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“Well, I see we will have to agree to disagree.” 

This is how it happens. Someone makes a statement about another group of people. Most definitely it is not about “us”. It is usually quite vague and often derogatory. It may be about immigrants, another race, or perhaps even an ethnic group. This past week, it came in the form of a facebook post. On a serene photograph of a quiet country backroad, the words boldly state “You came here from there because you didn’t like it there, and you want to change it to be like there. You are welcome here, only don’t try to make here like there. If you want to make here like there you shouldn’t have left there in the first place.” 

Let me preempt, I am not normally a combative person. I am more likely to slink out of a room filled with conflict, not in a cowardly way, but more like a “I don’t need to make this worse” way. I have a naive trust in people to be able to work out their differences, but now and then I find myself in situations that require a response. Whether it leads to insight or incitement is difficult to foresee. 

The family member who posted this is a gentle soul and has always been very kind to me. They love a good discussion. Leaving a comment felt like a conversation starter. Also, given it’s a facebook conversation and not an academic, analytical writing piece, I hoped my character, background, lived life experiences, and relationship to the poster would carry some weight. I have been walking an intentional reconciliation journey in Canada for well over 15 years. 

Regardless, because of this we have some semblance of what it is to feel disadvantaged in a new place.

“You know” I said, “this is a difficult one for me, because our relatives came to this country and completely changed the landscape to reflect where they had come from and it completely disrupted the lives of Indigenous people here. I think everyone wants to live in peace and bring the best from their home culture.”  

My faith plays a big part in my anti-racism efforts. Jesus says to look at the log in our own eye before examining the splinter in another’s. In this case, I thought back at what happened when our people came “here”. Some of the reasons my people came to this country were due to war and lack of opportunity. This land presented an opportunity for a fresh start. We came with another language, different farming practices, other ways of thinking, particular ways of worshiping, and our own cultural norms. People likely thought we were strange. Perhaps they even had derogatory names for us. Regardless, because of this we have some semblance of what it is to feel disadvantaged in a new place. Are the reasons newcomers have now any less significant? Are those who come today not welcome to bring a taste of their home with them? 

Another significant faith factor for me in anti-racist work is to practice living out the Kingdom of God, here and now. In the book of Revelation it says that “every nation, tribe, people and language, [will be] standing before the throne”. Because of this, it is so important to allow ourselves the gift to see ourselves from the lens of others and listen to the voices of others who may see things differently than us. These past weeks, we have had the opportunity to read 5 other perspectives from BIPoC voices in the Do Justice Blog who have encountered and see the CRC from an outside lens and how that has impacted them. What a beautiful opportunity to see and learn and be blessed with perspective. Even if we do not always like what we hear, it is an opportunity to submit ourselves to the change we need to better reflect the kingdom we purport to model. Just as God welcomes us all with our unique differences, we can delight in learning by hearing from others through the lens of God’s love for us all!

What path might we take that honours both them and us?

Within seconds of posting on my uncle's blog, another family member chimed into the online discussion.“That’s not true! Our people didn’t do that! It was the English who did that. We got our land legally!” 

This presented an interesting spin and one I’ve seen often in conversations deemed anti-racist. A person responds to a perceived notion and is often a response to something entirely different than what is being talked about. In this case, it seems this distant cousin received my comment as a personal attack on her people (also my people) and responded to something completely out of context to the conversation. 

It takes a lot of work to engage in anti-racism work. It is much easier to simply let people swim down the stream of their own understanding. To actively engage in anti-racism work is to go against the flow of thinking that leads to harmful and counter-Christ-like behaviour. It is an active stance that is not always received with joy. Is it possible, when looking at our own “logs”, to take an emotional step back to objectively look at the situation and ask a few questions when it comes to anti-racism. What is actually being discussed? What if what someone is saying is true? What path might we take that honours both them and us?

My response: “I didn’t say we did anything illegal! But it did happen. Our grandparents, in the name of “land improvement” completely altered the natural landscape. They did not come with intent to harm anyone, but it still had and has a hard effect on Indigenous people. Our people came on the coat-tails of British colonialism and have benefited tremendously from this system.” And then I offered to share some reconciliation stories (film/documentaries) that would be able to explain more. 

Their response: “Well, I see we will have to agree to disagree.” 

Door closed. I hadn’t agreed to anything. This response confused me immensely and I had a hundred different responses go through my mind. How might that have gone differently? Was there room to discuss anything of importance? How could we have shared stories and learnings? Did I miss extending an invitation to be curious and wonder together? Could there have been an opportunity to own and lament the harmful impact our actions have had and continue to have? I don’t know, but I am reminded there is much work to be done towards anti-racism efforts and I will keep seeking a good way forward (Jer 6:16).

This blog is a response to a series written by BIPoC writers in an Anti-Racism Do Justice series. It is a reflection of a white person living in Canada descended from white Dutch-Canadian immigrants, “Germans-from-Russia”, French, and Scottish settlers.

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

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