By Nora Lozano
As Martin Luther King Day was getting closer, I decided to approach this observance in a prayerful way. After offering general prayers for justice, peace and racial reconciliation, I asked myself: is this enough? How should I pray as a Latina? Should I be honest with myself and acknowledge that race issues touch the deepest part of my being? Should I accept that I fear judgment (perhaps my own and certainly others), as I deal with this issue?
Due to my ethnicity and the place where I live, the racial dynamics that I experience are not so much black and white, but brown and white. However, regardless of the colors, the struggle is similar. It is complex and I recognize that I do not know how to pray. In cases like this one, I like to go back to the simple prayer formula: ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication).
I worship you because you have created all of us equal. All human beings universally bear your image, regardless of gender, age, class, race or nationality. Yet, we are different, which means that you like diversity, too. I praise you because you created all of us equal and at the same time diverse.
I confess that sometimes I feel threatened by whoever is different than me. Due to this, I tend to be ethnocentric. I confess that it seems to be easier to hang around with people who look like me and talk like me.
I confess that I am a proud Latina. I recognize that this can be good as an affirmation of my heritage but that also it may lead me to arrogance and self-centeredness.
I confess that I have accepted and taken advantage of the benefits of the color of my skin, social class and education. Sometimes these particularities have separated me from the common, struggling, Latino/a folk and other minorities.
On the other hand, I confess also that many times I have stayed quiet, or that I pretended to not hear neither see when some Latinos/as have criticized me, overtly or covertly, for attending a predominantly white church or for hanging around with white/Anglo-Saxon people.
I confess, too, that I have not questioned people when I suspected that they were using me as a token.
I confess that I have not done enough on racial issues. I am clear that you have called me to be a bridge between cultures/peoples, but I admit that I get tired and confused, and then I go into a hiding mode because racism is painful and often I do not know what to do.
I am thankful for my education because through it you have allowed me to raise consciousness among different groups about diverse issues, including racism.
I am thankful for the Latinas/os as well as for the white/Anglo-Saxon people in my life. I am thankful that in both groups I have found good friends and supporters who have believed in me and encouraged me in my journey. Where would I be without them?
I am thankful for my predominantly white congregation because just by the fact that I am there, many stereotypes have been broken regarding Mexicans/Latinas/os as undocumented, uneducated and lazy. I am thankful because I have learned to love these white sisters and brothers, and they have loved me in return. And as we do this, we more closely experience what it is to live in the diversity of the body of Christ.
I am thankful for the predominantly Latino/a university where I serve. With your help and blessing, my colleagues and I are transforming the lives of many Latinos/as and other minorities as we challenge together a system that tells us that we are not college material and that we will never amount to anything good.
I am thankful for my two kids who teach me everyday how hard is to grow up as bi-cultural/ethnic persons in this country. They push me constantly to get out of my ethnocentrism and to continue building bridges.
God, help us to realize how the sin of racism has affected each one of us as individuals.
Help me to avoid generalizations and to see each person for who they are, and for their efforts to promote justice, peace, love and equality.
Help me to take the right place at the table, not above others, neither under, but together with others in harmony as we live as the body of Christ in “a discipleship of equals” (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza).
Help me to continue empowering my people, but also any person who may cross my path and may need my help.
Help me to continue guiding and empowering my two kids as they come to realize that they, too, can be bridges, and that they are blessed as they can take the best of both cultures, as well as reject the negatives.
Help me to live in solidarity with all people, especially the oppressed ones.
At the same time, help me to recognize that I am only me, a woman with limited time and resources, and that I need to be a good steward of the education, talents and calling that you have given me. Help me to remember that I am not Jesus, the savior, but only a collaborator in his project.
Please keep breaking me and reshaping me on this issue.
God, you know my heart and how I have struggled with issues of identity, inclusivity, loyalty and belonging, so let me close by saying: God have mercy on me/us! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude … from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! … Blessings and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
— Revelation 7:9, 10, and 12.