This episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast is sponsored by Austin Stone Worship. Austin Stone Worship’s new album, WITHIN, is an honest, worship-filled overflow of broken sinners experiencing the relentless pursuit of a holy and loving God. As you listen, we pray your heart is stirred to love and worship Jesus. Listen to WITHIN on all streaming services, and find album resources at austinstoneworship.com.
The Gospel Coalition hosted a workshop titled “Embracing the Beauty of Diversity” with Jackie Hill Perry, Jamie Ivey, and Itohan Omolere at the 2018 Women’s Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The panel addressed the importance of diversity for Christians, beginning with God as the author of diversity and leading into how that point should affect the lives of believers. They discussed what it means to celebrate diversity on an individual level, within families and friendships, and within the church.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Jackie Hill Perry: As we all know, this is called Embracing the Beauty of Diversity, something like that. So I’m glad that you’ve joined us. Before we begin, can we pray and talk to Jesus real quick? All right.
Lord, I thank you that you have saved us. I thank you that you have saved us and invited us into fellowship with a body with unique and different giftings, unique and different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds. And I thank you, God that we are able to see you in your manifold wisdom and glory in a different way because we’re surrounded by so many different people.
So I thank you for your gospel and how it unites us all under the banner of one God, who we love and serve, who is Jesus Christ. So fill us, help us, lead us, teach us, convict us, encourage us. And I pray that we leave this room better people. In Jesus, name. Amen
Jackie Hill Perry: Ladies, I guess I’ll say who I am. I’m Jackie Hill Perry and I’m black. I could have just been in the sun a long time, you never know. I think what I bring to this topic is just being a minority, but also being a believer who is often in different spaces where people don’t look like, me don’t sound like me. So me learning how to navigate those spaces has given me a unique perspective on this type of conversation.
And I do poetry, I teach, I rap, I have a three-year old and a four-week year old. I know those don’t go together, but I don’t know how else to say it. And I love Jesus. What do you do?
Jamie Ivey: Hey. My name is Jamie Ivey and I have a podcast. That’s my main gig. It’s called The Happy Hour, Jamie Ivey, and I am an author, and I have four children. So I think the reason that this conversation is important to me and I can speak into it in the smallest way is that three out of four of my children joined our family through adoption and they are all… Two came to our family from Haiti and one joined our family domestically.
So all three of them are black and I have one child that’s not, and my husband and I are both white. So that is where I can come into this conversation just as a mom raising kids who are in the minority culture. And I will say, it is very honoring to be on this stage because I am a listener and a learner as most of you are in here as well. So, know that coming from me is that I do not come with the experience of a black woman and I do not come with a lot of knowledge. I come with zero experience as a black woman, but I am raising black children.
And I love Jesus too.
Jackie Hill Perry: That’s good.
Jamie Ivey: Yes.
Jackie Hill Perry: That’s good.
Jamie Ivey: I do, a lot.
Jackie Hill Perry: Because we will be up here evangelizing to you, girl.
Jamie Ivey: I love Jesus a lot.
Ithohan Omolere: Good afternoon. My name is Itohan Omolere and I love Jesus too. I love the Lord. I am a poet, I’m an artist, a worship leader and I’m from Chicago, Illinois.
Ithohan Omolere: Whoo, yes. No, right. I’m going to know what churches all of you go to after this. I work for an organization, a ministry called GRIP Outreach For Youth that recruits Christian adults to mentor teens in the city under the banner of defending the fatherless. Let’s see. Diversity, oh, I am first generation Nigerian American raised in a black Baptist church on the West side of Chicago.
I lived for most of my upbringing in Oak Park, Illinois, which is a very diverse suburb of West Chicago. And currently lead worship and ministry leader of a diverse church, but primarily white and Latino environment. I’ve had a lot of diverse experiences and I’m going to speak from there as again, first generation child of immigrants, black woman, seen as a black woman and lived in the black African American experience.
Jackie Hill Perry: Praise the Lord. So I’m just going to ask questions and I tend to be a very inquisitive person. So there may be times where I ask a question based on what they say because I just get excited when people got good answers to stuff. My first question is a very simple question because I don’t want assume that we all know the definitions of certain words, right? So how would one of you define diversity?
Jamie Ivey: You want me to go? I’ll go because I just Googled it before we got up here.
Jackie Hill Perry: That’s awesome. That’s preparation.
Jamie Ivey: I knew you were going to ask. Here we go. I got three things for us, the state or fact of being diverse. Difference, unlikeness, variety. The inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, et cetera.
Jackie Hill Perry: Wow.
Jamie Ivey: That’s just what the dictionary.
Jackie Hill Perry: What’s the synonym of that? Variety?
Jamie Ivey: Variety.
Jackie Hill Perry: Okay. That has nothing to do with the topic. Why are we even having this conversation? What is the purpose of diversity specifically as believers? Why is it something that we need to embrace in the first place?
Ithohan Omolere: I’m sorry. When I look at the scripture and I see the account in Genesis 1 of the Lord creating the earth, I hear Him say, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And I get stuck there for a second because I think about what a full earth looks like and all the nations and cultures that are represented there. So I see that the author of diversity is God.
Then I read further, get to, I think it’s like verse 28 and see that God called His creation, all of it, good. So I think that as believers, those made in the image of God, we too should call diversity good and look for it, and look for it not only in the world that God has created, but look for it in the communities that we live in, that we serve in, in our own lives, in our friendships, in our relationships, in those who pour into us.
Having a diversity of voices helps us, I think, worship the Lord better. Because we see and understand the beauty that He saw in the creation that He made first father
Jackie Hill Perry: Pause further. Question off of that, because I think an extension of seeing diversity as a good thing, that to me would include celebrating diversity and the distinctions within that. I say that to say, do you think that celebrating diversity is the same as division? Or can division come out of celebrating diversity? Does that make sense?
Ithohan Omolere: I think celebrating diversity is not only a good thing, but a necessary thing to then again, honor the image that God chose to create you in. So you should know and you should celebrate the culture that you grew up in. And like everything else, we measure it by the Lord’s standard. So we all have things within our cultures, within our training that are not God-honoring, and we submit those things to Him.
