Hanna Mason, UNT
Hello Everyone. My name is Hanna Mason, I got involved with FOCUS at Collin College and then transferred over to UNT, and now I’m attending FOCUS at UTD. I would like to begin by asking all of you for grace. I’m sharing parts of myself that are extremely embarrassing, and I hope that you can look past my weaknesses to see the ways that God has strengthened me. I’m going to start by giving you guys some background information about my life. I grew up in Whitesboro, TX. A small town in Texas with around 4,000 people at the time, and as the name implies most of the population was white. By most I mean 96% of the population was white. The median income in 2000 was around $31,000 per household, and about 12 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. I was raised by a single mother of three children. We were living very close to the poverty line, and received government assistance.
At this time in my life I knew little to nothing about any races other than my own. My Dad’s family was from the Deep South and they fed me a lot of misguided information about how I ought to think about being white and the “truth” about other races. They aren’t hateful people, they just choose to indulge in their ignorance because it doesn’t cause them a loss in their pride.
When I was eleven years old my mother got married for the third time, and we moved to the Plano area. I went to Murphy middle school which truly terrified me. I met a person from India for the first time in my entire life. I was surrounded by a large Asian population, and compared to the one black family I had met, there seemed to be a lot of new black people in my life. I was faced with the culture shock of going from a small town to a big city, and the shock of coming from a town with a deficit in diversity to a city that at the time I thought had to be the most diverse place in the world.
When I started going to my new middle school I cried. People teased me for my southern accent. I ate by myself for the entire first week of class. At the time, I was extremely shy and quiet so I didn’t have any idea how I would make new friends that looked and acted so differently than the hick kids I grew up knowing. I met two girls that were second generation Middle Eastern, and they became my closest friends throughout sixth grade. Slowly, they began to teach me more about a culture I had never even heard of, and so my experience of people who were different than me grew just a little bit.
By the time I got to college I had a large group of very diverse friendships and a better idea of other races and my own race. But deep within me I still let my ignorant uncle’s voices seep into my thoughts and create an ignorance within me that effected the way I experienced other races. I never realized how deep these grasps were until I was faced with serious conversations about police brutality, poverty, our jailing system, and education in America.
Later I came into the FOCUS community, and I lived with Sandra Salvador and Ashley Molina. We began to have a lot of conversations regarding presidential debates, and issues that were arising in America regarding racial inequality. When I began discussing these things with them it was extremely hard for me not to feel attacked. I didn’t want to say that I had received any kind of privilege for being white, and I didn’t want to admit that a large majority of white people have racists thoughts and have stereotypes against other races. Because in admitting these things it made me feel like I, personally was admitting to being racist. It made me come face to face with the thoughts that I held regarding other races, and it made me realize that even though I had progressed past the ignorance of my family I still needed to renew the lens through which I looked at others. I had to overcome my pride and admit that I was still, at the age of twenty-two, a very ignorant person. Through this time in my life I felt challenged by God to seek wisdom and understanding of other races. I started asking a lot more questions to people that looked or thought differently from me. I prayed for growth, I prayed for grace and help, and mostly I prayed that God could renew me.
I want to share a little now about what I think the Spirit taught and is still teaching me about race. Something that was monumental in helping me grow was understanding that I have been more privileged because I am white. I didn’t understand this at first, because like I mentioned earlier, I grew up very poor and by no means had an easy childhood. But white privilege doesn’t mean that you have things easy and your life is great. It simply means that you were afforded more advantages than others receive. I have never been pulled over on the highway for no reason, advisors have never told me that I better strive lower because I probably wasn’t smart enough to do something, employees have never followed me around at a mall because they assume I will steal something. Though these scenarios seem few and far between to some of us, they are all real situations that have happened to some of my friends in the last five years. So be willing to realize that as a white person, you do experience less discrimination from others around you.
Secondly, I would like to talk about some factors that helped me grow. The main factor in growing to understand other races and cultures is asking questions and hearing personal stories of people who are of different races and cultures than you. A question that was a good starting place for me was, “What kind of racism have you experienced personally?”. This helped me get real stories from people I respect and love. Once you hear a personal story, you see people as actual people, and not some number or interesting statistic, and your heart truly breaks for them. This shatters stereotypes and ignorance toward other races. It helps you see the person that God created in His image, and forces you to renew your thinking. So please, stop acting like you are so wise, and listen to your brothers and sisters. God gave us a diverse community. He wants us to hear each other’s stories and to share in each other’s lives. While you are doing this and after you do this, pray. Pray that the God who started a good work within you will continue to carry it on to completion. Pray for understanding and renewal, and pray for God to let the things that break his heart be the things that break yours.
To this community, I would like to read Ephesians 4:1-7. “ Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who us over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” I would like to remind all of us that we are one body. We are called to show tolerance and love to one another, and to preserve unity through the bonds of peace. So if you are of a minority or different culture, when you are faced with ignorance, misguided thoughts, or politically incorrect statements, I want to remind you to be full of grace. Most people aren’t directing these things maliciously, and most people don’t realize when they are acting this way. When faced with these things, I urge you to be extremely graceful and gentle, and to help people understand. Correct misguided thoughts with grace. Explain things to people, and help them overcome their ignorance. I know I still need help. I’m not always going to say or do what is best.
But thank God that he has new mercies for me every day. This is how you also should live. This means not jokingly calling someone a racist. That’s not funny. Do you think you’re honoring your brothers and sisters when you joke that way? As someone from a minority or different culture you have a very unique opportunity to educate and inform this community. We need you to take the lead on this subject with humility and grace, and be open to sharing your experiences and wisdom about your race and culture. I need your help to grow. This community needs your help!
And to us all, let us seek peace and unity throughout or differences. Let us grow in love and understanding of others so that we can show this world the love of Christ that allows us to come together and discuss hard topics such as these. Amen.