The scene is 5:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon sitting inside of the Payton 302 classroom, enjoying beet hummus and pretzels on the final day of my “Race, Religion and Theology in America” class. The past ten weeks we’ve wrestled through Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Perspective, Willie Jennings’s Christian Imagination, Ruben Rodriguez’s Racism and God Talk: A Latina/o Perspective, Sang Hyun Lee's From A Liminal Place: Asian American Theology.
For ten weeks, fifty strangers from all over the world sat in a class and prayed together, shared personal testimony, offered encouragement, and lamented together over systemic injustices in society and in the church. We dialogued about European colonialism, The Dark Ages, The Enlightenment, slavery, Jim Crow, and Kaepernick. We talked about Korean Minjung theology, Liminal Space and Double Consciousness.
Now that the quarter is over, I’ll SO miss listening to opinions from people with other worldviews and cultures. I’ll miss hearing the plight of my Asian-American brother or my African-American sister. I’ll miss learning to understand how they view the world…how they view God.
This “end of the year potluck” was bittersweet. While we sat with food in hand, my friend Julia quietly said, “look around…look how beautiful this all is” –dozens of countries, skin tones and hair colors represented within a few hundred square feet.
Julia and I engaged in conversation about next quarter’s schedules with a fellow classmate. We spoke about the different professors that are offering classes, and how the three of us desire to learn from minorities. I explained that in my last context I had only learned from White males who had mostly come from small towns in the South. I explained that while this wasn’t bad, it had been hard for me to relate, “I’m a Cuban girl from Miami who owned a fake ID by the time I was 16.” As you can imagine, I felt very out of place during my first two years at a Southern seminary. The fellow classmate who was conversing with us chuckled, “wow…yea…” he said. He thought about this for a second and then asked, “Can I ask you both something?”
“Sure,” we said.
I imagined what this question might be related to, considering he was indeed a White male (not from the South, but exposed to all the same privilege, nonetheless).
“What have you found, if anything at all, to be helpful when learning from a White male professor? I ask because, well, I’m a White male…and I guess I just want to know how I can be helpful.”
“…Because you’re in seminary with the purposes of eventually teaching and preaching to people one day?” I affirmed.
“Exactly,” he said.
I understood precisely where he was coming from—why he asked this question. He is a physical representation of a lot of what has been oppressive in society. But to my surprise, he didn’t have to say another word for me to already know there was something different about him. You see, out of place of humility and Christ-like-ness he asked a great question—a helpful question—a mature question…and just the fact that he was asking it proved that he has A LOT to offer as an eventual White male professor or pastor. It’s as simple as coming from a place of desiring to understand.
I wanted to tell my fellow classmate all of these thoughts, but I didn’t. I will, hopefully, if I see him again. But I didn’t mention any of that because as soon as he asked his question, one specific word came to mind: Taylor.
“Well…” I said. “My husband is a White male…he’s a really, really White male…from small-town Arkansas. In fact, he sports a bright red beard and is covered in freckles.”
“Oh wow, ha…” he laughed.
“I left my last setting angry, bitter, hurt...” I continued, “But you know what’s been the greatest means of my healing?”
“What’s that?” He asked.
“My white, male, red-headed husband from small-town Arkansas,” I said.
You see, my husband has been one of the greatest champions of freedom and equality for women, minorities, the marginalized, and the oppressed. He’s not afraid to lay down his privilege and stand for what’s right. He’s not afraid to speak against patriarchy and injustice…knowing he WILL receive backlash (and oh, how he has).
My husband educates himself in Black literature and Black culture. He goes to the library regularly and checks out books from authors like James Baldwin. He imagines himself in others’ perspectives, and then writes short stories about their experiences.
When we lived in New Orleans, my husband befriended a group of Chinese exchange students. He met up with them regularly, taught them about his culture and learned all that he could about theirs--particularly about Communism, Buddhism, and delicious Chinese food.
When we first got married, my husband became obsessed (for lack of a better word) with Latino culture. He read books about Cuba; he asked my family members questions about their past; he downloaded Spanish vocabulary cards to work on the language daily.
Recently while lying in bed, my husband looked over at me and told me he had written a poem about me. The poem was about my Cuban culture.
Every time we’d visit my grandmother in Miami, my husband would sit quiet, with a giant smile plastered on his face while the rest of us bantered in a language not his own for hours on end. He never understood a word (other than the few I’d translate), but he was happy to just be a part of it.
When my husband encountered a woman that he doesn’t particularly get along with at work, he came home, shared his struggle, and then asked me if I thought he was being sexist—if his feelings were justified, or if they were a result of gender stereotypes.
My husband is the most talented coffee professional I’ve ever met. A couple weeks ago, he competed at a Latte Art Competition. He didn’t win. A woman did. My husband celebrated her victory because he thinks women should be better represented in the industry.
My husband speaks up against the history of sexual exploitation women have experienced, and the abusive men who have perpetuated it—he speaks up against men like Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.
If you read my post about my break up with Complementarianism, you read about the pastor who spoke negative about me because “I didn’t ask for permission” to read the Bible with some girls in the church. My husband sat in front of that pastor, told him what he did was wrong, and then preceded to tell the pastor he was leaving his church. That pastor was also his boss. My husband not only left the church, but he also quit his job because the environment was rooted in patriarchy, and my husband wouldn’t stand for that.
My husband regularly asks me questions about my experiences. He listens. He learns from me and isn’t threatened by me. He knows my strengths and he follows me when I lead from them.
My husband moved across the country so that I could study higher theological education freely and without barriers. He believes in me and he supports me.
My husband lays down his privilege regularly.
Just like Jesus did.
I explained some of this to my White male friend while sitting in that classroom…”you’re a White male,” I said. “And you can be a really, really, helpful one in this messed up world… just be like my husband. Be like Taylor.”
T, I’m sitting here in our living room while you’re at work and naturally, there are tears rolling down my face. I just want you to know that you’re my role model. You are life-giving, edifying, encouraging, mature, loving, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, faithful, self-controlled, strong, intelligent, bold. I can’t believe you are the human that my future (very much in the future) children get to look up to. I’m so proud of you.