Six Postures Of Ethnic Minority Culture Towards Majority Culture

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This fall I partnered together with staff from Epic, Impact, and Nations to create a new resource for ethnic minorities. Our goal was to create a paradigm that would allow for minority staff and students to describe their journey in relationship to the majority culture. We desired for them to be able to accurately name where they were and from there begin to move to a place of wholeness.

Over the next few blog entries we’ll be posting excerpts from the article (you can download it in full at the Epic Resources site). Our desire is to engage with you over the content. We’d love to hear what you think about the article. We think this can be a healing exercise for ethnic minorities and an eye opening experience for ethnic majority staff. So please join us in dialogue as we all move towards wholeness.


“Six Postures Of Ethnic Minority Culture Towards Majority Culture”

By Adrian & Jennifer Pei, Destino Kristy, Donnie & Renee Begay (with personal stories by Destino, Epic, Impact, and Nations staff)

WHEN YOU HEAR THE TERM “MAJORITY CULTURE,” WHAT IS THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND?
What thoughts or feelings arise within you? What images or memories of the past resurface?

The history of ethnic minorities in North America is filled with pain, from both the reality of living on the margins of society as immigrants, and the wounds of injustice from those in power. This article is written by five members of ethnic minority cultures who have wrestled with how to minister and lead through that pain in healthy ways.

Adrian and Jennifer minister with Epic Movement (Asian American ministry), Kristy with Destino Movement (Latino or Hispanic American ministry), and Donnie and Renee with Nations Movement (Native American ministry) — which are all ethnic ministries in a predominantly Caucasian ministry organization, Cru Global (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ).

A few months ago, some of our Caucasian colleagues released an article called “Five Postures of Majority Culture Towards Ethnic Minority Ministry.” It explained a “posture” as an approach involving not only the mind, but also the heart and attitude. Five postures were outlined: (1) Unfamiliar and Unaware, (2) Duty or Obligation, (3) Charity, (4) Unity as Togetherness, and (5) Advocacy in Partnership.

“In waiting for others to change, or initiate with us, we have sometimes missed what God wants to do in our hearts and lives.”

Whether we know it or not, each member of an ethnic minority culture also has a posture towards the majority culture. Likewise, this influences what we value, how we make decisions, and how we treat others. As we have served in our ethnic minority contexts for the past few years, we have noticed a lack of awareness and dialogue about this.

Much attention and energy has been focused on how we have been treated. But in this process, we have often failed to recognize the power and responsibility that God has entrusted to us, as His children. In waiting for others to change, or initiate with us, we have sometimes missed what God wants to do in our hearts and lives. Whether we live on the margins or in positions of power, we all play a part in God’s story. He calls us all to examine our postures, as we act and lead.

As we have ministered, we have consistently experienced and identified six postures towards the majority culture. They are: (1) Unaware, (2) Angry and Wounded, (3) Silent and Resigned, (4) Duty and Pleasing, (5) Unity as Assimilation, and (6) Equal and Empowered Partnership. As you read, you may not identify with one over another. Perhaps aspects of two or three will best represent your heart and attitude towards the majority culture. Our hope is that you pay attention to what this surfaces within you and make an honest assessment of your own posture.

We pray that you’ll take the time to reflect on what God might be encouraging you to consider in your own development and leadership.

Posture #1: Unaware

The first posture we have observed is best described as Unaware. Some ethnic minorities have formed or found communities where they are surrounded by those of their own culture. As a result, they have rarely been in situations where others have seen them as different, or where they have felt like a minority; they feel “normal” because of what their context has defined as such. Thus, though they live and breathe their own culture, they may actually be quite unaware of the distinctiveness of their own ethnic background.

