A Country Divided: A Conversation About Race

NEW BLOG POST A Country Divided (1)

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Like many of us I’ve been fighting my own battles, dealing with so many significant changes, divorce, heartbreak, a big move to a new city,  a new job, poor mental health, parenting a child with special needs, and now a global pandemic. On top of it all over the past week I’ve had to wake to news of another black life lost due to white supremacy.

It’s something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around ever since I was a little black girl growing up in the deep south. It’s inspired many conversations with many of my non-black friends. It seems a lot of us have this question. Why is racism a thing? Why can’t we “see past color”. While I don’t believe “seeing past color” is the answer. I do have an idea why I personally feel racism exists…fear.

Fear has played a significant role in my life. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say fear has stopped me from making important decisions, accepting certain opportunities, or even forming relationships with specific people. If there has been one thing that has held me back throughout my life it’s fear.

So what exactly does fear have to do with race and what’s going on right now? Fear has EVERYTHING to do with what’s going on right now. We as humans fear what we don’t understand. We naturally fear what we aren’t accustomed to because we can’t be sure it’s safe. It’s so new and different so how can we know?

In a country that is over 70% white. White is the norm and though America is a “melting pot” with a slew of people of various ethnic backgrounds, many white Americans (outside of urban areas especially) have little to no knowledge of the experiences of black people. I can attest to this growing up in Arkansas. I was always the “token” black friend. I never understood how I could have SOOO many white friends yet be one of the ONLY black friends many of my white friends ever had and even the white friends I did have rarely got close enough to me to know who I truly am let alone my personal experiences with discrimination. Those that did rarely felt comfortable speaking about it. THIS is a problem.

You see when you get close to people, when they become your friend, a true friend that you genuinely love and care about, fear diminishes. You become curious about their differences instead and you WANT to learn more about them even the not so great parts.

Growing up for example, I had little to no access to Asian people so my first encounter with someone who was of Asian-descent was just sad. I am embarrassed to say I asked the most ignorant questions. I was genuinely so ill-informed and while it wasn’t her job to do so… she taught me so much. I didn’t understand but I was curious and that curiosity turned into appreciation.

You might be wondering what I’m getting at here. I’m not saying making friends of other races will magically “cure” racism. Racism is an entire system and it would take countless books to explain that in detail. However, I AM saying there are things we can do everyday to progress past this. We can get to know people. REALLY know them on an individual basis. We can learn about their experiences. Once I became interested in Korean culture for example I learned a lot of good AND bad things about their culture that inspired me to learn more. It fascinated me that there was this entire worldview that I grew up blissfully unaware of and it made me realize how much I still don’t know. It’s okay to not know.

There are so many white people in America who still (yes today in 2020) have not gotten close TRULY close enough to enough black people to really know and understand us, let alone care for us. THIS is an issue. It’s easy to be far removed from an issue like this when you’ve kept black people at arms length for much of your life and if you DO have black friends just how much time have you spent getting to know them… I mean past the jokes, past the parties, past saying hi to them at work or at church. I mean knowing who they TRULY are, their experiences, what makes them THEM.

Almost every black person in this country has experience with racism to some degree whether they are aware of it or whether they choose to discuss it or not. TALK to them. Get to know them and their stories. Get close to them. Close enough to actually LOVE and CARE for them. Once you do, once you hear our stories the ones our grandparents told us… the painful stories we kept to ourselves and only chose to speak of in the absence of white people. Once you hear those and really get to know us I would love to hear how you’re able to continue to sit back silently or worse justify the continued and unjust murder of black people in this country.

We have to change this. The only way to do that is to come together and I mean REALLY come together. Don’t just send your black acquaintances social media posts. Don’t just post a black square and leave it at that. Let’s talk, lets have coffee (you have zoom don’t you). Let’s build REAL relationships with those who are different from us and let’s be the change we wish to see. Enough talking, let’s do something about this.

NOTE: A few close friends and I will be sharing stories and resources soon if you’re interested in getting involved please email me at raneishastassin@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Faith: The Rough Patch

faithbloggraphic

I don’t know how to start this post so I’m just going to dive right in.

Today was the first day in a LONG time that my spirit felt moved to talk about God. It’s been a while since I’ve truly desired to pray, worship or anything else pertaining to my faith.

You see my faith is complicated. My beliefs are complicated. I don’t like labels but if you tried to put one on me I’m not even sure you could call me a christian though technically I am. I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to even connect myself with the title and I still struggle with that.

