Justice, Race, George Floyd, and Cross Cultural Service

by Rachel Pieh Jones on June 15, 2020

Why missionaries, humanitarians, and anyone working cross culturally needs to care about racial justice.

I posted this at Do Good Better on June 1. So this is a partial repost. In that post, there is a YouTube video and several other links to really important articles. The last link shared there talks about why it matters that we care about this issue, even if we don’t live in the USA.

On June 8, I posted again about: How are international development workers, humanitarians, and missionaries uniquely complicit in historical and modern-day racial injustice? Are they uniquely positioned to combat it?

Please also read and engage with those articles shared as well.

A week ago, I watched a black man die under the knee of a white police officer. Previously I’d listened to the story of a black woman shot in her own home. The week before that my daughter and I joined the run to remember a black man shot while jogging. I watched the Instagram video of a white woman threatening a black man. 

I have been watching my city, and then my country, burn all weekend long. This has not come out of nowhere. There is a reason people are angry and grieving.

We must deal with issues of race and by “deal with,” I don’t mean Tweet about or offer “prayers and thoughts” about. And I don’t mean for this week, while it is the hot topic in the news. I mean we should be doing this already and we need to continue doing the work. Sometimes we can share our thoughts and the books that have helped and other times we will need to be silent, go inward, not advertise, let others be heard.

In The Missionary Podcast newsletters at Do Good Better (Not Just For Missionaries and Who Gets To Tell The Stories), I’ve raised the topic of the white savior complex through the story of Renee Bach in Uganda, but race problems are not just about savior complexes. This is about history and economics, justice and complicity. It is about violence and judgment, policing and infrastructure. Racial complexities occur in the countries we’ve left and in the countries in which we work.

We cannot bury our head in the sand and say, “I don’t live there.” Or, “I’m not local here.” These are dangerously simple excuses that allow expatriates to remain silent and complicit. They are perilously comparable to the, “but I never owned slaves,” or, “but I have friends of color,” statements.

We must start with being educated on racism and issues of justice over the course of history in the countries we come from. We must listen empathetically and be moved to action in the cultures we come from. We are better equipped both to understand and to respond to these problems where we come from and if we can’t or don’t engage there, we won’t be equipped to face the problems with wisdom, humility, and perspective in the countries where we serve.

These are issues everywhere and we enter the systems everywhere we go. And, we bring ourselves with us everywhere; we bring all our prejudices, assumptions, judgments, ignorance, and history. We have to be aggressive in addressing it no matter where we live and work.

It would be the epitome of naivete to pretend that we are talking about how to Do Good Better and to not address current events.

In the comments, I’d love for readers to share your go-to resources, people you follow, websites, etc.

As a uniquely global group, I think that kind of roundup will be quite useful. I have a lot to learn about racial dynamics in other parts of the world.

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About Rachel Pieh Jones

Rachel writes about life at the crossroads of faith and culture. Her work is influenced by living as a foreigner in the Horn of Africa, raising three Third Culture Kids, and adventurous exploration of the natural world. She has been published in the New York Times, Runners World, the Big Roundtable, and more. Check out her latest book, Stronger than Death: https://amzn.to/2P3BWiK Get all her stories and updates in the Stories from the Horn newsletter http://www.djiboutijones.com/contact/

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