by John Hampton
I’ve gone to one church every Sunday since the day I was adopted. When I was a kid, I was “forced” to be there – it wasn’t really how I wanted to spend my Sunday mornings, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either. By the end of high school, however, I was showing up for people, people I liked. This church had become my home.
It felt safe.
And then it didn’t.
The church split, and suddenly I was an outcast. Granted, I have privilege because I’m a man and because of my last name. (My family has a long history in this church.) But I noticed some things. I’m almost always one of the only people of color in the room. I hear people say how safe they want to be for all different kinds of people. But people like me – and lots of other people who aren’t like me but who are also on the margins – they keep getting pushed out.
I get asked, “How can we create a safe place for people in the margins?” I point out that it might be nice to have it stated somewhere that “we will not discriminate.” I also point out that it might make sense to have people of color involved in creating a safe place for people of color.
Instead, I just get talked at. Or if I’m not getting talked at, I don’t get acknowledged at all.
I should have seen this coming. I remember several years ago when I realized for the first time how few people of color there were at my church. I’d asked my youth pastor how many people in our church weren’t white. He said it wasn’t more than 10 percent, and I was shocked. Until I looked around the room. There were people of color, but most of them were youth, younger than I; many were also adopted.
Three years ago, I couldn’t have imagined not going to my church. Now, thinking about going, I feel tense, angry, confused, a little bit sick. Homesick.