Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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June 2016 Archive for Steps towards racial justice

RSS By: MNYS Anti-Racism Task Force

Our Anti-Racism Task Force members will be taking turns in writing posts that shed light on issues surrounding racial justice work in our church and society. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors.

Think undocumented workers are all cleaners and laborers? Think again

Jun 27, 2016

By Juan Carlos Ruiz

Juan Carlos Ruiz is a candidate for public ministry in the Metropolitan New York Synod and was invited by the Anti-Racism Task Force to share his story here.


I left my seminary in Mexico at the age of 13. Now I work as a missionary supporting people who’ve come to the US without documents.


Former priest Juan Carlos Ruiz now collaborates with St. Jacobi, Brooklyn

I was not technically a wetback – I crossed the border by air. I came to be reunited with family. They had trickled up to El Norte from the state of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. First my father. Then my oldest brother. Then the rest of the family; my mother, a sister, and three younger brothers. I was 13 when I decided to stay in Mexico without them, as I had already entered the seminary to become a priest. After two years on my own, I came to visit. It was the late 1980s. I joined the rivers of people being crushed by the mighty dollar.


After being here for a month on vacation, I decided not to go back. I became undocumented for the next eight years. Born into a family that places a high value on faith and education, all of us managed to go to the university and pursue careers. I followed the calling to serve God in Miami, South Orange, Berkeley, Puerto Rico and finally Chicago, where I was ordained a deacon and then priest in the Roman Catholic church. Before that happened, I got a religious visa as a religious worker, which regularized my status. In that sense, I married God.


Eventually, I became a missionary living on the margins with undocumented people, who are kept in the shadows by a broken immigration system. They are oppressed by the militarized fist of the all powerful Homeland Security Complex.


The fact that I had been undocumented inspired me to take on that work, as did people I had met on my life journey. A close friend at seminary – who had spent most of his time in the 1980s in jail for witnessing against the invasive foreign policy of the US and creating the violent conditions that continue in Central America – introduced me to the Catholic Worker movement. There, I met priests, such as the Berrigan brothers, and Father Gutierrez, whose lives were an example of the fire of love and compassion that had already taken a hold of my spirit. I embraced Liberation Theology – a leftwing form of Christianity that expresses solidarity with oppressed and marginalized people across the world.


My work among the undocumented continues. As long as the flow of military and economic aid keeps flooding the global south, there always will be displaced people bubbling up. Forgive the cliche, but: we are here because you are there.


Juan Carloz Ruiz (left) during the Tres Reyes Magos celebration with Sion and Saint Peter’s, Manhattan

Where I live in New York City, I meet people who keep defying the bullets of the death squads, the cartels, and their governments. They cross the southern border of Mexico into the US with the hope of making their dreams come true. Our government keeps spitting them out. There is not an option for them but to keep coming back.


That’s why, in 2007, we launched the New Sanctuary Movement as we began talking about how to make visible the suffering of our brothers and sisters who live in a legal limbo. At the end of 2006, we began to talk about organizing our faith communities by listening to their stories and amplifying their voices.


Standing on the shoulders of the original Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s – which pushed for the US to provide a safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict – we hope to remind the people of this nation that the US can become a great nation once we acknowledge our responsibility to our neighbors. The refugees we have created and are responsible for.


We know that their suffering and displacement is tied to our ever-expanding global policies. It is time for the United States to recognize its responsibility towards people who have been pushed out of their homes – and bring them out of the shadows once and for all.


What are you?/┬┐Que eres?

Jun 10, 2016

By Oneida Garcia


I open my mouth to say something sassy in perfect Spanish but I am dark-skinned and now everyone is confused. Someone asks, "What are you?" I respond, "I am an Afro-Colombian, Plus-Sized, Young, Strongly Opinionated, Argumentative, Hispanic, Female, Dark-skinned, New Yorker who is currently in a serious monogamous relationship with a male". Meanwhile I know the only thing they want to know is, "What kind of black is she?" Now I feel some kind of way and it’s not the first time.



Definition(s) of Racism

According to Merriam-Webster’s racism is defined as; a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. I believe the first definition is incomplete. Webster’s 2nd definition of racism includes racial prejudice and discrimination. That sounds more like how I often feel, judged just by one glance.


Cultural Misappropriations

According to the Huffington Post by Mawuena Akyea, "when marginalized groups express they're cultural traditions or styles they are stigmatized, but when a person from a dominant group does they get celebrated. It's never "just hair" or "just dancing," appropriation creates a double standard that puts down oppressed groups."


Growing up in a Spanish church, I was often asked, "when do you plan on doing something about that pajon? (Racist hair joke.) In junior high school, I was asked, "what did you do to plump your lips? (Racist/sexual joke.) In high school, I was asked, "what did you eat to keep your butt so [insert racist/sexual joke]? Now these same features are en vogue. It’s as if the world wanted me to hate myself but worship others.



At 12 years old I learned my skin color put me in a different category. According to Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, "Micro-aggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership."


Three of my light-skinned friends invited me to the pharmacy after school. All of a sudden they left me and the security guard was only paying attention to me, so I left to look for them. A few minutes later the girls came out, and each offered me one of the items they had stolen. I refused, said goodbye, and as I turned around I let my tears fall down my face. I realized they had only invited me because they knew my dark skinned presence would distract the guard. That thought made me hate my skin, myself.


Going Natural/Ethnicity

During a summer vacation at the age of 13 in Cartagena, Colombia, I decided to show the world my self-love; I decided to go natural; not using chemicals or heat on my hair. I returned to the United States excited to show off my new long micro-braids to my church friends and classmates. Some people said I looked pretty with long (chemically/perming straight) hair implying something is wrong with my (natural) own hair. Some people said braids were Caribbean, which was a confession: They thought of the world as Hispanic or Black, as if being both was impossible.


