Today Sun Yung Shin, author of “A Good Time for the Truth: Race In Minnesota” gave a talk on her book. I honestly had no idea what I was going to, but I knew I was suppose to be there, so I went.
“‘Essays that challenge, discomfort, disorient, galvanize, and inspire all of us to evolve now, for our shared future.’ Who is ready to be inspired?…Who is ready to be challenged?…Now what about discomforted? Disoriented?”
This is how the discussion opened, I was posed these questions which I answered haphazardly in my mind, accompanied with a slight hand raise. These were questions which I didn’t even give a second thought until hours after the talk was over and I had long since moved on with my day.
Sun Yung Shin is an American with South Korean ancestry. She is an artist and an author who wrote the book “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota” which takes a look at racism in Minnesota and systemic issues that perpetuate the racism that takes place in our society. She sought out stories that have been intentionally and unintentionally suppressed and brought them to light. Her discussion began talking about the origins of Minnesota. We are living on land which is indigenous to the Dakota Native American tribes. She read to us legislation from the 1800s when Minnesota was being established that stated, “The Sioux Indians must be exterminated.” Our government dissolved all treaties between them and indigenous people which causes masses to be forced off the land which was their home and to seek sanctuary in foreign places.
This was shocking to me. It was painful that this state that I love so much has a legacy of oppression and extermination. It was grieving to examine my culture within the context of this past that condoned the belittling of entire people groups. Shin talked about ways that our society cater to white people and favor them. With systemic racism what can we do?
I totally agree that there are issues in our society that perpetuate the problem of racism. As a white, middle class female, I cannot imagine what it is like to live as a POC. I know that it is important to hear what she talked about because I can’t even imagine it. Also, in class we talk about being human and Christian. Both of those identities call us to care for our fellow person. If we consider it from a humanitarian view, each human should be awarded basic human rights and privileges just from the fact that they have breath in their lungs and a complex brain that can make decisions and process emotions. In light of Christianity, our job becomes even more clear — we are to love all people, to help the oppressed, to care for the poor and underprivileged. As Christians, if there is a chance there are people who might be oppressed, it is our job to that we stand with them because people cannot stand alone. If it is other white people that are oppressing and belittling others, maybe it is my job as a white person to stand up, because maybe I am the only one they would listen to. The Dakota struggle is important, people being oppressed is important. As Shin said, “Silence is to engage in the status quo. Truth telling can alleviate the burden of maintaining oppressing systems. Maintaining them are a moral disfigurement.” As humans and Christians we are called to set right that which is wrong, to bring life and liberation to all people. We have a lot of work to do — but it is no more than what we are already called to do as Christians.
Did it inspire me? Yes. Did it challenge me? Yes Now what about discomfort me? Disorient me? Yes and yes. As I was reflecting I realized that that is what happened to me. I was inspired to stand up to oppression. I was challenged to consider the ways in which systemic racism has seeped into my life in ways I have not recognized. I was discomforted and disoriented as I realized she was shining light on things that I did not like to think about — calling a spade a spade. It was a wake up call to recognize the struggles of the people around me and to stand with them in whatever way I can to bring restoration and healing to oppressed people.