posted on January 17, 2020
I grew up learning about the Civil Rights movement and its key figures like Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, and of course Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even before I began kindergarten and knew how to say his name, I understood Dr. King was super important. After all, he had a day named after him, and all the schools closed to celebrate it; he had to be a big deal!
I quickly learned just how important and integral Dr. King was to the shaping of the current times. We read about how things as seemingly simple as water faucets were racialized and unfairly used to treat people differently. As a child, this was a world I couldn’t believe in. Yet, at the same time, I was living in a racially constructed society myself.
Though there were no specific signs designating where one could and could not get a sip of water, there was a set of rules. While these rules were invisible and unwritten, somehow everyone knew about it and followed accordingly. Even as a seven-year-old, I disassociated what I was learning at school - the fight for racial justice and the value of equitable rights - and what I was experiencing outside the classroom - real-world racism.
I was learning in school that we were living in a post-racial world. Everyone is equal because we don’t see color, and America is a melting pot of diversity and culture. But I was very much living in a still racist world, where only the privileged, i.e. white people, have the option to be “colorblind,” and the melting pot, or assimilation, is either a forced mandate on or voluntary survival tactic for minority people.
Unfortunately, 20 years later, the frank nature of just how deeply racism permeates our society, culture, politics, and faith continues to surprise me. Today as we begin the year 2020, black lives are still repeatedly systemically targeted with violence, we’re fighting for #BlackLivesMatter; our immigration policies are racially discriminatory; the gender and racial wage gap are real; hate-crime violence hit a 16-year high; climate change more directly impacts black and brown populations due to racist policies like redlining.
Despite these challenges, I have hope. I hope for change. I hope for God’s justice and mercy. I hope for light to shine in the midst of this anticipated turbulent year. This year in the United Methodist Church we have another General Conference, Annual Conferences, and Jurisdictional conferences; in the United States, there will be a presidential election; around the world, we will have multiple opportunities to seek-justice and disrupt racism.
MFSA is partnering with Crossroads, a non-profit that focuses on dismantling systemic racism and building antiracist multicultural diversity within institutions and communities, to conduct a full organizational racial audit in 2020. Our goal is to be better structured to perpetuate justice and equity throughout the MFSA network and whatever form the church takes next.
This year, we celebrate what would have been Dr. King’s 91st birthday. And this time around, I’m no longer thinking of how it’s a big deal that we have off from work and school for his day. Instead, I’m reminded of what Rev. Dr. Bernice King, his daughter, shared recently, “It’s [MLK Day’s] not a day off, but it’s a day on.” It’s a day “on” to recognize and celebrate the work and faith of our preceding justice-seekers, and it’s a year on to continue the work of seeking justice with a heart of hope.
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Yeo Jin Yun
Yeo Jin Yun is a 2019 Global Mission Fellow (GMF) US-2 commissioned by the General Board of Global Ministries. Serving the next two years in the position of the Development and Communications Coordinator, Yeo Jin works in collaboration with Executive Director Bridget Cabrera in supporting the works and goals of MFSA by increasing the quality of donor relationships and by strategically communicating with and engaging United Methodists of our ministries via social media and E-newsletters.