A few months passed, I was tired of hearing racist complaints about my braids (like they were disgusting) and feeling compelled to explain natural hair cleansing techniques. I decided to cut the braids off. The result was a short Afro, and as soon as I saw it in the mirror, I returned to the same salon that had been chemically perming my hair straight since I was five. While I waited I thought, why did I choose braids? Why was it so difficult for people to accept the blackness of the braids? Why was it so it difficult for me to deal with the short Afro?



I’m Afro-Latina, and that comes with a lot of baggage and a lot of pride. I know that some of my ancestors bought others or were sold, or their land was stolen. Then together they all built continents with blood, sweat, and tears. And so, I have a painful and beautiful legacy to continue; THIS IS WHAT I AM…Oh, and a good cook, a good dancer and super corny.

Por Oneida Garcia


Abro la boca para decir algo descarado en perfecto español, pero yo soy de piel oscura y ahora todo el mundo está confundido. Alguien pregunta: "¿Qué es usted?" Respondo, "Soy afrocolombiana, gordita, joven, fuertemente pertinaz, argumentativa, hispana, hembra, de piel morena, de Nueva York que se encuentra actualmente en una relación monógama seria con un hombre". Mientras tanto, sé que la única cosa que quieren saber es, "¿qué tipo de negra es ella?" Ahora me siento mal por dentro y no es la primera vez.



Definición(es) de racismo

De acuerdo con Merriam-Webster racismo se define como "la creencia de que la raza es el principal determinante de los rasgos y habilidades humanas y que las diferencias raciales producen superioridad inherente de una raza en particular." Creo que la primera definición está incompleta. La 2ª definición de Webster sobre racismo habla también sobre "los prejuicios raciales y la discriminación". Esto se acerca más a como yo me he sentido muchas veces: juzgada de acuerdo a un simple vistazo.


Malversaciones Culturales

De acuerdo con Mawuena Akyea del Huffington Post: "cuando los grupos marginados expresan sus tradiciones culturales o estilos, éstos son estigmatizados, pero cuando una persona de un grupo dominante lo hace, él(la) es celebrado(a). Nunca es simplemente "la forma en que luce tu cabello" o "tu forma de bailar". La apropiación crea un doble estándar que pone abajo a los grupos oprimidos.


Al crecer dentro de una iglesia de habla hispana a menudo se me preguntaban: "¿cuándo piensas hacer algo con ese pajon? (broma racista sobre mi cabello). En la escuela secundaria me preguntaban: "¿pero qué hiciste para tener unos labios tan rellenitos? (broma racista y sexual). En la escuela preparatoria me preguntaron: ¿pero que comes para tener un culo así de [insertar broma racista y sexual]? Parecería que estas características siempre están de moda. Es como si el mundo quisiera que me odiara a mí misma, pero adorara a otros.


Los micro-agresiones

A los 12 años aprendí que mi color de piel me puso en una categoría diferente. De acuerdo con Derald Ala Sue Ph.D. de Psychology Today: "Micro-agresiones son las acciones cotidianas verbales, no verbales y ambientales, desprecios, desaires, o insultos, ya sean intencionales o no intencionales, que comunican mensajes hostiles, despectivos, o negativos para elegir a una persona como objeto únicamente en base a su pertenencia a grupos marginados."


En alguna ocasión, tres de mis amigas de piel clara me invitaron a la farmacia después de la escuela. De repente me dejaron y el guardia de seguridad sólo me estaba prestando atención a mí, así que salí a buscarlas. Unos minutos más tarde las chicas salieron y me ofrecieron cada una, uno de los artículos que habían robado. Me negué y me fui. Al darme vuelta, lagrimas se derramaron por mi rostro. Me había dado cuenta de que sólo me habían invitado porque sabían que mi presencia de piel-oscura podría distraer al guardia. Ese pensamiento me hizo odiar a mi piel, y a mí misma.





























Going Natural/origen étnico

Durante unas vacaciones de verano a la edad de 13 en Cartagena, Colombia, decidí mostrarle al mundo mi amor propio, decidí estar 'al natural', dejando de utilizar productos químicos o calor en mi cabello. Volví a los Estados Unidos emocionada por mostrar mis nuevas trencitas largas a mis amigos y compañeros de clase de la iglesia. Algunas personas dijeron que me veía mejor con el cabello largo y lacio, implicando que no me veía bien con mi propio cabello. Algunas personas dijeron que las trenzas eran del Caribe, lo cuál fue una completa confesión para mi. Ellos pensaban en el mundo como Hispanos o Negros, como si estos términos se excluyeran mutuamente y fuera imposible considerarse ambos.


Pasaron unos meses, y ya cansada de escuchar las quejas racistas sobre mis trenzas como si fueran repugnantes, y de sentirme obligada a explicar las técnicas de limpieza de cabello natural; decidí cortarme las trenzas. El resultado fue un Afro corto, y tan pronto como lo vi en el espejo, regrese al salón dónde siempre me he hecho el alaciado permanente desde los cinco años. Mientras esperaba, pensé, ¿por qué elegí hacerme las trencitas? ¿Por qué fue tan difícil para la gente aceptar la "negrura" de las trencitas? ¿Por qué fue tan difícil para mí hacerle frente al afro corto?



Soy Afro-Latina y eso viene con un montón de equipaje y mucho orgullo. Sé que algunos de mis antepasados ??compraron a otros, o los vendieron, o sus tierras fueron robadas. Luego, todos juntos, construimos este continente con sangre, sudor y lágrimas. Tengo un legado doloroso y hermoso a seguir: ÉSTO ES LO QUE SOY ... ah, y una buena cocinera también...sin olvidar lo buena que soy para bailar y lo súper cursi.



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