“I was not raised thinking this way. In fact it has only been in the last five to seven years that I've really started thinking along these lines. Some of the foundation for that was laid while I was in school at Southern, but it wasn't until seminary that these ideas really took root.
I would say there have been three main influences in shaping my thinking. One was learning a less white-washed version of American history while I was at Southern. A second was making friends with people outside of my own race and ethnicity while I was at the seminary, and a third was reading the Bible for myself and discovering that justice is a central theme throughout the Bible. Somehow I had never been taught that as a kid, even though I grew up in the church.
For me it was more of a gradual awakening. I remember some specific instances where I learned something that changed my perspective. The Trayvon Martin shooting happened while I was at Andrews. I remember following that story and thinking that what had happened was such a terrible injustice.
I also remember a conversation I had with two coworkers. I was a grad assistant, and one day two of the office managers and I were talking about getting pulled over by the police. I don't remember how we got on that topic. One of them was African American; the other one was Hispanic. The Hispanic woman was talking about how her son often gets pulled over by the police. His hair and beard lead some people to think he looks Middle Eastern. He's had guns drawn on him, been forced out of the car, that sort of thing. Then the African American woman told how when her son was learning how to drive, her husband had to teach him exactly what to do when he's pulled over: where to put his hands, what to say and what not to say. It was eye-opening for me. I thought, ‘I never had to learn this stuff as a kid.’ I mean, some of it I had heard before, but I didn't worry about it like it was a life-or-death matter. But these people did.
That was one of the moments where I really had my eyes opened to my own privilege. I realized that some people have to always be alert and on guard about things I never worry about.”