But I think to answer the question, it can cause division only if we do not first note that God created us in His image and there’s equality there. When there’s putting of one’s culture over the other, I think that’s when we are now unable to celebrate the distinctions. We’re not able to celebrate the distinctions when we think this distinction means one is better than the other. Then we’ve perverted what God created.
Jamie Ivey: What do you think?
Jackie Hill Perry: You’re such a good podcaster. I agree with Ito, so the next question. I think-
Jamie Ivey: You said it well.
Jackie Hill Perry: What I was going to say, I think one of the things that could be a stumbling block to celebrating diversity as a good thing, or a few things what I think confusion over what diversity is. Because I know when I worked in Chicago, the job that Ito now does was my position at one point in time. And in that position we were… She is now, but I was the female mentorship coordinator over 60 to 70 women. 85% of them being white, middle class Americans that are now trying to mentor fatherless black children, some from the hood, some from the suburbs, but two different worlds.
And what was happening was that the… It was just this like assimilating kind of thing where they felt like, oh, I’m being diverse, and it’s like, “No, you’re actually trying to bring them into your world, into your culture and you’re trying to label it diversity.” I say all that to say, I think one of the stumbling blocks of celebrating it as a good thing is even in church, or churches, or leadership where you invite people into your space, who might be a different ethnicity, but they’re culturally just like you.
So they speak like you, they’re like you economically, they dress like you, and so you think it’s diverse and it’s like, “No, you just found another person in your image and you want to label it something that is not.” So I think that’s one thing. Do you think there are other stumbling blocks to the celebration of diversity?
Ithohan Omolere: Just to piggyback on what you’re saying. I don’t think diversity is sustainable. Healthy, diverse community is not sustainable when there is not also diverse leadership. Because the natural reaction is then to assimilate to the culture of the leadership. So there needs to be a variance of culture among the leadership.
Jackie Hill Perry: How has it been, I think within your family structure? How have you grown in embracing the beauty of diversity because of your family?
Jamie Ivey: We’ve been a multiethnic family for eight… No 12 years now. So I have said a thousand times, and it’s never less embarrassing to say what I’m about to say, but I’ll just humbly come before you and say, this is how I was. These issues, these ideas, these thoughts, they were not in my brain before I had black children. So I think that is a common thing for white women, and I think the first step is just to acknowledge that, and for me to say, “This is true about…”
And the reason it wasn’t in my brain because it didn’t have to be in my brain. White people don’t have to think about this. We just go through our day and we never have to think about it. So parenting children who now, they have to think about it, and I have to think about it with them and for them a little bit now. It’s made me a different person, it’s made me go back to what you were saying at the beginning with Genesis. It’s made me look at the world through different eyes and I’m grateful. I’m eternally grateful for that.
So I don’t think you have to have black children for that to happen. And we’re saying black, but let’s just say any different ethnic than your own. But I think you do need to have friends in your life that look different than you in order to even begin to understand the smallest part of any of the conversation. So my family has done that for me and I’m grateful for that.
Jackie Hill Perry: That was the beauty about… Shout out to everybody that live in Chicago, because that was the beauty about Chicago is that I was exposed to different ethnicities than my own. Because I’m from St. Louis and st. Louis is just real… It just black/white. You know, black/white, it is not no way between. That was all I knew, and so when I moved to Chicago, I started to be friends with people that are Korean, and Nigerian, and Jamaican, and Puerto Rican, and Mexican.
I honestly used to think Puerto Rican and Mexicans were the same. And I was like, “Oh, you all literally two different people and I just didn’t even know.” So it was just so helpful for me. I feel like I just became more of a whole person when I was able to invite different types of people into my life, into my circle. So I think that’s one of the beauties of it for sure. What about you all? Nevermind.
You spoke to this a little bit just now, but what do you think is the role of your past as it relates to your family and your engagement on issues of ethnicity?
Jamie Ivey: I sometimes like to think that I don’t have, and I don’t deserve, or have this authority to speak into this issue as a black person. I’m clearly white, but I feel as though God has put me up in the position that I’m in with the job that I have, with the voice that I have, with the listeners. I’ve told Jackie this, all my listeners are whites. I’m like, “I need some-”
Jackie Hill Perry: Let me just share this real quick funny story. So we was like in the car at like 4:00 AM because we both had to go to the airport together after an event. And she was talking about podcasts and I was like, “Yeah, black people don’t really listen to podcasts for real.” And did you know that was the thing? I don’t know if you knew that was the thing yet. Because you were talking about how you want more-
Jamie Ivey: I guess, please.
Jackie Hill Perry: And I was like, “We don’t do that.” But every like white friend I got got over five, six podcasts that they listen to. I’m like, “Why do you all do this? Who has time?” But I don’t-
Jamie Ivey: Hey, I listen to some great podcast by black women. I’m going to hook you up.
Jackie Hill Perry: I believe you. I’m not saying it don’t exist. I just don’t know many people that just… I watch YouTube. So put your podcast on YouTube, I promise, I got you.
Jamie Ivey: I’m going to put them on YouTube for you. Okay.
Jackie Hill Perry: I got you.
Jamie Ivey: With my podcast being mostly white listeners, I feel as though God has given me a little bit of favor there from what I’m learning to push that back out. It’s like discipleship, teach people what you just learned. So I’m learning and listening, and I learned something this morning. You guys, I’m constantly as a parent to black children about what it means to grow up with your skin being darker than mine. So I’m learning about this all the time.
So I feel as though part of my ministry that God’s put me in is to just try to help white women understand a little bit more every single day. That’s what I’m trying to do.
Jackie Hill Perry: You mind sharing your recent revelation?
Jamie Ivey: What happened this morning?
Jackie Hill Perry: Yes. You don’t have to.
Jamie Ivey: I know. I will, I’m fine. Whatever.
Jackie Hill Perry: Okay.
Jamie Ivey: My daughter’s here with me. She’s 10, she’s super cute. You’ll see her walk around with me. Yesterday she wore her favorite dress that she owns. Did anyone see her yesterday? You know where I’m going with this?
Jackie Hill Perry: Probably not.
