fear turned to faith, my sorrow into Gladness.

I honestly believe if I had not spent the last few years sowing faith, joy, peace, love... I would have been an nervous wreck which wouldn't have helped anything...

But instead when I stood on God's promises then I stared at fear and anxiety in the face I said my strength comes from the Lord... And I know God is not finished with me yet.

So how much so would the Lord provide supernatural peace when a great devastation or turbulence come into your life?  Or provide Supernatural Love when your husband isn't being nice to you or you've been dealing with disrespectful and condescending people, or some stranger judges you because of you are Hispanic, Asian or Black and mistreats you because of their own prejudices and bigotry. 

My dear friend Amy Coello and I were discussing this today and she said, 

"It's easy to love some one and walk in the Spirit when they are nice to you, it's supernatural when you have to choose to do it in faith and love them anyway."


With that I conclude with this... start applying this principle into every area of your life and see how your perspective, your reactions, your perceptions completely change! That's how the economy of Heaven works!


Galatians 5:22-23 

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control


We aren't promised that we won't go through trials and tribulations but we are promised that he will help us get through it. Walking in the fruits of the Spirit is how we have strength to overcome it all!


What's in a Name?



Most of the time when I first meet people I get asked if I have a nickname. Infact like 3 people asked me that just this weekend. I totally understand I have a unique name and for some it may be difficult to pronounce at first, but over time people usually get it.

I usually say it first with the Spanish r's then tell people "if you can't roll your R's its Es-TRAY-ee-TAH like a Tray that you Eat on" then I see the light go on and they get it.

I don't get offended if people don't say my name correctly Infact I worked with a pastor for 3 years and it took him 3 years to pronounce it correctly. But is it wrong of me that I get annoyed when people ask me if I have a nickname?

When I was 21, the Lord convicted me that I was ashamed of my Hispanic heritage because of the prejudices others had towards those of latino descent especially in Texas and I accepted those prejudices. As a result, over the years I introduced myself to others to call me variations of my name: E, Est, Streets, Streeda, Estrayda, Estreeda.

All just so I could fit in and be more accepted... i realized assimilated and instead of embracing my heritage I fled as far from it and even though my skin color and features revealed i was of Hispanic decent... In all reality I wanted to be considered white... i even brought my baby pictures to school to show them that I was born white.

When I realized what I had allowed into my own heart, I repented and asked the Lord to help me embrace my culture. I began to advocate and communicate about the plight of people of color and the effects of assimilation has on our society.

I remember the Lord saying to me "Estreitta, 'Estreeda' doesnt mean anything but Estreitta means Little Star in Spanish and I have called you to be a bright light in a big darkness, so when people say your name they are Speaking out (prophesying) what I have called you to!"

That changed everything for me and It has lead me over the last 20 years of discovering and embracing my Hispanic heritage. When I got my DNA Test last year it has been an amazing journey of discovery as well and now that I know that I also have Native American 25% and West African 11% heritage as well and I am looking forward to #findingmyroots