You see a few years ago I was struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks (and sometimes still do.) I won’t say my faith in God struggled, I’d say my faith in myself and others did and as a result my relationship with God suffered.

What that means is because of the amount of hurt I felt due to family circumstances and overall disgust for myself, my faith in everything suffered. I mean everything and everyone. I never stopped believing in God but I stop seeking a connection with him.

How it began 

When I lost my big brother at the end of 2013 my relationship with God completely diminished. At that point in my life I was suffering internally quite a bit, the only person who knew was my husband and it affected our relationship tremendously.

When my brother died suddenly in a car accident it was like the straw that broke the camel’s back but in this case it felt more like a brick being thrown at my head.

The negative thoughts I already had came at me full swing and at the time I blamed God. I stopped praying, I stopped going to church and I stopped seeking connections with other believers.

    The silent period

For me my faith and my relationship with God had always thrived on me hearing His voice. Call me crazy but I always felt that I could hear His voice. I’m sure you’re thinking “well if you’re hearing voices in your head you have bigger issues” but I’m fairly positive if you listen, I mean really listen… a very deep meditative practice I’m talking about here… then you can hear the voice of God. Yet since late 2013 I’ve rarely experienced this.

It’s given me a very empty feeling.

It’s hard to explain but for years I’ve felt a general disinterest for most everything and I no longer seek relationships with others… there is really only one relationship I’m interested in and that is one with God… yet I make no steps to have that connection. I don’t try, I don’t even have the willpower to try.

       My issue with “Christians”

I think one huge reason why I won’t try to repair my relationship with God is my thoughts and feelings toward most evangelicals. The past few years have shown me just how hateful and judgmental many of those who claim to be “God’s people” truly are.

I never try to generalize an entire group of people (trust me as a black woman I know how terrible that is.) but sadly I’ve been disappointed time and time again by evangelicals and it’s hard for me to desire to visit any church, in fact I’m very uncomfortable with the idea at this point in my life.

I’ve watched many people I once admired spew hate towards anyone who is different than they are. In my head all I can think is “Well if they feel like that then what do they REALLY think about me.” It’s hard for me to believe that many of the southern evangelicals I’m surrounded by could view me as a “sister in christ” when every other Facebook post are clear signs they think otherwise.

I’ll also add that I have tried visiting many churches here and none made me feel at home. I felt uncomfortable and unwelcome at every church I’ve been to despite promises that I would love it.

 The lonely burden

Needless to say it’s been a lonely struggle. Yet one of my biggest issues is with myself, I’m not happy that I let my feelings about other believers impact my relationship with God because I truly believe God is good and I do not believe many evangelicals truly represent the goodness of God.

Though I can’t blame evangelicals completely … this brings me to my next point.

Grief

If there is one BIG thing I’ve learned this semester (I attend a Christian University) it’s been that grief presents itself differently for different people and one impact for me personally is that I distance myself. I distance myself in every way possible to prevent myself from further hurt or disappointment.

I’ve experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment and a lot of loss in one way or another. I’ve subconsciously build walls, walls so big that I’ve even pushed God out. I don’t let anyone in… I rarely let my vulnerabilities show.

The pain is there but I push it back and distract myself with work and projects and even blogging. It’s all a big distraction because I know God is there waiting for me to let it all out but I avoid Him.

Now this may seem a bit poetic and I tend to get a bit deep when discussing my spirituality but for me God is like the father I never had… He is like the brother I lost.. the mother who was actually there for me… the sister who was never murdered… the grandmother who was never sick… for me God was and still is everything that I never had.

Admitting that though is hard because it requires me to accept all of the loss I’ve experienced and that. is. hard.

I know that things have happened that have truly hurt my soul but I haven’t let that truly sink in. I know that connecting with God after it all will be taking that last step in the grief cycle and I’m not ready to do that.

 One last thing

Deep inside I really do desire to rebuild my relationship with God. I just don’t know how to let myself let go of all the things I’m holding onto that is standing in the way of that.

Also this may be the most confusing, conflicting post I’ve written but I’m leaving it that way because it’s a perfect example of how this feels for me.

I know I may not be the only believer struggling with this and I hope for my sake and yours that it passes.

Feel free to comment if you can relate to this, it’s both reassuring and comforting for me to know I’m not alone and thanks for reading!