Jamie Ivey: Okay.
Ithohan Omolere: Somebody said yes.
Jamie Ivey: Somebody said yes. Okay. She wore her favorite dress yesterday and she just looks so cute, whatever, and I got a message on Instagram this morning from someone. And they said, “Hey…” It’s a white woman, she said, “I have a very honest question to ask you. I noticed that your daughter yesterday, her dress had watermelons all over it.” Everybody knew, but me.
Jackie Hill Perry: It’s okay.
Jamie Ivey: She said, “I have been told not to put my kids in clothes with watermelon.” My first instinct, I told Jackie this, just to be very honest, my first instinct was like, that’s dumb, she’s 10. She loves watermelon, I don’t know, what’s the big deal? But I’ve learned that I text my friend, Andrea, who’s my real life friend, not just my black person that I got their phone number somehow.
She’s my real life friend and I said… I screenshot it, I told Andrea, I said, “Am I doing something wrong?” And she did the little face that looks like this. That was her first response. And then she taught me, she said, “Here’s where this comes from. Some people may think this.” At the end of the day, she said, “Do I think you did anything wrong? No.” And I don’t think I did anything wrong, but I want to know, and so I asked.
Ithohan Omolere: Good.
Jamie Ivey: Will I let Story where the dress? Yes. But I told Jackie today and she said, “I didn’t notice, but some people that I know did.” So I don’t know what to do with that, except for keep, I don’t know. But that’s what I learned today.
Jackie Hill Perry: What I told Jamie… I don’t think I told you. That’s such a teachable moment just because it really shows how… There has to be a willingness to learn, one, but you wouldn’t have even learned it if you didn’t have anybody in your space that you can ask the honest question to. So I think that speaks to, if I’m the black girl who is your friend, not being easily offended by the questions that you might ask that you feel awkward about and me being willing to love you even through that.
Jamie Ivey: I tell my friend, Andrea, I said, “Thank you for letting me always ask you these question.” Because I know it’s not easy as a black person to always be the person. You’re supposed to be educating everyone and you’re not supposed to, but I have a real relationship with her. So I don’t go to her as like, “Oh, you’re black, can you tell me something?” But we have a relationship and I think that is a key, because I know… No, I don’t know, I’ve heard, it can be super exhausting.
Jackie Hill Perry: It’s very exhausting. But I have a friend who I went to church with. Her name is Lindsey and we were real close, and I said, “Lindsay, I have a really honest question. I really hope this isn’t offensive.” And she was like, “What?” I was like, “You got to wash your kids’ here every day?” Because I was like, “I heard, you all got to wash your hair every day. We don’t have that struggle.”
I was like, “Because I heard it gets oily or something like that.” I was like, “I just really want to know because that just seems like a lot of work, you got four kids.” And she was like, “No, sometimes we skip.” And I was like, “Okay. I just wanted to know, girl.”
Jamie Ivey: Try Shampoo, girl, try shampoo.
Jackie Hill Perry: That’s a lot. Ito, is there a wrong way to ask a question to learn from another ethnicity, or race, or whatever?
Ithohan Omolere: I think if you’re asking a question, the first thing that you want to be sure to do is be self aware. And I think when we’re self aware, we’re automatically coming from a place of humility. So I would say, a wrong way to ask a question is to do so taking an offensive or defensive tone. You should be humble when you’re asking questions. And just like both of these women said they had a question.
They knew that it might not be received well without the understanding of the context, so they said, “Hey, I hope this isn’t offensive. I have something to say, I don’t know how it’s going to be received.” There’s a humility there. There’s a willingness to put oneself… submit oneself in order to be taught. And I think that’s the right way to ask what could be a difficult question or even having difficult conversations.
I went to church with a brother a few years ago, who’s African American, and he was saying like, “We created a space to have a conversation…” Our country has been going through a lot of racial tension forever since existence, but it’s been more publicized the past few years. So there were people in our church seeking to have conversations that we knew might be difficult.
He said that We’re creating this space because I need to give my bright brothers and sisters a space to be able to gaff and say things that [inaudible], but I also need them to know that if it’s wrong and offensive, I’m going to say that and state that truthfully and unapologetically. Yeah.
Jamie Ivey: And I think too, laying down your pride because I don’t understand why that dress is offensive. It’s not offensive to me, but for me to go, “Okay, I hear what you’re saying.” My human response is like, “That’s dumb,” but yet I don’t want to feel that way because I want to respect and honor what you’re telling me because you’re not a liar. So I think that’s one thing too, is to go, “I don’t get this. It doesn’t really make sense, but you know what? I’ve never been black, so I’m going to trust you.”
Jackie Hill Perry: And that comes from, I think specifically as it relates to watermelon. Using this as an example would be, it really speaks to how much we need to learn each other’s history. Because black people, we know what the association with watermelon is, it’s Cornish, it’s niggerish, to be frank is what they would say. Just like it comes with monkeys or fried chicken. It’s this association that we were just judged and… It just was wrong and just bad, but you have no idea, you know what I’m saying?
So I think it’s valuable for us to learn each other’s history so that we can then know what is triggering and what isn’t. Were you going to say something?
Ithohan Omolere: I wasn’t.
Jackie Hill Perry: The spirit left? No, He didn’t. You’re sealed girl. You’re sealed. One time I went to Joplin, Joplin, Missouri. You probably never heard of it.
Ithohan Omolere: I’ve heard of Joplin.
Jackie Hill Perry: You’ve heard of Joplin?
Ithohan Omolere: Yeah.
Jackie Hill Perry: Why were you there?
Jamie Ivey: Anyone from Joplin?
Ithohan Omolere: Yes.
Jamie Ivey: You’re from Joplin?
Speaker 6: Yeah.
Jackie Hill Perry: No, you are not there. You left. You left. You probably in Kansas City or something. Aren’t you? Where do you live?
Speaker 6: Ozarks. I live in Ozarks.
Jackie Hill Perry: You live in the Ozarks? Is such… I’m sorry. I’m getting off topic. I was in Joplin and I was doing a ministry out there and I was having a conversation with a friend. He’s a white guy and he was like, “Jackie, I really want to embrace diversity. I want to have more relationships with people that don’t look like me, but that doesn’t exist here. What do I do?” I didn’t know how to answer that question because that is some people’s lives where there is no diversity.
