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Learning to Love Again

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Steps Toward Racial Healing

Ruth Youn July 30, 2021

That…is no excuse for what you said.”

Was my African American friend right? Did I really have no excuse for the ignorant words I unknowingly spoke nearly a decade ago? Having been raised in a predominantly white neighborhood and attended predominantly white schools from preschool to college, I had never been presented with a nuanced teaching of African American history, never heard of such a thing as systemic racism, did not know that words harmless to a white listener could be triggering, even traumatizing, to an African American. 

Perhaps they are not excuses so much as explanations for my ignorance. However, I am certain of one thing: I do not have any excuse—now. I’d been straightforwardly confronted and it was time to do something about it. 

In the summer of 2020, when I found Brownicity’s What Lies Between Us (WLBU) racial healing course, I was at a very low point in life—beginning to travel on a rocky path, uncovering the root of my own bias and ignorance. I found Brownicity’s resources a sound place to educate myself and answer a particular question I had for some time. What exactly is systemic racism? I knew about eugenics, about the conditions to which African Americans were subject all the way through the Civil Rights movement. But I thought “all that” had ended in the 70’s. As I followed the online course, the WLBU curriculum began to fill in the many gaps of my education and life experiences. 

I was deeply disappointed that the people of faith I had previously respected as local leaders, role models, and friends seemed resistant to understanding systemic racism and our collective responsibility to dismantle it. 

Born and raised in Texas to Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants, I grew up in a predominantly white community, acquired my faith in a Chinese church whose English language materials for Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and teen Bible studies were directly sourced from white evangelical Christian organizations. For nearly a decade, I’ve been raising my children in a similar setting—predominantly white neighborhoods, white schools and white churches. It has been an incredibly isolating experience from childhood to adulthood, and now parenthood. I didn’t necessarily have a choice in the demographic makeup of my life experience, and it’s natural that the majority of the role models for my faith have been predominantly white. 

The isolation I had felt as a minority was combined with a crushing loneliness as I pursued new philosophies and beliefs about racial healing that were not welcome in my Christian circles. Heartbroken and grieving, I was deeply disappointed that the people of faith I had previously respected as local leaders, role models, and friends seemed resistant to understanding systemic racism and our collective responsibility to dismantle it. 

When I enrolled in Brownicity’s training course to become a certified WLBU instructor, I was—for the first time in thirty-seven years of life—in a group that included not only people of color, but white men and women of faith who were fearlessly pursuing racial healing in their communities. Despite being the only Asian American in the group, I was grateful to have found people of similar conviction. When the spa shootings in Atlanta occurred, Dr. Berry, the founder of Brownicity, took time during the training session to ask how I was doing, because the shooter had targeted victims of Asian descent. Although this may seem to be a very small gesture, being seen, acknowledged, and heard as an Asian American female has not been a regular occurrence in my life. I was relieved that the entire group allowed me to express my feelings and thoughts without any kind of invalidation or minimization. 

Gathering courage and strength from my education and friendships at Brownicity, I have been able to move forward on a personal goal: to formally advocate for a loving and inclusive society in the United States.

Through this training course, I met a fellow parent—an eager and ambitious learner who is white and of Greek descent. Together, we have bonded to confess the hard things we are learning about ourselves, and to discuss ways we are confronting racism in our families, faith and education spheres, as well as the greater community. Because of her friendship and allyship, she is one of the reasons I am slowly learning to love people of faith again.

Gathering courage and strength from my education and friendships at Brownicity, I have been able to move forward on a personal goal: to formally advocate for a loving and inclusive society in the United States. I have recently joined a steering committee whose aim is to have legislation passed in the state of Georgia requiring honest and diverse history to be taught in the public K-12 curriculum. Reaching this goal will take several years of persistent advocacy, and I am continually reminded of Dr. Berry’s meditation as I am on this path:

May we be people of peace,

With voices of hope,

Doing the hard work of love.

Being reminded that the work I’m involved in is fundamentally about loving others, has been essential to offering patience for people who react combatively to what we are trying to accomplish.

Brownicity has been a soft place to land—speaking with Dr. Berry and members of the WLBU instructor cohort, I’ve felt comfortable enough to laugh, cry and nod in enthusiastic agreement that dismantling racism in our society is indeed compatible with our faith. Despite the grief, disappointment and heartbreak, I am learning to love again.