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

9/06/2017 Estreitta de Kluetz 0 Comments



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:



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