So how then do they embrace diversity when it doesn’t even exist? How would you speak into that?
Jamie Ivey: That’s a great question. And I was just telling, man, I live in Austin, Texas, and Austin, there are not a lot of black people in Austin. We are probably majority white, next would probably be Hispanic. I bet there’s even something before black people because there’s just not a lot. So I understand that and people who live in super small towns that might be hard for them.
But I would guess that there is not… I don’t know, this could be dumb. I was thinking there can’t be a city in America that there’s not someone that doesn’t look like you. There has to be somebody. But if you live in a larger city and maybe just your kid’s school, or the church that you go to, or your neighborhood is very white, there are restaurants that are run by people who don’t look like you.
And I think that’s a really easy first step is… There is one Indian restaurant that our family loves to go to, and not an Indian restaurant run by white people. It’s an Indian restaurant run by people from… They’re making good stuff. So we’re making relationships there, we’re letting our kids see different cultures. There is an Ethiopian restaurant in Austin that we love to go to. We get to eat with our hands. So we’re letting our kids see different cultures even though that we haven’t taken them to Ethiopia.
So I think that’s a hard question. We also live in the world of the internet. There are ways that you can learn and be engaged with people online that look different than you as well.
Ithohan Omolere: And I would also say, pay attention to other forms of diversity besides racial diversity. There are places where there’s not racial diversity and also not economic diversity, but I think those places are very rare. Those places are very rare. So there’s other forms of diversity that you can… Are you building relationships with people who are at a different economic position than you are? Are you comfortable talking and engaging, having relationships with people who are either very wealthy or very poor?
If we’re not, we need to talk about that. And I think the reason… We also have to pay attention to why there are communities where there isn’t a lot of diversity. That’s a good way also to champion the cause of diversity, to study and to understand the systemic issues that have impacted where you live and created these separations.
Jackie Hill Perry: I don’t know if you know Trillia Newbell. She’s a writer and she… I was on a panel with her and she was speaking about as a parent, one of the ways in which she tries to teach her children and her family to be more culturally diverse is that they pick a week out of each month and they pick a culture or a country. And every day they will cook a meal that is related to that country, and they will watch a documentary that is in that country’s language with subtitles and they’ll discuss it.
And just since she’s in Nashville, and so they’re learning about all of these different cultures all over the world that they don’t have access to because they have access to Netflix, they have access to a grocery store, they have access to all these other things. So I think as a parent, that’s a super practical way to learn that type of stuff.
What do you think is the most challenging part of living in a diverse community?
Ithohan Omolere: Can I go back for a split second?
Jackie Hill Perry: You said what?
Ithohan Omolere: Can I go back for a second?
Jackie Hill Perry: Do what you got to do girl.
Ithohan Omolere: Okay. Just going back to… One of the things that I do in my role apart from mentor women who mentor girls through our program is we also partner with other churches and ministries in the city of Chicago that want us to come and help train them on mentoring teens in Chicago. So one of our trainings gives a short history lesson of Chicago and the neighborhoods, how they’re created and also talks about something like redlining and the creation of those neighborhoods.
One of the first activities that we have people do, something I call the spectrum of awareness and just talks about how informed are you on issues of systemic injustice? And noting that how informed are you is a direct result of where you’re from and who your teachers were. So something that you don’t have to look at with shame, but just know who you are in your context.
So we’re all equal on this spectrum of awareness, but being self aware of where you are also helps you form a framework for what you need to study and who you need to learn from.
Jamie Ivey: There are so many books out there that you could get. You come talk to us afterwards, we all have our favorites, I’m sure. So many books, so many documentaries on Netflix. Just to do exactly that, just to learn. I remember I read Just Mercy a couple of years ago and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I think everybody in America needs to read it.
And it opened my eyes up to things that I never even knew existed because of where I grew up, because of how I lived.
Jackie Hill Perry: Race is a big topic nowadays. I think as women who are attentive to what’s happening and stuff like that, what do you think concerns you the most? I’ll say what concerns me the most-
Jamie Ivey: Yes.
Jackie Hill Perry: … while you process. I’m going to be frank-
Ithohan Omolere: Go ahead.
Jackie Hill Perry: … because I can’t help but be it.
Ithohan Omolere: He made you that way.
Jackie Hill Perry: God is so good. No, I’ll say what encourages me first. I think what is encouraging to me is that I do see a lot of people willing to learn that we’re not willing to learn five years ago. And I’m very, very encouraged by that, by the questions that I’m asked, by the prayers that I receive. There’s just an attentiveness and a wanting to love people that look differently that I feel, and that I see, and that I notice.
And so I deeply appreciate that because to me it’s evidence that God really is sanctifying His church and he really is being faithful to present us faultless and blameless before Himself. So I think race is doing one of those things because ultimately racism is lovelessness. So I think God is like, “Hey, if you’re going to look like me, we got to get this out of the body.” So that’s beautiful.
The discouraging part is the parts of the body, or they may not be a part of the body, but they profess to be. But the parts of the body that are still so arrogant in their positions and so unwilling to humble themselves and see that may be my perspective on race, and on life, and on history is actually wrong. I think that is what concerns me the most because they are not really highlighting the gospel and what it really is supposed to do to the body, and to our hearts, and to our souls.
So that’s discouraging to me and how it’s affecting people. It’s affecting people. I see people leaving the church because of people within the church who are unwilling to understand, and that’s dangerous.
Jamie Ivey: I agree wholeheartedly. I was going to say the thing that is disheartening to me would be the lack of willing to listen, the lack of willing to be wrong. The lack of willing to say that I’m going to listen and try to understand even if I’ve never felt what you felt. So I think that is really disheartening. It is just that idea that I’m going to stand and be right, I don’t care what you tell me that this is how it’s always been and this is what we’re going to do.
And that, it’s embarrassing and it’s disgusting to the world to see the church acting that way. Jackie, I think you’re right. I think something is happening, and God is on His throne and He is going to win this. Let’s not be worried about that, but I think along the way, it’s going to be ugly. And I think that it is because I think also people’s hearts are going to be torn open for things.
