When I think of my experiences with race and equality, I think of a conversation I had in a course on Global Missions. The professor asked us, “What do we hate?” Some stayed quiet, unwilling to answer truthfully. However, I decided to break the ice and said I hated racism.
As an African-American male, I often felt uncomfortable taking night classes at my Seminary because I was afraid I would not make it back home to my family. In fact, I hated walking by White female students at night because they would grab their purses and look in the opposite direction. After expressing this in the class discussion, others joined in and some women admitted their racial prejudices and fear of Black men. It was a fruitful and healing conversation. Something even more fruitful came from the professor, who identifies as a minority as well. He gave me a huge hug and said, “I understand your experience because it happened to me as well. ”
Racial inequality is quite common and affects millions of people every day.
However, I have come to learn that the quest ought not be for equality only, but also for equity. People must find value in the lives and experiences of everyone especially the marginalized.
For instance, pursuing equality is to gain the same access as the dominant culture. When my white female seminary colleagues walked by me in fear, it did not change the fact that we were pursuing the same degree.
However, the pursuit of equity is a change in the image of the marginalized.
We find an example of this in the Parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel. The individual was beaten by his own people as well as overlooked by a priest and a Levite. It was the help of the Samaritan that healed his wounds and gave him shelter. We can exegetically assume that the victim had been taught through his culture not to trust Samaritans; however, it was the one he did not trust that saved his life.
A change in image has to occur in the minds of all people.
The goal of the Student Organization, The Onyx Group, at Fuller Theological Seminary is to create an enriched awareness of both African and African-American contributions to the world.
In 2015, as Student President, I worked with two other brilliant young men and lead campus-wide discussions on police injustice, community healing, and resource development. These events engaged all students with the complexity of racial issues and suggested solutions. It was our goal to provide the seminary community a distinct perspective of African and African American men. We showed our ability to lead, be self-sufficient, and theologically competent. However, those that interacted with our group had to have a willingness to embrace our group.
This is true for all society. People of the dominant culture must be willing to understand the marginalized. I propose that it begins with a willingness to understand history. African history is just a rich as that of the Western World. Drusilla D. Houston’s Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Kushite Empire, and Ivan Van Sertima’s They Came Before Columbus are two must reads for those that seek to understand African history prior to enslavement. Readings from James Cone, Howard Thurman, and Clenora Hudson-Weems are destined to change the lives of their readers. Although these are a few suggestions, one can find great appreciation by beginning with African and African-American Literature.
It must be the pursuit of all to establish equity and value.
Essentially, people respect that which they value and this begins with image.
How one sees another and understands their existence will be how they interact with the other.
Let the image change by people placing high value on each other because some day, we will all need our own Good Samaritan, and because there is value in an image, let us re-value the image of brothers and sisters of color and credit them as people of worth.
All Glory and Honor belongs to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
-Stephen Lamar Robertson
Stephen Lamar Robertson first responded to God’s call on his life with a passion for ministry as a Youth Pastor at Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church, Los Angeles, but now works as a Children, Youth and Family Director at Lutheran Church in the Foothills in La Canada Flintridge Ca.. He graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, CA., with a Masters in Divinity. On February 11th, 2017, Stephen joined in marriage with Shantell Darby Robertson who is a faithful Deacon, Cosmetologist, and Kindergarten Teacher. In addition to serving in ministry, Stephen served as an educator to visually-impaired and differently-abled youth at the Junior Blind of America and Braille Institute of America. He believes “It is important to not only educate youth in the Christian Faith, but to also ensure they are enriched to achieve their fullest potential.”