George Floyd’s brutal death has been a very obvious case of Racism and I am so glad that the world is uniting to take a stand against it and injustices of various magnitudes. But I wonder, if the world actually understands what Racism is, where it starts from and what it has caused us.
From my own experience of being married for 7 years to my black African husband, I have realised that there is a lot of premonitions on people’s minds regarding Race without them even knowing it.
Let me start with myself. In 2011, I was attending a Discipleship Training School (DTS) where I met Emmanuel, my husband. He was one of the co-Leaders of the school and in the beginning, I just respected him as my leader, we had a normal staff-student interaction. But when we went for the outreach phase of the program in different groups to different countries, it happened that he was the one to lead the group that I was in; Locations were France, Spain and Portugal. We started from Paris, the capital of France, a big city where we had to use the Metro alot. Though the Metro system in Paris can be quite confusing, I did expected that Emmanuel, being our leader should know how to get us from A to B. That’s what you expect from your leader, to know everything right?
One afternoon while we all stayed back at our hostel, Emmanuel went out alone and for a very long time he did not come back and we started to worry if all was well. At the end of the day he made it back safely, but told us that he got lost with the metro, and decided to take off the metro and walk instead, which took him definitely longer to trace his way back. With this incident, I started thinking “what kind of leader is that, who even can’t navigate the metro“. I gradually started to undermine him and soon enough we started having misunderstandings. With time, my heart was full with a lot of anger towards him, I didn’t like that and so I prayed to God, asking Him to please let me see him, how He sees him, let me have an understanding for him. On the next day, I felt I should seek a conversation with Emmanuel and I told him the things that offended me about him. We ended up talking for more than 3 hours, so that we almost missed the special Christmas dinner with our host family.
From that day on, something in my heart changed and our relationship got alot better, in fact we became very good friends, and even more, I fell in love with him. This ‘falling in love‘ brought a lot of confusion for me in the beginning, I was so surprised that I had feelings for him all of a sudden even when he was not necessarily my ideal type. I never really imagined dating a black man. I had a taste, yes, for these latin-american type of man, but not black? I found myself in an inner battle; in one hand I liked his character a lot and I could see a soul-mate in him, and on the other hand there were so many doubts, fears and prejudices regarding his nationality. I had little thoughts like Africans smell, they are poor – so he wouldn’t be able to provide, and then there were the cultural differences etc. I remembered as a young girl innocently asking my father what he would think, when I would marry an African later on as a grown up, he responded that this wouldn’t be a good idea because of the big cultural differences.
While getting to know Emmanuel more and more, I noticed that I had some prejudices against Africans that I was never really aware of. I was someone who really loved the nations and who always was curious about different cultures, I would not have thought I had so much junk in my head. I am so glad that I became aware of these prejudices so that I could start early to confront them.
To mention briefly, I got to understand that a great leader isn’t neccessarily one who can do all by herself or himself but, rather one who can mobilize and disciple others well, discovering and championing their gifts for the benefit of the group. That is exactly what Emmanuel did for us his students which, I got to deeply appreciate later on. And we eventually never got lost in our outreach. We had a native French amongst us and I was the Spanish/Portugese interpreter since I have been to both countries. And so as a Team combining our different strengths and experience, we did amazingly well.
Furthermore, I felt so priviledged that I could get to know and still getting to know this beautiful culture of my husband. In the meantime, I met so many lovely, intelligent, funny, talented and inspiring Africans, and I could even visit Nigeria twice, once for three months leading to our marriage and the second time for three weeks as a couple on missions. There are so many riches in this country Nigeria that I have also seen in many other African people. Indeed, that there is corruption and criminality, but believe me, people there suffer enough from their own system, most of them are victims of a very bad government. Innocent people like you and me.
The difference is “just” since they come from a so called “Third World“ nation we easily treat them like that – as Third class. As if they are not educated enough and we need to teach the illiterates. When they come to our western world we can easily accept them as refugees or low class workers, because they are coming from this poor, dirty and uneducated continent, right? Truth is, what the media portraits is not the full picture. Africa cannot be portrayed just for that. Just as much as Germany cannot be seen as descendance of Hitler having only strict laws, cold-hearted, but hard working people. There is always much more to explore. And yes, Germans may carry from their cultural values more honesty in general while Nigerians should be known for perseverance and positivity mentality just to mention a few. This does not make all Germans honest people or all Nigerians happy and strong. No! That is why, you can never reduce or generalise cultural values on individuals.
I think most of Western people can be compassionate when it comes to helping the poor needy people in Africa. Which is great, but when it comes to giving an African a position or showing him/her respect based on their competency, I think a lot of people still struggle. Blacks have to be 300% better to be accepted for a position that their white counterpart only requires the normal 100%.
I hope and I pray, that through the awareness of these extreme unjust racial death cases God will change hearts. May there be no more death, may justice and righteousness grow in our heads, and in our hearts. May God transform us and help us to embrace every human being equally with their differences for God is a God of variety and there is so much we can learn from each other. Variety is the spice of life and before God we all have the same value.