I’m encouraged by what you said as well, I’m discouraged by some of the lack of willing to listen. My soapbox that I want to stand on too is just to encourage anyone in here that is the majority culture, is that this is something that we have to be teaching our children about. Majority culture is going to have to change things. I’m not saying that we’re going to have to change the way we teach our children.
So if we don’t teach our children about these things, they’ll be just like the generations before us, and it will not affect them, and it will not matter to them. And so it has to matter to our children. That’s the soapbox I get on.
Ithohan Omolere: I think what’s most discouraging for me at times is that we have to understand that we have flesh. We have a flesh that fights against the will of God. I think that in our flesh, it is natural to be nationalist, to bend towards tribalism. And then when there is the arrogance and willingness to listen, people are tempted greater towards tribalism, and understandably so. So I think what is discouraging…
I want that to be something nationalism that we talk about in the church as a real threat, as a real temptation because it’s thrived. It’s thrived, so we have to be honest with it and we have to confront it like call out and confront other temptations towards sin. The reason why I’m talking about nationalism as sinful is because I, myself, I think growing up, there was so much confusion towards the history of the church as I saw it in America.
It was baffling to me that Christians could partake in things like the slave trade. So I didn’t grow up thinking of my culture or my race as less than, I grew up as esteeming it. And it’s not because my parents taught me to by any means, but it was because of the own bitterness and wound in my heart towards those that I did not see loving me and accepting me as sister in Christ. I was not invited into that family and I grew bitter and I grew…
I was like, “God, I love you, but I don’t really see why there’s a need for me to have relationships outside of the black community.” And I was raised in a multicultural community, and I serve now. I seen myself where I serve now is not… I didn’t leave the black church because I thought anything was wrong with it. I love my historically black Baptist church, but I saw myself almost as someone who is going out as a missionary to the multicultural evangelical church to say, “We must stand together.”
And by doing that, denying myself and taking up my cross. So I think what is most discouraging to me at times is the unwillingness to confront the temptation towards nationalism in our hearts.
Jackie Hill Perry: I have a question for you and a question for you. The first question is, if you have a friend, you have a relationship with people where you see hints of racism, or… And I say hints because oftentimes it’s very subtle. Or you see blatant racism, how do you as a friend practically have that conversation?
Jamie Ivey: That’s hard because I’m… You might think I like confrontation, I run and hide under a rock from confrontation, especially with my friends. So I think if it was with a friend that I have a relationship with, I would be much more in a teaching as a friend mode. If it was a blatant… I had to have a conversation with somebody over my boys once. That, I feel a little bit more empowered to a stranger to say, “This is wrong. You were wrong.”
For a friend it’d be more kind and teachable, but I think it’s worth it. I’m trying to think of… Just the other day someone said something and I kicked myself for not saying anything. They said something, I’m going to make up what they said, but it was something along the lines like this, they said something like, “We’re doing this thing and there are…” Oh, I know exactly what it was.
Someone was telling me about a podcast, and they said, “It’s a podcast of these three guys, one’s preacher, one’s a doctor and one’s a black man.”
Jackie Hill Perry: Okay.
Jamie Ivey: Right?
Ithohan Omolere: He’s a preacher or a doctor.
Jamie Ivey: Thank you.
I didn’t know this person, and it was in passing, and there were other people there. And when I left, I thought, I’m so mad at myself.
Jackie Hill Perry: Quick question, how did you notice that?
Jamie Ivey: Because I’m aware of those things because I have black children and I would be-
Jackie Hill Perry: I say that because some people wouldn’t have even noticed it.
Jamie Ivey: Yeah. He didn’t notice it. I was at a Christian conference. So I walked away from that mad at myself for not saying anything, but those are the kind of things that you’re right, people say and don’t even notice. Or if they’re like, “Hey, there’s…” They’ll be describing… No one ever says… The majority culture, I don’t know what black people say, but a white person would never say, “This is my friend, she’s white.” But they might say, “This is my friend and she’s black.” Do you know what I mean? Okay. Sorry.
Jackie Hill Perry: I think we do that too sometimes.
Jamie Ivey: You do? Okay.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah, for sure.
Jamie Ivey: Okay. Sorry.
Jackie Hill Perry: For sure.
Jamie Ivey: I do say this like… I remember when we were at football practice for my boys this year, and I have two boys that were on the team. They’re both black, they were the only black kids on the team. And my husband came out to practice and I’m telling him, I was like, “Okay, Amos has the red socks over there and Dicon has this.” And he’s like, “Jamie, I think I can tell which ones they are.” I was like, “Oh yeah, so those are my…”
But I do that if someone’s like, “Where are your boys?” I’m like, “That’s my son with the dreadlocks, that’s my son with the curly.” I don’t know.
Jackie Hill Perry: I know for me, I’ve been trying to be aware of my own subtle forms of racism or seeing people through the lens of… I’m not colorblind because I think that’s actually not true, but not only seeing their race, but seeing them as a whole person. Because oftentimes I’ll speak in these terms. So I think I’ve become more attentive to it as it relates to my three-year-old because… I’m not going to put this person out on the spot, but they live with me and-
Jamie Ivey: They live with you now or in the past?
Jackie Hill Perry: Now.
Jamie Ivey: Okay.
Jackie Hill Perry: And we sleep in the same bed.
Jamie Ivey: I was like… And he’s not here to defend himself.
Jackie Hill Perry: He’s not, I feel so bad. I’m going to tell him, “I wasn’t dishonoring you. I promise you, it was a teachable moment.” If you knew my husband, all of this will make sense because he just says what he feels or whatever. And a lot of times he was like, “Yeah, I was talking to this dude, it was a white dude.” And I’m like, “Why was that the thing?” And he was like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Then he was like, “Yeah, I was talking to this girl. She was white.” And I was like, “Preston, we…”
Now I just told you his name, but me being aware of my daughter, I don’t want her to begin to engage with people in that way. And so I’m noticing in him and I’m noticing in myself and it’s like, I think children do that to you, but I don’t think we should have to have a child for us to be self aware of how we’re treating people and speaking of people. So I’m just saying for myself, I see that it’s a lot in me too.
