I grew up in 1980s West Auckland.
My friends were definately a multi-cultural bunch. David was a Māori Mormon, Michael – a Fijian Methodist, Bhupesh – an Indian Hindu, and Tadashi – a Japanese atheist.
Although we occasionally joked about our ethnicity, we were more concerned with Hotwheels cars, trading Bubble-gum trading cards and scrounging a 20c to play spacies, than we were concerned with the colour of our skin.
Life was much less complicated as an oblivious, ignorant kid.
I preached a sermon in 2012 entitled Pioneers, Settlers and Consumers – A message about how, overtime, we all have a tendency to drift from contributing to consumerism.
I talked about my Great, Great Grandparents’ journey from England to Northland and how they eventually purchased farmland.
I never dreamed that my message would upset some people because it reminded them of the grave injustices caused by British colonialism.
I never considered that my message would bring up past hurts in others because they weren’t my hurts.
And that’s the problem.
My ignorance persisted into adulthood.
We have all been shaken by the recent events in the US and the emotion that has ensued. I have been heartbroken. I have wrestled. I have struggled with how to respond.
I can’t play the ignorant card. I have determined to listen and learn.
The Bible teaches us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry,” and I have taken that advice to heart.
I am learning to ask questions, trying not to jump to conclusions, and to seek to understand why other ethnicities feel the accumulation of past hurt.
Now, more than ever before, we need to seek to understand before we are understood.
We will never be able to truly be compassionate until we understand. We will never be able to understand unless we listen. We can never listen until we stop talking.
A book I am currently reading described a building as being a ‘skin-coloured beige’. For the first time in my life I realised the great error of that sentence.
There are 6 primary skin colours and about a million variations.
That thought wouldn’t have crossed my mind a few days ago.