Recently, I was asked a peculiar but sincere question during an open-mic Q&A. The young white man asked: Can I celebrate my whiteness or my white culture? I quickly discerned both inquiry and pain. Later I would learn that the man is a single-dad, raising two young boys who he wants to equip and disciple well. He has also been trying to gain understanding about racial reconciliation and in many ways has found himself perplexed and maybe even weighed down by the realities of our history. I didn’t know all of that when I answered but I also sense this same wrestling with other people as they begin their own journey into ethic diversity, biblical theology, and historical sins.
My heart was filled with a desire to love and serve him while also speaking the truth in love. With that same desire, I want to write my two-part answer here.
You already do
Whether intentionally or not, if you are a white American you are continually celebrating your whiteness in this country. Whether it is through the textbooks we read, the music overhead in our coffee shops, the movies we watch, or the seminaries we attend. You will find that these touch points are dominated by white culture, history, music, theologians, and the like. And you are likely, even if unintentionally, celebrating your heritage as well. It is not difficult to celebrate who you are in the American context.
But, yes, of course
You are an ethnicity and when we talk about racial diversity and all of the nations, you who are white are included! I can see how it might not seem so. Most of my emphasis when talking about studying those who are not like us is definitely about those people and cultures that have been neglected in the American context. But as a mother to two biracial children, I want them to not only know their Black heritage, I am just as eager for them to know and understand their British heritage. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. We can instead learn to celebrate both.
Our problem is not so much that we don’t know how to celebrate ourselves it’s that we lack the intentionality to learn and celebrate others. We struggle to love our neighbor as ourselves through gaining knowledge and understanding. We hold our culture or our ethnicity up as superior even if we don’t realize we are doing it, and often intentionally. We are the center of our universe.
I don’t believe that was the case of the man who asked this question and I imagine there are many who are sincerely wrestling with these same questions. If God has revealed a bias or partiality or racial pride in your life, praise him for that grace. It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance. If God is awakening you to the realities of our history and it has become a painful journey—press in to that, don’t push it away. Ask good questions, study history. Lamenting is a good practice (thank you, Psalms!).
Most of all, remember the gospel and all that Jesus has done for us through his blood. There’s much to lament but oh man is there so much to rejoice about. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are one even if we aren’t living in this reality. My prayer is that we would begin to live in the reality of what Jesus has accomplished for us.
Let me end by saying that I’m writing this in an airport as part of my first drafts series, which means that there’s so much more that likely could be said.