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Judged by the Content of Our Character
30th October 2020
At our Education Centre, we’ve been learning about inspirational history-changers.
During a review of Dr Martin Luther King’s life, we watched part of his speech from the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom’. Almost 250,000 people attended this demonstration on 28th August 1963!
On Sunday 6th June 2020, double this number demonstrated in 550 US cities for the Black Lives Matter movement. As the protests went on around the world and angry voices increased on social media, we gave opportunity for our young people to grapple with the issues that this movement raises. We watched several films about the history of the civil rights movement and discussed the ways we face the same prejudices here in the UK today.
Dr King highlighted the injustice and oppression still experienced by millions of people 100 years after the US government had legally ended slavery. I’d recommend you listen again to his rousing statements and consider how little our modern British society has actually progressed too.
One sentence particularly stood out to me from the clip we watched:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
When I discussed this with our students, I felt overcome with emotion and shared that vulnerably with them. Even almost fifty years after this impactful moment, we do not yet live in a time where people are not judged by their skin colour. I have heard too many friends’ stories about being approached by police simply because of their skin colour, or about refused job opportunities, or having experienced plain rudeness.
We need to change this.
Have you ever formed opinions about someone’s capability or trustworthiness from their outward appearance or accent? I know I probably have. I’ve also been on the receiving end. My parents and I were born in Germany and my dad (a specialist in his surgical field) still has a German accent. I grew up with name-calling and our family experienced prejudice and abuse, including our house being egged and a brick thrown through our window. However, my Black and Asian friends have suffered worse, more frequently, and somehow this is just accepted as normal by our society. That is appalling.
Have you ever granted privilege to one person over another based on their skin colour or their social status? Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, whatever their title or background. No one should ever be treated like they are worth nothing.
When I worked as a missionary, I witnessed bizarre reverse discrimination. In Indian village churches, men sit on one side of the dusty floor, women on the other, while the pastors sit on chairs on a platform. The churches would offer me a chair too, simply because I was white, but the dust felt more inviting. It was so disgusting to me, to physically raise some people above everyone else. As a white visitor, I was given the privilege of sharing a testimony on the microphone. However, because I was a woman - even worse, an unmarried woman - I wasn’t permitted to teach from the Bible in case I led people astray.
Some of the most amazing spiritual revelations that my heart has encountered has come from my Ukrainian friend who used to work in prostitution. The Lord has since used this lady for countless miracles, healings, and prophecies. Let’s just stop judging others based on their skin colour, gender, or their past.
I am proud of our students, for how well they have engaged in the discussion that everyone should be valued equally, and it is wonderful that at TLG they can learn to treat others as they would want to be treated. They won’t learn this from media and entertainment, and they may not learn this from their families and communities.
In that short 'Thought for the Day' lesson in our centre, it hit me that none of our students, whatever their colour, were used to being judged by their true value or for what is actually in their heart. They have been told over and over that they are no good by teachers and authority figures. Most have been judged by their behaviour, but they had already been treated as 'less than' because of their colour, accent, family, economic background, learning needs, etc. We want our students to experience mercy while they are with us; acceptance for who they are, forgiveness for the mistakes they have made and courage to become the best they can be.
Our society still puts people into boxes based on fickle, external judgments. A young person growing up in this world will not easily find examples of real integrity or true vulnerability; instead they are taught to present a contrived mask, especially under the superficiality of social media.
With low self-esteem, it is hard for our students to believe that they have the potential for good. We try to show them what a good character looks like, to give them hope for change, while we focus on understanding our students’ struggles and to call out the best in them.
Hannah leads on REVIVE and emotional wellbeing at our North Birmingham centre. Hannah has a background in overseas missions and church ministry and she has a passion for social justice. Hannah is German, married to a Canadian, and they enjoy exploring new cities, good food, and learning from other cultures.