I’m a white guy, which as of yet makes me a part of the majority race in this country. But I grew up as a minority. I grew up as a white kid living in an Asian country. You could pick me out of an aerial photograph of my grade school assemblies because I was the only blonde head among 100’s of dark ones.
That being said, I don’t really know what it’s like to be of a minority race in THIS country. I don’t know what it’s like to be black or Asian or Jewish or Hispanic or anything else. I just know what it was like for me - as a kid, being a minority.
The first thing I learned about being a minority was that everyone saw everything that you did. Simply because I was different, people saw me in much more clarity than they saw other people who were a part of the majority race. Our brains are wired to notice movement and difference much more than they are wired to notice sameness and stillness. This was both positive and negative. First of all, I was never wanting for attention, but I was also never able to relax in the same way as many of my peers and just let go. I was always on stage - which is perhaps why I was attracted to stages and pulpits when I grew up and moved to a place where my race was the dominant race.
Because people noticed me, I also grew up with the realization that I could never get away with anything. This meant that I had a choice to either be a very good kid, or to be a very bad kid. Of the minority raced people that I know in this country, I think this is a more influential thing than it may seem at first. You either grow up being good because that’s the “difference” that people expect out of you - like the fact that I would receive “best in conduct” awards every year in grade-school because they expected the American kid to be Captain America in miniature, or you grow up being a rotten kid because you’re different, and different is rotten. Whichever choice you made was fine, as long as you didn’t want to make the forbidden choice - the choice to be mediocre or “normal”. Ironically, I chose to be the good kid growing up partially out of expectation, and in my adolescence as a majority raced person, I dabbled in the forbidden and “bad” behavior that had been off the table before.
The last and most important thing that I learned as a minority is that we’re all minorities in some way. Human beings do trend toward uniformity and sameness in some things, but we all want to be noticed for the minority that we really are. Growing up like I did gave me a lens through which to see how people were trying to make themselves different so that someone will notice their uniqueness. I observed sub cultures in high-school and chuckled internally about how race-like they operated. I found my own “races” in my life as a majority raced person, and found the stages that I could set for myself so that I wouldn’t blend into the background when I didn’t want to, and the holes in which I could hide when I wanted to be left alone.
On this, Martin Luther King Jr day of celebration, I’m reminded not only of the challenges that we face as minority races and majority races, but of the opportunities that we have as each of us embraces our own minority status. We are all unique, all individuals saved by the all encompassing grace of Jesus Christ. We all find our place in majorities and minorities - and now with more freedom to transition between those two categories than we have ever had before in this culture.
If studies are correct, my children will be minorities in this country. I’m excited that they will share in the life I grew up in.