There’s a lot of things I wish I had as a kid: pink highlights, an mp3 player, and a phone, to name a few of the items on my list. These were things that back then I thought would have helped me – as the sole brown-skinned girl in an all-white school – fit in a bit more. Even more than that, I wish I could have had a Bible as a kid that depicted Jesus as a brown-skinned man. I wish one of my pastors or Bible teachers would have told me that God created culture and ethnicity on purpose and as part of his design for human flourishing on this earth. And I really wished that someone would have told me that who I was, as a bicultural Indian American woman, mattered.
Some of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. Many of us were not taught to cherish, let alone celebrate, our cultural identities. Our journeys have been defined more by experiences of shame and intentional choices to hide who we really are; of sitting alone in the school cafeteria because kids thought our homemade ethnic food smelled weird and people making fun of the way we look and dress. If you are a person of color, it’s more than likely that at some point in your life (or perhaps even still now) you were made to feel like your culture, your skin color, and your ethnic heritage did not belong.
And for that I am sorry. This is not the way it was supposed to be.
Here at Pax we believe that God created you with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image in the world. In the beginning, God created all of humankind in His image, male and female alike (Gen. 1:26), each with our own unique ethnicities and stories to tell. As Trillia Newbell writes in her book, God’s Very Good Idea, “God’s idea was to make PEOPLE… lots of people… lots of different people… who would all enjoy loving him and all enjoy loving each other.” Each of us are cultural image bearers. Whether you have vanilla, chocolate or caramel skin, you were made on purpose and to delight in the uniqueness of your ethnicity, cultural identity and story.
These truths are foundational to who we are as human beings. But I also recognize that we are still having hard conversations about this as followers of Jesus. Not everyone approaches cultural identities the same way. Some people misquote Galatians 3:28 and argue that we shouldn’t talk about culture so much, since we’re all one in Christ. Others have been blinded by the lies of white supremacy and believe that the only accepted culture in the U.S. is white culture (an abstract concept that mostly just equates to an absence of culture).
The theme of our second StoryArc is cultural identity and we have created this as a resource by and for Christians of color as we navigate the spaces we are in. The stories, articles, poetry included here and more are meant as a tool to equip, educate, and empower you on why your cultural identity matters. We want to give you the biblical framework and language you need to develop your own cultural identity, to find healing, and to learn how to speak truth in love in the conversations on culture that you’re having with your family and peers.
Leaning into your God-given cultural identity will take time. The process may be slow and that’s OK. As you hear from fellow Christians, know that you are not alone. We see you and are here for the journey.