In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, people all over the Internet have much to say on both sides. I’m not going to go in to great detail about the case or the verdict, but I do feel motivated to share a few thoughts I’ve had recently about race and culture as it relates to what just happened in my home state, Florida.
I am mixed. Bi-racial. A mulatta. Whatever you want to call it, my mother is white and my father is black, and this is a source of great pride for me. I have two loving parents who defy the statistics and cherish each other and their three “mixed” children.
I decided early on that it did not matter the race of my future husband. He could be black, white, Asian, hispanic, Romanian for that matter (throwback to 1997). I was attracted to all sorts of characters. Perhaps this is the blessing of being mixed and being encouraged not to judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character (thank you Dr. King). I try not see the world with a bias toward one or the other race. Now culture, though, that is another issue.
I remember when I began to date Luke. I asked him directly how he felt about being with a woman of another race. He immediately affirmed that he LOVED that I was black. To give a bit of background, we met on Eharmony and LD checked every box but white on his profile to search for his future wife. Race did matter to him in a way…he wanted to marry a woman of another race. What he didn’t want though, and proceeded to share with me that night, was a woman of another culture.
Leslie, we are more alike that you think. We are both Christians, Presbyterians, REFORMED for that matter. We both live in Orlando, are familiar with RTS, have similar convictions politically, etc. How likely is it that we’d end up together, but for the grace of Eharmo, I mean God?
This was the first time I’d thought about the difference between race, ethnicity, and culture. Webster’s fifth definition of culture is as follows:
the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group
There are good and bad characteristics of any culture. A white man can participate in another culture, not typical for his race, and be accepted and vice versa. He can pick and choose how he expresses himself. I’m no sociologist, but in my opinion race is the genetic makeup of a person, but culture is how one expresses his values and convictions in life and these expressions do not have to necessarily be rooted in his race or ethnicity (but often are).
This is why it was uncomfortable for me dating a good friend who was black in high school. He did not share the same values theologically and politically. I had the same experience with a white guy in college too. And I even had the sobering experience of dating a Christian man who shared my convictions theologically and politically, but was not attracted to me (assumed it was because I was black). These three situations in particular have all shed light on the differences between race and culture for me.
So, now, with little ones to raise and to teach this stuff too, where do we begin? Racism still exists in our world. I believe it will until glory because people are sinful and cannot and will not ever make it right on their own. I also do not believe that the American people owe blacks anything any longer for the past sins of slavery. I welcome questions or comments as to why, but suffice it to say that I do not believe in remaining in some sort of jaded societal debt, for it will never be repaid. The sin of slavery was so great, that I’m convinced only the gospel of Jesus Christ can build bridges and bring true peace to whites and blacks in this country, but even then it’s only temporary. We all long to be redeemed: black, white, mixed, whatever. The Gospel makes way for a new, shared culture between two people who otherwise would not get along.
As a mulatto Christian woman, I gladly receive the good aspects of my heritage on both sides but what makes me who I am is not my race, but my Judeo-Christian cultural convictions, my faith. What follows is a list of things that came to mind after the Trayvon Martin case as it relates to race and culture.
Our Christian culture takes priority in behavior, beliefs and attitudes, political ideology and what we teach our children about others. I’m black, but I am first a follower of Christ. If there’s anything about black or white “culture” that disagrees with the Scriptures, I reject it.
No race or class should be protected, regardless of the past. If a man does something wrong, he ought to be judged on his actions, and not doggedly protected because of his race. We should be careful not to do the very thing we hate: judge a man based on the color of his skin.
Markers of “good” culture are education, ethic, language and arts, love and compassion, justice, etc. I would go as far to say if you look like a thug and act like a thug (regardless of your race) you should be judged as a thug. Thuggery may include drug use, lack of respect for man, bad language, violence, etc. Thuggery is never, never a good thing. It ought to be rejected in society. Even if the person is black.
I am praying for both the Martin and Zimmerman families. I am saddened by the whole thing, but I do think justice was served. I praise God that the jury did their job and judged this case on the facts presented in a court of law. May God redeem what is broken in our country with his love and truth. If you are a Christian, I beg you to examine your heart and put your Christian culture above any racial or ethnic commitments in your life. This means you first identify with the church, whatever that looks like for you. Your primary identity is that which is in Christ. It is from this culture that great peace and productivity arise in society.