Because I think black people, we could think that we don’t be playing favorites. We do because we’re sinful.
Jamie Ivey: From another mom to another mom, I just want to say, when Eden does that and she’s three, she’s just saying what she sees and there’s some beauty in that.
Jackie Hill Perry: Eden, she hasn’t picked up on it yet.
Jamie Ivey: Oh, just Preston?
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah, yeah. She hasn’t picked up on it yet.
Jamie Ivey: My son, my biological son, when he was younger, he told me one time his favorite color was white. And I was like, “Oh dear Lord. We’re raising a racist. Oh my gosh.” But he just at that time in his life, he liked the color white.
Jackie Hill Perry: You’re doing a great job, Jamie.
Jamie Ivey: He was three.
Jackie Hill Perry: It wasn’t a question-
Jamie Ivey: Give her her question.
Jackie Hill Perry: … I was just. Okay.
Jamie Ivey: Give her her questions.
Jackie Hill Perry: I was confessing my own sin. For you, let me give some context.
Ithohan Omolere: I know the question or you’re having one for all of us?
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah. I’m asking you a question. For context. In the last year, I have a lot of friends that are very hurt and developing a kind of deep hatred for evangelicals, be honest. They are leaving churches, they are disassociating themselves with all things, white culture because of the response that they feel that evangelicals have had in light of all of this race conversation.
So my question to you, Itohan is, how do you encourage those within minority communities? Yeah. How do you encourage them when it comes to that?
Ithohan Omolere: I think the Lord, our Lord Jesus gave us a perfect model for speaking truth in boldness and still loving people. I encourage minority people in majority culture to continue to look to the example of Christ and how you handle conflict, how you handle authority, sinful people in authority, how you handle others’ responses to you. It’s a daily dying to self, but you have to first acknowledge the anger that you feel.
I think in acknowledging that anger you have to go to God and be comforted by Him, be comforted by He who created you as you are. I think oftentimes anger that that is not checked makes an idol of those with whom you have conflict, because we’re acting as if they are able to create a climate that God cannot dismantle in a second. That’s the guy that I pray to.
And when I think about so many who have fought for equality in the Lord Jesus Christ name, I think that they knew the same God, so I don’t care. I don’t care what… Just like I don’t care what the world thinks is true. When I see even within the body of Christ, my brothers and sisters believing and ascribing to a system that is an opposition to the God who made me, I’m going to disregard that and continue to speak the truth.
And I’m going to disregard that and continue to obey Him because I love Him, and His Spirit has empowered me to obey Him. Does that mean it’s healthy for everyone to continue to be in the community that they’re being hurt by? Sometimes you need to go, sometimes you need to go. But I think that before you go, you go to that brother and sister with an offense, you go and try to be reconciled.
You go to the leadership in your local church or where you’re working and say, “This is an error.” Bring the word to show them the error. Plead with them the same way you would plead with a friend trying to walk and live in sin. We’re so good at confronting people with certain sinful lifestyles who confess Christ, “I’m noticing this in you.”
Oh, you’re talking to this person, you’re doing this, this looks suspect. We’re good, we’re so comfortable. Why is there discomfort when it comes to calling out discrimination? Prejudice is nothing but hatred, honestly. I think because sometimes I think we lose the impact of it being sin against God when we call it racism and not call it what it is, which is hatred.
And the only thing that is second to loving thy neighbor is loving God, and both of those call us to turn away from that form of hatred. Right? We have to love our neighbor as ourselves. You think you can do that and discriminate on people based on their culture? Sorry. Sorry. Is not God’s law you’re following.
Jamie Ivey: Your original question was the evangelical people minority are being hurt-
Jackie Hill Perry: Yep.
Jamie Ivey: … and leaving.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yep.
Jamie Ivey: I think too, just to speak to majority culture, people in this room is it’s been a hard two years for our brothers and sisters who are minority. And I think that we have an obligation as sisters in Christ is to acknowledge it and say something about it. So I think it can be really easy to just be quiet, and I don’t want to rock the boat of my friends at church or whatever.
God is very clear about hurting when those… We weep when those who weep. So when our sisters in Christ and our brothers in Christ are being hurt, are being told they’re less than, by the world is one thing, but in our own churches, is again, embarrassing. As majority culture, we have to also say, “This is not okay. This is not okay. I don’t believe this to be true. I don’t stand for what these other people who look like me are saying.”
So I think that just for us to remember is that by saying nothing is agreeing with what everyone else is saying. And so stand up, say something, speak up for your sisters that don’t look like you.
Ithohan Omolere: Can I say also… I’m sorry. Just the increasing love of God that is His gift to us as we grow in Him and as He’s faithful to continue His work of sanctification in us. It makes me want to sit at the feet of everyone. I want to learn their stories. I want to see what God did in their life. People who I am not around, people of other cultures that are not… I’m blessed to live in Chicago.
I have a diverse community around me, so I have friends from different… But places that I don’t know people, I want to go in and learn from them. I have a sister at church few years ago. She’s Samoan and she moved back to because she wanted to spend some time in that culture. Seeing her and being still connected to her is helping me learn and understand her history better, which is beautiful.
It’s beautiful to me, it’s encouraging to me because I want to know God more and I see him reflected in every people group that He created.
Jackie Hill Perry: So it seems as if to embrace the beauty of diversity, what fuels that really is embracing the beauty of God. Right?
Ithohan Omolere: Absolutely.
Jackie Hill Perry: Where there is you seeing Him rightly, seeing your heart in light of seeing Him rightly, repenting of what you see. Seeing the lack of love that you’ve shown towards your brothers and sisters and those who are not in the community of God. And turning from that in faith by embracing everyone you see as the rightful image bearer that they are.
Ithohan Omolere: Amen.
Jackie Hill Perry: Right?
Ithohan Omolere: Amen.
Jackie Hill Perry: I think that’s what it would be because you all just preach the gospel and I just needed to put the benediction on it, hey. With that, we’re going to open it up for a 10-minute Q&A. So if there are any questions-
Jamie Ivey: She was quick on the draw.
