By Azariah Hullana
“Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” The students chanted as they encircled my opponent and I at the school playground. It was quite a picturesque setting despite the trouble that was ensuing. I could feel the grass crunching beneath my feet and the sounds of children laughing, playing and running filled the surrounding air. The warmth of the sun kissed the surface of my tanned skin, peering through the gaps of the tall tree, it’s foliage thick and thriving. Yet beneath the shadows of its sturdy branches, there I stood fists up ready to strike the first blow.
My family had just immigrated to Australia from the Philippines. I was sick of the social exclusion, the daily taunts, the whispers. Each day was a reminder that I was different. Reality escaped me from the moment vile words were uttered from my adversary’s mouth regarding my ethnicity and lunch.
My blood curdled. All I could see was red. I don’t even remember my opponent’s name. It didn’t matter to me that my adversary was a boy, it didn’t matter that he was about two grades older than me, it didn’t matter that he was taller or stronger. I was going to teach this second grader a lesson.
My fist hit the air as I swung for his chin. I quickly learnt I had a short reach and I kicked my right leg high, aiming for his stomach. He caught my leg and I hopped toward him. My first attempts at fighting were comedic. A “dibby dobber” had run to the teacher on duty as soon as she smelt strife. The teacher was quick to end my humiliation and demanded who was to blame. The students that surrounded us were quick to point the finger at me. I don’t remember much of the details after, but I do remember my parents getting a call from school that night.
My parents’ piercing glare struck the fear of death in me. I wanted to melt to the floor into a pool of shame. As a 5-year-old I didn’t know how to articulate my hurt, but I did quickly learn the consequences of my actions. This was not to be my last encounter with racism, but this was the last time I would allow my indignation to manifest in this base way.
In similar fashion, some people took their indignation to the streets these past few weeks reacting in protest and riot over the death and murder of George Floyd. What happened to George Floyd was condemnable resurging race and identity politics.
The articles and social media posts I’ve been seeing on this topic took me back to my “Uni” days, to a time I chose to do a subject on Race Politics. My experiences of racism were a motivating factor for that subject selection. I was on a path that sought for answers – answers to my hurt, my anger, my shame. Whilst the knowledge and skills I had gained helped me, it also left me overwhelmed at the enormity of it all. I felt helpless. There wasn’t a solution that academia could provide. Fast forward to today, and it still rings true.
If I was to view the current global situation from the lens of academia, I could not arrive at an answer.
But may I point us to the one who can? He has helped me find healing through the pain, anger and shame. Racism isn’t a systemic issue, it’s a sin issue. As a person of colour, I have only recently learnt to resolve this type of conflict raging within me despite the fact that it will continue to be a part of my reality. I came to know Christ at a tender young age, but it wasn’t until later in life that I learnt the full measure of the cross. Its grace isn’t limited to my eternal future, it reaches me at my present and extends to my past.
The breadth and depth of Christ’s love is limitless and sure. To Him, I matter. To Him, black lives matter. I mean that statement to be true from a biblical worldview so please don’t misunderstand its appropriation as confirmation of my affiliation with the movement. I do not condone the violence, rioting or looting. My parents reinforced that value in me early.
But what I am affirming is hope. The world needs hope. I need hope. Christ is hope.
As followers of Christ then, let us extend grace, empathy and compassion to those who are hurting, processing or grieving as a result of racism. Regardless of political or ideological inclinations, people deserve dignity and respect. We cannot diminish people’s stories or brush aside their hurt. We each have limitations in our understanding, but we can point them to and we ourselves can look to the one who fully comprehends, who is all knowing, Omniscient and His name is Jesus Christ.