*Editor’s Note: Racial tensions are a global reality. The following is a fascinating and encouraging perspective from someone living as a racial and religious minority in a Muslim-majority area of Western Africa. As the author says, “We all need someone to fight for us”; in the letter below, you will get to see what it can look like to be a “fighter” for a racial minority.
We’ve been reading the headlines from over here and are mourning with you all that racism in many forms is still very present in our world today. As many of you know, our family has chosen to live in a place where we are the minority.
We are the only white people for hundreds of miles, and 99% of the people around us are Muslim. We are Christian. Even here, though, our skin color can give us prestige and privilege, but many times it is frustrating to be seen as different.
It’s at those times that we all need someone to fight for us. I am thankful for a friend like H*who has fought for me, and these are the words I would like to say to her:
I came here, and I looked different from you. My religion, the way I raise my children, and the color of my skin all testify that you and I are very different. I settled in here and we started sharing our thoughts, our homes, our child-raising tips, and our talk about the searing hot weather or the dry, dusty, Harmattan winds.
You became my translator when I didn’t understand another local language. You taught my children how to treat people with respect. You’ve shown me the local tricks of cooking and cleaning. But the best thing you have done is listened and tried to understand me from my perspective.
You haven’t told me, “It can’t be that bad when people judge you for your skin color.” You haven’t said, “Who cares if you get ripped off, you can afford it.” Instead, when the guy in the market tells me double the price for that bowl of fruit, you glare at him and tell him he has to charge me what everyone else gets charged.
When the lady who doesn’t know me well calls out, “Hey, white person,” to get my attention, you gently but firmly inform her that I have a name and should be called by it. When people ask me for money or a gift just because I am white (and most likely, rich), you rebuke them.
I have never seen an end to your desire for people to see me as equal and to treat me as such.
You see my differences, and yet you choose to value and love me. You choose to fight for me. You choose to have a different perspective from many others. You choose to keep learning and growing. I am forever grateful, because without you, my life here would be so much less livable and likable. Thank you.
Yes, we are different, but you have chosen to embrace our differences so that a friendship could blossom. However, as much as you support me, love me, and listen to me, my heart still aches when we are together. It aches because I see a fear in you—fear of man, fear of the unknown, and fear of death—and little hope for tomorrow. You work and pray and fast, trying to gain God’s favor, and as much as I’ve talked about the grace of God, you can’t believe it translates into grace for your life too.
The way you show no partiality or favoritism reflects the image of God in your life. May you see that same image reflect back into your life, understanding fully that God’s gift is given without partiality or expectation.
Oh, H*, I want you to know that God has loved you and fought for you just as you have for me, and so much more so too.
Jesus died for you and for all people so that we may all be One through Him. He is full of love for you, and so am I.
With much grace and love,