Ithohan Omolere: She was too.
Jackie Hill Perry: I didn’t see.
Jamie Ivey: That one.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yes.
Jamie Ivey: The white woman.
Jackie Hill Perry: Which one?
Jamie Ivey: It’s a joke, it’s a joke.
Jackie Hill Perry: I know, it was great. That was funny.
Speaker 7: What encouragement do you have for biracial people who can relate to but also feel marginalized [crosstalk]-
Ithohan Omolere: That’s good.
Speaker 7: Do you see them playing the role in embracing the beauty of diversity? And what would that be? You’re happy, do you know someone biracial who [crosstalk]-
Jamie Ivey: I’m going to repeat the question and then you all can answer. She was just asking about, do we know anyone who is biracial and how… Now I forgot… Who can feel marginalized and how can they have a voice in this?
Jackie Hill Perry: You got a lot of friends like that.
Ithohan Omolere: Okay. Obviously, that personal experience is not my own, but I am blessed to be in community with several people who are biracial or multiracial. And I think what I see is that like, although we acknowledge again how God created us and the different cultures that comprise our makeup, that’s the same for them. So they’re not only a part of a conversation, but needing the conversation, because they can claim and feel multiple identities and speak from them.
The point is not to classify us as a black, or white, or Hispanic, or Asian permanently in terms of… What I mean by that is, this is how God made us as His image bearers in the earth. And we’re going to still be this color and having our glorified bodies because we know that all tribes and all tongues will praise Him. So we know that there’s a oneness in us.
So it’s not that it doesn’t matter what your background is, but it matters even down to that specificity. So, that too should be enjoyed, should be celebrated. I think sometimes we need to make sure that we’re making room for people who are multicultural or multiracial to celebrate every single one of those identities.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Speaker 8: For those of us who are new to seeing these things, we didn’t see them before and we’re trying to talk to our friends about it, but there’s so much context that they’re missing and were missing. Can you give us like white privilege for dummies?
Jackie Hill Perry: Itohan. Come on, Wakanda.
Ithohan Omolere: Okay.
Jackie Hill Perry: Come on.
Ithohan Omolere: I’m going to go back to the spectrum of awareness. And because I’m a follower of Christ, I will first again say, you have to remove every thought of shame. We cannot be accepting forgiveness, or His love, or correction, or direction when we are under shame. So the first thing is that you have to reject that. And I think so many people aren’t able to even get past that, which is why there’s a difficulty to have the conversation.
But there’s beauty in God created you how He created you. You just have to understand that there’s equal beauty in how He created everybody else. So I think if you’re new to this conversation… White privilege for dummies is that we live in a society where whiteness is the norm. Everything is described through the lens of white equals normal, so everything else is other. And those who are other are often hated, and historically hated, and put in danger by the mere… Their mere difference puts them in danger.
Not only does it put them in danger, but it also prevents different opportunities. I mentioned before that I grew up in Oak Park, which is like, I don’t know, middle class, upper middle class neighborhood outside of Chicago. My father worked very hard and though he struggled financially, we had a home and he drove… We’re Nigerian, so there’s only certain kind of cars and they’re all like German and Japanese cars.
So everybody drives the Benz, that’s just what we do. So my father did that and we lived in the same house, and my father would take the same route home. It’s his house. He would be stopped at minimum three times a week. At minimum. That is my existence, you can’t have that, you can’t have that. That’s why I learned, my brother, when he became older, pulled over regularly, it’s just a part of our lives and it’s a part of life that you have not experienced.
So you need the humility to acknowledge that, that people are treated differently and it puts them in danger when there is a disgust and a disdain for difference.
Jackie Hill Perry: I wanted to speak into that real quick as Pastor Itohan. She’s not a pastor though because-
Ithohan Omolere: No ma’am.
Jackie Hill Perry: … we are confrontian, but… We’re confrontian, I promise, we are
Ithohan Omolere: See in the night.
Jackie Hill Perry: But I don’t think privilege, and I say this loosely, I don’t think privilege is a evil thing in a sense. I think it is beneficial to actually leverage your privilege for the sake of others. So if it’s… Yeah, I think you all get that.
Jamie Ivey: And I think to your very first step is acknowledging that you have privilege. Because I think that a lot of people, they’ll make you all mad on Facebook because they’ll say, “There’s no such thing as white privilege.” And I’m like, “Of course you’re not, you’re white. You’re you, of course you think that.” So I think the first step is acknowledging it and then you’ll start to notice things as well.
Speaker 9: I wonder how [inaudible]. How do you help your friends?
Ithohan Omolere: You tell them the truth, but you cannot. I am convinced, especially for the believer, it is a work of the Spirit of God. Continue to speak truth, but you can’t, you can’t. Her question was second.
Jamie Ivey: Okay.
Ithohan Omolere: So you still have that question?
Speaker 10: Yeah. Okay. I’m Mexican and I grew up in South Texas where the deportation is happening now. But what I find in my community of being around Hispanics and Latinos and [inaudible], even being married to a black man, black culture as well, there are some of the biggest people that are not allies are people of color-
Ithohan Omolere: Absolutely [crosstalk]-
Speaker 10: … ignorant to struggle because there’s white privilege, but there’s also some minorities that have assimilated to that already and don’t see that. So almost white people find the person of color to advocate for them, they’re like, “Oh see, this is why it’s real.” What kind of encouragement do you have for minorities that are blinded to that? As I compare because I stay praying. But as I compare, what are some practical ways that you can engage with minorities that are blinded to [inaudible]?
Ithohan Omolere: That’s so good. It is very essentially the same like are they approaching this with humility? Do they understand that being a person of color does not mean that you have the same existence as another person of color? It does not. I think we can look and we can see globally there are caste systems based on the darker your skin. So there is a difference even with that, even racially, the darkest have been despised.
And that is the result of sin, of greed, and of ambition, and of having to create a system that would support this supremacist ideology. There need to be a system that was created to support that. But it is a system, so there’s different levels. So unless you’re at the bottom, you cannot speak for those that are put at the bottom. You cannot. You cannot. You have your own experiences and they cannot speak for you. But do not assume that you’ve had equal or same treatment because it’s just not historically accurate.
