I can relate to my African American brothers and sisters with regard to racism, because I too have been on the end of experiencing violence and abuse because of race.
As a child in the 70’s, I grew up in a rural community in New York. I always felt like a freak because other children didn’t know what to make of me. They would ask, “Where are you from?” I would answer, “Korea.” Then the responses ranged from curiosity to indifference. Back then, no one knew where Korea was.
In the years from preschool to third grade, I had three bullies target me because I was not white. One boy would hit me and say horrible things to me. When I was about five years old, my two best friends and I went to his apartment to tell his parents. His father did not even care as my friends explained the situation.
The next two bullies were girls on the bus. They took my money. Other kids at school would make “ching chong” sounds even though I told them I wasn’t Chinese. They had no clue.
As an adult now, those years have deeply impressed me. I cannot stand with any person or group that oppresses another person or group of people. I know too well what that feels like to support it. The healing journey takes years when the abuse happens as a child because a child has no frame to understand why this is happening to them. Other children would have acted out in anger. I poured myself into my studies.
However, in the end, neither violence nor studies heals those wounds. Through the love and grace of Christ, healthy relationships with people who have truly modeled caring and love, and even as a part of my own ministry journey, I have come to a place where I understand better. However, I still cannot tolerate disrespect, let alone violence, toward others because of my own childhood experience. Even now, it is hard for me to understand how anyone could harm another, especially in God’s name. That is not the God I know or serve.
Jesus told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If we are to truly live into those words, we need to remember that Jesus never harmed anyone and instead, made the ultimate sacrifice to reconcile humanity to God. As Paul says, “love does not seek its own.” Love is intentional to embrace each person as one who is created in the sacred image of God. True love reconciles, sacrifices and welcomes. Thank God that there are people who truly embody this.