Grace Muthomi’s Story
Racism is the topic of conversation for today in some circles, but racism is not new. It has been active for a long time and it does not take much research to discover that.
With the murder of George Floyd, it has caused a lot of conversation globally. But black, oriental, and indigenous people have suffered at the hand of humanity driven by hatred fueled racism continuously. It is not a new conversation for them.
I (Pastor Stu) have done a lot of reading and watching videos to learn. But what has had the most impact on me is listening. I have been able to ask questions and hear the stories of my friends.
In a recent conversation with Grace, I asked her permission to ask questions about her experiences with racism. She graciously said yes, and in humility, she shared honestly with me. I was honestly shocked and was clueless about her experiences. I would never have imagined the comments and experiences, because, well, I had never been exposed to such behavior. I have to admit, I was ignorant. Because I was not aware of the magnitude of racism was being experienced, I lived blindly to reality.
That one conversation lead to more conversations, and eventually to the place were I asked Grace if she would be willing to share her story with us on our blog. She graciously said yes again.
I am a Black girl living in a white world.
Here is part of my story.
Many of you do not know, but I am an immigrant. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to two wonderful and amazing Kenyan parents. My parents were invited by friends to immigrate here to Edmonton in the ’90s, and after many years of deliberation and prayer, they finally decided to move in 2002.
I lived in Kenya for seven years of my life, and in those seven years, I did not notice or knew that there was anything different about my skin color. Of course, I knew I was Black and that others in our society were of different races, but it never negatively affected me.
As an African in Canada, I carried the burden of my skin color and my ethnicity. I had to deal with the inferiority complex that comes with being African. I had many times where people will look at me or look at my last name and ask, “What are you?” or “Where are you really from?”
In most cases, I am happy to explain, but often the question comes with preloaded assumptions. I will explain proudly that I am Kenyan and people will reply stating, “oh are you here on refugee status?”, “have you come to live out the “American dream”?” Or, “it must be nice to have running water and electricity.” For so long, growing up because of these presumptions, I felt like my ethnicity and skin color were a burden, and I began to shy away from being proud of who I was and who God created me to be.
I was seven years old when my race become a description of who I was, and when I started having feelings that I was different, that I was the other, that I did not belong.
When I was in 2nd grade, we had a concert, and the teacher had told the girls to wear skin-colored tights. So, my mother and I went to the store, and we bought the skin-colored tights. These beautiful brown tights that fit my skin tone. When I got to the concert, everyone else was wearing nude tights, and what the teacher had meant to say was for everyone to wear beige-colored or nude tights.
At that moment, I was singled out as the only black girl with brown tights performing, and the idea of not belonging, of being othered became very real to me. It was then I was taught that white was the default even when it came to something like tights just by the words that had been used by the teacher rather than asking us to get nude or beige tights.
For the first time since I was born, I was in a race where I had a predetermined place in life. Where I would try as best as I could to try and fit in and hide my identity by changing what I could, such as my hair, or the way I would talk to my black friends vs. white friends, or how I would act in school because of the views society had. This is because of systemic racism that is so deeply rooted in our world, in Canada, in America, and even in Africa.
My ancestors were taught by colonizers that the hair that comes out of their scalp is not good enough if it is not straight; it is unprofessional, that it is better to have an Anglo-Saxon name than a traditional African name, and that the lighter your skin is the better, hence products such as fair and lovely.
These are the realities of being black in our world:
Having someone touch your hair as if to pet you and stating that it feels like wool
Under-representation in the media or over-representation of the token black person in media
Being expected to have straight hair in order to be seen as professional
Being followed in stores
Being called out of a security line when traveling because you were randomly selected every single time you travel
Having jokes made about your race and skin color
Lacking makeup products that match your skin
People calling out how articulate you are and that your mama raised you well.
Where a father goes to a teacher to ask for help when their child is being bullied because of their race, and the teacher tells them that there is nothing that can be done
These realities are just a glimpse of what I have faced and what people like me face every day and a small part of my story. Sadly, I could continue to share about the many injustices overt and covert that I have faced for the last 25 years.
Even through all these injustices, I believe in a God who brings healing where there is brokenness and life where there is death.
God makes no accidents. Everything He creates, He says it is good. It is a masterpiece. It is beautiful. We see time and time again through scripture that God very much cares about injustices, and we are called and are expected to respond to injustices, (Micah 6:8, read the blog about that verse here).
Pursuing justice means following God’s way to make right, which is wrong. Jesus pursued justice, and He set an example for all of us on how to care for the outcast and the overlooked. Matthew 25:35-40 shows us that what we do for others in this world, we do onto God. Our relationship with God should externally manifest through our relationship with humanity.
Not only are we called to seek justice, but we are also called to love.
These are the characteristics of God, and we are to be like him. Luke 10:25-30 teaches us that love is more than a feeling; that it is an action. We cannot just preach love; we have to act upon it.
Love is having hard conversations. Love is listening to stories of what people have been through. Love looking inwardly at your own beliefs and biases. Love is asking, how will you show love and justice to others?
Love is action. I would like to ask, how will you actively participate in righting what has been wronged in God’s design?
Thank you Grace for sharing your story. Thank you for being vulnerable to share in such a public setting.
This blog post marks the start of a mini-series we will continue through the topic of racism and God’s plan to restore humanity. Revelation 7:9-12 tells us what is going to happen. God will make things right and we will live in harmony with one another.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)