We can read and we would spend… If we just read more, we’d spent a lot less time arguing.
Jackie Hill Perry: Say that one more time-
Ithohan Omolere: I said-
Jackie Hill Perry: … because they need to tweet it. I don’t think caught-
Ithohan Omolere: … if we just need to read more, if we just studied.
Jackie Hill Perry: Go ahead.
Ithohan Omolere: If we just studied, if we just all became students of history, I love history, I love literature. Those things have told us stories throughout all these generations and it starts with the word of God. It starts with the word of God. So if we just read more, we would have less arguments, but we think we know, so we don’t study. Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 11: If you had said, “The doctor, the lawyer, the black person,” what do you wish that you would have said to that person?
Jamie Ivey: I wish I would have said, “Excuse me? What did the black person do? What was their job?” I think that I wish I would have just called it out because he didn’t know, he was white. He just didn’t even realize what he had done. So I think I just wish I would have called it out to say, “You just gave me their professions and his skin color. Do you not know his job?”
Then maybe that would have been his answer like, “Oh, I don’t know what he did. I just know he’s black.” I don’t know. But I wish I would have just said something. I’ve had to do this for years with adoption and my kids are adopted. So people say things that aren’t true and I just say the right thing back to them. That’s what I have learned is, you don’t have to be mean about it, just say, “Oh, you don’t mean real mom, you mean first mom?” So just say the right thing back.
Ithohan Omolere: [inaudible], I don’t know. Can you get a line or something?
Speaker 12: Being a person who has privilege, what can I do? As a white person with a privilege, how can I leverage that?
Jackie Hill Perry: I think what Jamie just said is a huge thing is… Because the thing is black people can talk til they turn blue, which is going to take a long time. Unless, you get a tattoo. All my tattoos look blue. That’s part you all are privileged is that you all could get colored tattoos, I can’t get it. That’s a part of it. Seriously. All red on me looks like a bruise, I looked like I’ve been abused. Anyway, so you can leverage that.
That’s part of it. But I say that to say, we could talk until we turn blue, but there’s something that happens when a white person speaks up and says the same thing that we’ve been saying. They become attentive to it and somehow they believe it differently, which I understand. And so I think speaking out against it just as loudly as the other people are doing is a good way to leverage the privilege.
Jamie Ivey: And don’t think you can only speak when you know it all. You guys, I just told an embarrassing story up here about what happened with me and my daughter and the water… So I’m saying, I’m still learning every single day. But even though I made this mistake and I told all of you guys, which is just embarrassing because it maybe makes you think I’m don’t care, but it’s not true, I’m just learning. So you can still speak while you’re learning.
Jackie Hill Perry: It’s something as small as I was having a… I won’t share their name, but I was having a conversation with someone who is a part of a church organization that is large, substantial, all that type of stuff and they’re a white woman. They had open position for a women’s like Bible study leader, and they had all these resumes from majority white women.
Now, one resume came in from a friend that she knew that was a black woman. She went to the director, the boss, the big person, was like, “I need you to look at her resume.” I think that’s a part of leveraging her privilege. Because she could have assumed that all of these white people knew more, or were better equipped, or that they should have been in that position. But she had a relationship with someone who was of a different race, of a different color, of a different age that she wanted to be brought in, and she went to the big boss to have it done. So that’s one of them, for sure.
I want to answer… Porsche, that’s your name. Yes.
Ithohan Omolere: Another over here.
Jamie Ivey: Okay.
Porsche: What would be, I guess you could say a bit of encouragement for people who live in communities… Let me give some context. Just because there are white people and black people in community does not mean that all the community that are really embracing that person. So you all considering from my accent, I’m from Mississippi. I live in Greenwood. You have see [inaudible]?
Ithohan Omolere: Yeah.
Porsche: That’s where I live [inaudible]. Although there are white and black people in our community, it’s very segregative, [inaudible]-
Ithohan Omolere: It is.
Porsche: … but things are so separate. We have occasional things where we do things together, but there’s not even one church where there is a 30% representation of the other race even in church. So for me, I feel an immense amount of pressure of like, what can I do to begin this conversation or to help alleviate this type of tension in my community? What are some practical things or some encouraging things that you would say to someone who lives in a community that seems very segregated and they want to see a change?
Ithohan Omolere: I think what I go back to always is God’s perfect vision for His church, which we see in Revelation when we see every tribe and every nation worshiping and praising Him together. So I think I go to believers of whatever race with that vision and cast that vision and say, “This is what we know that our glorified existence will be like. How much are we striving for that now?”
And I think it’s also been practically checking the relationships I have in my life, and do I have relationships with people from other cultures? And if I do not, what do I need to confront in my own heart, in my own history? What conversations? Why am I uncomfortable? Why is that uncomfortable for me? So there’s a lot of work within yourself that you have to do too.
So encouraging all of those things, just first putting the vision of what God calls beautiful in our minds. Then also actively seeking to form relationship with people that you encounter in life that are different from you. Then examining your heart and those places of discomfort and why it’s uncomfortable.
Jamie Ivey: I think on a practical sense as well, one of my friends, Tasha started something called Be the Bridge. She has stuff you can download, there’s a Facebook group. You can start a group in your… I’ve been in a group before and it’s just a practical meeting together of starting conversations. And she does all the work for you.
Jackie Hill Perry: Is there a website?
Jamie Ivey: I’m going to guess it’s like bethebridge.com. I don’t know that. I hope that’s what it is.
Jackie Hill Perry: Okay.
Jamie Ivey: Yeah. Be the bridge.
Jackie Hill Perry: We have to go because we want you to get you to your third workshop, but I just want to applaud you all for coming. I’m encouraged when people are willing to come… Because I know this is really a very uncomfortable and awkward conversation for many of us, and so I appreciate that you all would be willing to join in on this conversation. But know that it doesn’t stop here, it only starts here.
So the work happens when you go home, in your local churches, in your families within your friendships. And it also starts when you start praying intentionally for God to help you. And He will help you because He’s good. So thank you for coming.