Ignorance. Lack of knowledge or information.
Cultural Appropriation.The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of elements - customs, practices, ideas - of a minority culture by members of a more dominant culture.
Frustration. A common emotion that results from the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. In other words: a result of the above.
Situations like these are inevitable. For all minorities - both men and women. It’s something that we’re used to dealing with. It’s something we’re used to seeing in our daily lives, whether that’s through our friends, politics, or media. How we deal with those situations is another story - and different for each individual. It can get exhausting having to deal with it all the time.
As a minority, a woman, and a believer in Christ, it’s almost as if the devil multiplies these situations by 100 just to see if he can test my crazy.
And it almost worked.
But then I have to step back and remember who I am and Whose I am. There’s no need to be ashamed of my blackness. I have to remember that God created me the way He did for a reason: For my good and for His glory.
Sit down, grab a drink and some popcorn because I have something to tell you: I had to deal with a situation that involved ignorance - and it wasn’t through the way I expected.
It’s a Friday night and I decided to have a game night with a few friends and a girl I just met. I cooked everyone dinner and we enjoyed a time of switching between German and English - obviously for the sake of my limited understanding. As the night went on and we got into deep conversations, you would think that we would get through more than just 3 rounds of UNO - it’s a game night for Christ’s sake for MULTIPLE games not just an UNO night.
Well we didn’t. One of the girls asked me a question that I didn’t expect her to on the first night of me meeting her:
“Why are the braids you have considered cultural appropriation? What is that?”
All eyes were on me. Every ear was open. They wanted to learn and understand.
I explained it to them as best as I could. After what I thought would be the end of that and everyone would skip into the sunset holding hands, one girl bluntly stated:
“I saw a [black] girl on the U-bahn (subway train) the other day and she had blonde hair, which was obviously a wig. She was trying to be white.”
*Crickets*. Everyone stares at me. Waiting for my next reaction.
My fellow Africans may expect me to launch across the room and immediately start swinging or even give her a piece of my mind.
When I opened my mouth, it was no one BUT the Holy Spirit that allowed grace and peace to come from my lips. Instead, it was her friend that came for her and told her why that wasn’t okay.
The next day I woke up I realized that I wasn’t okay. I was frustrated. I was annoyed. I was livid. Of course I was beyond frustrated, annoyed, and hurt at her comment, but I was more frustrated at her ignorance. I was frustrated at the fact that she didn’t have people in her life to sit down and explain to her what was okay to say to someone that didn’t look like her or what wasn’t. I freaked out. I texted my friend and ranted about the situation. With her being a minority and a Christian, I knew that I could reach out to her and she would know what to say:
“Perhaps instead of looking at it through anger, maybe think about the idea that she’s never met anyone who has given her the time or energy to explain these types of matters and cultural details to her...which has resulted in her confidence in her ignorance...As annoying as it may be, it honestly sounds like God has put you in that situation for a reason, and wants to teach you both something...don’t let this fully skew your opinion or appreciation for her. We’re all ignorant to some forms and information in this world.”
She was right. I knew it. She knew it. Your mom most likely knew it. We all knew it.
The funny thing about this situation is that I gave the exact same advice to a girl I got a coffee with about a month prior. She was dealing with the exact emotion of frustration with a member in her church. She didn’t want to be the one to explain cultural appropriation. As a result, she dealt with being offended as a minority every week - within the church. Until it eventually got to the point where she couldn’t deal with it anymore and she had to approach it.
It’s funny how God works.
After having this talk, I decided to sit down with my friend and tell her everything. I told her that I was coming to her with peace and grace; that I am telling her these things because I love and care about her. I explained to her what cultural appropriation was. I explained to her how she was privileged in many things that I was not. I explained to her how her comment was not okay and how it can be perceived as racist if she were to say that to someone else. I explained to her black history and some aspects of slavery. I also explained to her that there are cases in the world where a dark person can indeed genetically have light hair. I even told her that Albinos exist. I laid it out and she listened.
In the end, we had a better understanding of each other. In the end she realized that she didn’t know everything and that it wasn’t okay to assume things about a culture that wasn’t hers. In the end, she ended up crying and confessing a lot of things about her past and couldn’t figure out why she felt certain things and why life happens the way it does and what the heck she could possibly be missing in this life that wasn’t a man that she could spend the rest of her life with.
In the end, I was able to share the Gospel with her.
So, to all my fellow minorities. To all the majorities. To my brothers and sisters in Christ. To every single one of my African brothers and sisters: it’s frustrating. It’s annoying. It tests our patience. But God knows how to use those types of situations - even through a game of UNO - to bring others to know Him and to grow you.