Written by: Marijoy Horton

After watching a couple of episodes of Making a Murderer the other night, my husband and I were “cleansing the palate” if you will, or rather letting our blood cool, by watching an episode of Superstore. (Which should definitely be on your watch list. But only if you appreciate the quick, smart-witted, impertinent comedy genre that makes the twenty-first century awesome.)

In this one scene Amy, played by America Ferrara, succumbs to pressure to use a Latina accent in order to push her salsa samples. Customers begin to gather at her counter and this one older white woman, with a big smile on her face, begins asking Amy questions about her background and country in this s l o w, raised voice. Of course, it’s completely making fun of this inane tendency some people have, but for the first time, I realized and exclaimed to husband, “Oh my goodness, I do that!” And I wanted to hide under my couch from embarrassment. (If you don’t watch this whole episode, you have to at least check out this clip.

Marijoy Pic

Sometimes good hearted earnestness can come across as patronizing. I get that. My friend and I even joke that we are in the “reverse racist” phase (it’s a thing–google it). I’m just saying, I do have this tendency to get overly excited when I get to meet someone of a different ethnicity. Like at the pool this summer when I heard a woman with an accent call out to her kids. I walked over to find out where she was from and how long has she been here, and we had a great conversation. Nice right? Just to be clear, I made the extra effort because she was from another culture and not because I’m that friendly. My friends with accents are now like, “so you’re my friend because of my accent?”

Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know, ok!

My point is, this whole “be the bridge” http://www.beabridgebuilder.com thing and entering this race discussion can be pretty awkward for some of us folks. But after watching the Reconciliation Table discussion last year at {IF:} and reading over Latasha Morrison’s Be The Bridge study guide she offered up, I felt like I had the tool to actually make a step toward the more interwoven life I desire.

You know the first thought that always pops in my head when I have wanted to engage this discussion? “Racism isn’t really an issue anymore. So if I bring it up, I’m just bringing up past wounds, and it’s just going to make people feel unnecessarily bad.” Do you ever have that thought? I wonder how much my privilege has become an entitlement and a futile excuse. Maybe I don’t need to bring up racism or prejudice all the time, but I realize what I must do, is listen. (https://oshetablogs.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/when-i-cant-breathe-i-will-listen/ ). And when I listen, I hear the drumbeat of justice beating. (http://www.eji.org/BryanStevenson). I want to be a part of that drumbeat, even if I don’t exactly have the rhythm yet.

A good friend from church and I decided we would give “Be the Bridge Table” a shot, and invited women at our IF: Local to be a part of our group.

We had six sign up. All white.

Undeterred, we decided to specifically call and invite a more diverse group of women to join us. Everyone was a little confused at first as to what it was about. That’s primarily due to the fact that we (I) felt very uncomfortable about how to word it.

(ring, ring – that’s the sound telephones used to make)

Yolanda: Hello?

Me: Hi Yolanda, it’s Marijoy, how are you?

Y: I’m good Marijoy, how are you?

Me: Good! Hey, so Cass and I are doing this discussion table thing this summer and, well more like a reconciliation table, but not because we think there’s a problem really, just that we want to understand more about different races. I mean not like human race, we’re all human, but like different ethnicities. So you’re different, I mean like you have had a different background and experiences, and we’d love for you to be a part. (shaking my head at myself)

Y: That sounds great! Some of my undergrad is actually in Racial Studies and this is really important to me.

Me: (big sigh) Thank God! I mean, that’s amazing! Hey, so, do you want to lead our group?

I decided email would be the preferred method to invite the other women and stole lines directly from Be the Bridge. I think it went over much better. In fact, when we posted it to our church’s chat room, we had some really affirming, eager responses.

Before we began meeting, I read this powerful post by Rachel Held Evans  that challenged some of my assumptions and inspired me to keep pressing in. Our first meeting time came. Cassie and I did a lot of praying before hand, reviewed the study guide, outlined the flow, and set out delicious refreshments. First on the agenda: introduce yourself and tell us why you want to be a part of this group. When it was my turn to introduce myself, I knew enough to acknowledge that I don’t know what I don’t know, but I do know we ARE different colors and maybe instead of avoiding this discussion by claiming to be “colorblind” we should learn to celebrate our differences. (“True Colors” was playing in my head. I may have had tears in my eyes.) The woman next to me was this older, graceful black woman that I had been eager to get to know. It was now her turn to introduce herself. “I’m Alma and I’m 61 and I don’t think we need to have this discussion because the Bible says there is no Greek or Jew, male or female. I am race-less, colorless, cultureless and genderless. I really hope we aren’t having this discussion because of white guilt.”

Embarrassed emoji.

That first meeting did not go at all how Cassie and I expected. I think I expected that we would all be on the same (my) page. Which is completely ludicrous since it was a DIVERSITY table. The discussion grew pretty tense at some points. Some felt that Jesus should be the only focus and that if we engage the topic of racism, we actually can create more discomfort by highlighting differences. Some women had experienced thoughtlessness or outright prejudice. Some women were angry and wanted to blame someone. But the snacks were good.

Everyone was pleasant and we concluded with the prayer from our study guide. Then we all hugged and said good night. The next morning I shot off a Facebook message to Latasha when it was over basically saying, “What the heck have you gotten me into?”

We stuck with it and spent some more time just getting to know each other. Sometimes tears were shed, we laughed at ourselves, we admitted our assumptions, and we learned so much from each other.

I’m not going to reveal everything we learned. You need to do your own table and discover that for yourself. I don’t care if you’re like me and either avoid or over-compensate. It’s worth the discomfort. Sure, it is messy. But here’s where I land: Jesus goes into the mess, so why shouldn’t I? All of us, I think, need a space to really see each other, humbly listen, and have a voice. Be the Bridge can be that space.

Almost every single time I’ve typed “bridge” my overeager fingers typed “bride” instead. It hit me: Be the Bride.

Now, I know I like to talk about this (https://freegirlfreeworld.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/the-wedding/ ) , about what it means to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. That takes our identity from solo to communal. From Jesus loves me to, “what does it mean that God so loved the world?” I just have this feeling that I’m not the only one with the ache…for restoration. For freedom. For unity. And I also think none of us really wants to avoid that desire, just maintaining the status quo until Jesus comes back. I mean sit and watch sitcoms, yes, we do want to do that. But just all stay the same? Look the same? No, thank you.

Jesus did come into this broken world to seek the outsiders. To urge the ones blinded by privilege to get uncomfortable. And He again and again and again stooped in the dust to restore dignity, touched the untouchable, cried with the grieving, loved the hated, and celebrated those unseen.

If you believe that, then you are a bridge. You are a bridge from Jesus to those same people today. And we are a bride-a group of people set on being the vibrant, beautiful refection of King Jesus so that the world can know His love now.

How are we doing with that?

We are baring witness to the continued struggle of power, culture, and beliefs. Never before has the world been so connected—through Facebook, podcasts, and Netflix. So what a privilege we have, to live in this time. What a privilege that we have no excuse for ignorance. What a privilege we have such access to people and places. What will you do with your privilege? What does Jesus ask you to do with your privilege?

I watch TV.

Also, I fumble my way through hard conversations and get a better glimpse of who I was made to be.

“Hi, I’m Marijoy. Lover of people, follower of Jesus, church disrupter, emerging activist, and a bit of a goofball. I believe we all are created to know a good God and join him in community to bring restoration in our world right wherever we find ourselves. Right now I try to do that by living a simple life in Pflugerville, TX with my husband and two kiddos.”You can find Marijoy blogging at https://freegirlfreeworld.wordpress.com.