Tuesday, May 18, 2010

American Society

This past Sunday (May 16) I attended Sunday school at a local church that I now regularly attend. Our group is composed of youngish middle-aged married couples, and we have started a new series on how to have a successful marriage in God's eyes. I think (I hope) I will learn a lot to apply to my own marriage.

I am usually pretty vocal to my experiences of married life, but this time it was different. I felt shut out. I could not comment on a single thing those around me were saying. The question that was being discussed was what does society (i.e., secular society) say about creating oneness in a marriage. I actually have "learned" lots of secular messages on how to improve and maintain a marriage; however, I realized that none those messages matched what the group was expressing.

At that moment, I became uncomfortable, acutely aware that my husband and I were the only blacks in the room. I noticed that we and one other person (who was Hispanic) were the only spots of color. I didn't realize how much I had forgotten of what I went through growing up in Fulton, MS, and attending Mississippi State University in a predominantly white environment. I had forgotten how it feels to be surrounded by people who had no idea of what kind of cultural experiences I have faced.

The point is not that my world view is so different; there are many similarities. It's that I had to search for this common ground. The things that first came to mind were much different than what I was hearing. Things that made me feel like an outsider -- which is weird because as Christians we are outsiders to "mainstream" society. But, this is what I felt and I kept swinging between thinking I should just share my own views and thinking I should keep quiet because maybe I was overreacting a little.

Why shouldn't I just share my own views and be done with it? Because it would derail the whole conversation to a topic of race and ethnicity. I did not want to do that. There is a time and place for everything, and I don't want to change every subject brought up to my black experience. How boring. Also, I felt that what I had to say was contrary to what was being said. Like I would just have said the opposite of someone's opinion for kicks.

So I was stuck for how to validate what I had to say without negating what someone else had just said. In the end, I said nothing. Was I a coward for just sitting there listening to the group without participating because I thought I would put the group off-topic (huh, my whole life experience is "off-topic")? Certainly. I'm working on it though.

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