Victor Chininin Buele
Shortly after moving to Johnson County, Kansas, it became clear to us that our phones were not working very well. In the process of figuring this out, one day my daughter and I walked into a very special place.
I very soon realized I must not have looked like I fit there because nobody said hello or helped me. My daughter and I left without buying a phone from such a slick place. I realized what may have happened. I was wearing a Mexican soccer jersey and old jean shorts. She was wearing play clothes and non-matching shoes. Her hair was unkept.
When I came to the United States, almost twenty years ago, I made two “promises” to myself in an attempt to survive the cultural change: (1) I was never going to allow myself to be homesick, and (2) I was never going to allow myself to participate in self-racisim.
You can see my delusion of godness there thinking I had more control over things than I did in reality.
Addressing homesickness came because I observed these big plans of my fellow Lojanos to go to big places, but very shortly thereafter, I would see them back in the streets of Loja with dreams unfulfilled. My 17-year-old self was too proud, too selfish, and the wrong kind of ambitious to desire against all obstacles to avoid going back to Loja. But what about the self-racism promise?
My 17-year-old self developed this theory that it takes two to tango. If I would refuse to see myself as fundamentally different than the rest of the U.S. population, no matter what other people would think about me, I would not be contributing to the development, brooding, and systematization of racism.
In other words, I banked the foundation of my survival in America in this–that a white person may choose to look at me as whatever they would want to look at me, but I would not reciprocate that by acknowledging it, fearing it, acting differently because of it, living up to any stereotypes, or changing my plans because of what they may say, think, or do. In other words, this was self-esteem on steroids.
And as one of the very, very, very few Hispanics in Nodaway County, Missouri, back then, there were far more than a handful of interesting encounters that would have crushed my soul had I not had this front up the whole time. And wearing this mask was exhausting, I must confess.
Yet, none of these encounters threatened my life. They are actually pretty comical in retrospective. Beside the usual high school mockery and sidelining, a few strange questions about whether we have cars in Ecuador, a date asking me if Ecuador was in Texas, none of these things put my life in danger.
Most of my life in the United States I have lived as a coconut, which is how they would call it in that Netflix show Gentified. Brown in the outside. White in the inside. And in God’s kindness of His providence to me, He has shown me a glimpse of another world I had always succeeded in avoiding. White/brown relations were always very simple for me because I‘ve had the means to live mostly as a white person. There are only a couple of places where I’ve really felt out of place–Monroe County, Illinois, and Johnson County, Kansas.
Yet, in the last four years, a number of strange incidents have continued to occur where I’ve been seen and treated differently. And also, in God’s kind providence, we have discovered the joys and challenges of gathering with the saints in a Spanish speaking immigrant church. We’ve edged towards a different circle of influence, and we’ve felt and seen different things than before.
I was only partly right as a teenager, imagine that—yes, I can compound the problem by responding to racism, which is a real problem, and to systemic inequality, which is a real thing, by making my identity largely a response to real and perceived racism. My identity is not founded in this, and it cannot be. If it were, it would be soul crushing. What I did not account for and what I was largely blind to as a result of living in different socioeconomic circles than the majority of Latinos is that racism dos remain a big sin in our country, a very real struggle, and a foundational roadblock for peace. And the King of Kings specializes in the solution for this sort of thing.
Donald Trump did not create racism. He is an opportunist who has leveraged sin in people’s hearts to rise to power and try to hold on to it. That’s what he does. And it is vile. But if we didn’t love it, if we didn’t desire that sin, we would not fall for it. The racism in our hearts must be put to death.
We have to deal with our sin.
There is no other way. We can keep putting it off and only make it worse. It’s time to wake up and really get woke. Not as the popular use of such a term but as in “I have my eyes open, what must I do to be awakened to this? What must I do to be saved?”
First Peter 2:11: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” We wouldn’t be racists is we didn’t have this passion inside our flesh for it. We wouldn’t be entitled looters if we didn’t have this passion for entitlement inside our flesh for it. If we don’t love it, we don’t fall for it.
We have to face the evil desires within ourselves. We must put that sin to death. We, minorities, must destroy the sin within our hearts. The traditionally not thought of as minorities who are becoming the minority, must destroy the sin within their hearts. We are both a very entitled people. We demand to have. We are envious. We hold grudges and are not quick to repent. We loot and set things on fire. We play the victim. We oppress, we abuse, we victimize. We do not foster opportunities for true advancement of those who don’t look like us. We do not make it a point to actually incarnate, to pitch a tent and live among those who do not look like us. We do not make any efforts to truly understand those who are different than us: What is their plight, what is their sorrow, what is their joy?
In short, by becoming more like the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, we can put to death these sins that are destroying us. This is not a mere call to “act like a Christian” or to “do Christian things.” The gospel is not about mere behavioral change, but it is about a radical transformation of the heart that only God can bring about. A man being turned into the image of Christ will be made more and more like Him every day—every day the sin within the heart that leads to murder, to abuse, to looting, to rage will be put to death a little bit more.
It is time to seek the Lord while He may be found and heal this land.
There is no other way. We keep trying what looks like other paths. And here we are again, it’s not even June of 2020, and the sad story repeats itself. George Floyd is the name today. Will you wait until it is your name to turn and seek Christ?