For others, perhaps they engage in multicultural contexts and relationships, but are unaware because differences are not thought about or discussed openly. Either of these contexts can encourage the misperception that culture is non-existent, or simply not important.
By God’s grace, we are all in different places on our journey of awareness, and none of us has “fully arrived.” Maybe you wonder why it’s even important for a person to explore their culture and ask questions, when they seem to be “fitting in” without any problems. Or maybe you are just beginning to understand the various family and cultural factors that have shaped you. Regardless of where you are in your journey, consider what opportunities for growth and leadership lie ahead for you and others, that have been previously overlooked!

“…though we live and breathe our own culture, we may actually be quite unaware of the distinctiveness of our own ethnic background.”

As ethnic minorities, if we choose to stay in mono-cultural environments that don’t engage the majority culture, we may spare ourselves the pains of marginalization, the confusion of feeling different, and the tension of “not fitting in.” However, in doing so we will miss the fullest vision of who God has created us to be. We are able to more fully grasp our unique identity, as we navigate the tension that comes from being with those different from ourselves.

Moreover, if we stay disengaged, we will hold back our unique values and stories from the body of Christ. There are new and rich pictures of your identity, family, history — and of God — that are waiting for you to learn and share!

If we choose to ignore cultural diversity and dynamics, we may also spare ourselves the discomfort and hard work of cross-cultural communication and partnership. However, in doing so we will miss redemptive opportunities that God is calling us to embrace. As ethnic minorities, we cannot wait for the majority culture to recognize differences or enter into our stories, before we engage them. How might God be calling you to initiate, both within your own culture and with the majority culture, as you help others begin to see differences as opportunities to grow and learn?

Discussion Questions (please answer in the Comments below):

  • What stood out to you from this section of the article?
  • As an ethnic minority, have you ever experienced the “Unaware” posture? If so, in what way? If not, what helped you be aware?
  • People from the majority culture are often unaware of their culture. How do you think this differs for an ethnic minority that is “unaware”?
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Posted on November 7, 2011

About destinokristy

A Latina, DestinoKristy served with Destino from 2008-2013.

3 Responses to Six Postures Of Ethnic Minority Culture Towards Majority Culture

  1. Adrianpei says:

    I have to share my story about being “Unaware” because it was so surprising to me. When I went to Massachusetts for a year, I was the only Asian American in my small group. One day the other members asked me, “So what is it like for you growing up as an Asian American?” Literally my first reaction was, “What are you talking about? I’m no different!” I realized that I had almost never been asked a question like that (and by this time I was a young adult), because I was either around other Asian Americans who wouldn’t ask that, or around others who were reluctant to talk about differences. I also found myself trying to “prove” that I could fit in, by the music I knew and listened to, my hobbies, and a lot of other things. It’s pretty striking to me that all of this happened so late in life for me, which shows me that unawareness can be present for many, many years and through a lot of different experiences and meeting different people. In fact, I continue to learn and see how I am still unaware in many ways… but now that I’m looking for it, and have people to talk about it with, it helps me to grow and learn.

    • destinoeric says:

      Adrian,

      Thanks for sharing. I find that dynamic fascinating. Not only were you unaware but you almost actively tried to stay unaware. It’s almost like your unawareness was connected to “unity as assimilation”.

      I find a similar dynamic in my own life, though for me it is different because I am a member of the majority culture. It actually benefits me to stay unaware of my culture because it forces people to become like me. For you the posture of unawareness means that you have to change.

      A question I have for you (and for others like @destinokristy:twitter and @ovalledreams:twitter ) is, “How do you help people move out of this posture?” I have seen how White people like me have caused pain in others because we are unaware of our own culture. I don’t want to see Destino repeat that same mistake with other cultures.

      • Adrian says:

        Great question. On one level, I’d like to think that simply having the language and categories to talk about these things (like the postures) helps me to better identify some of how I’m seeing myself, treating others, etc. And having people to talk to about it, also helps.

        On another level, I continue to be convicted that so much of this is on the “heart” level. Looking back on the anecdote I shared, I appreciate the fact that the Caucasians in my small group asked “what it was like for me as an Asian American” because they wanted to know me better. Their hearts were to value and learn about what made me unique, and if I had understood and valued that back then, I might have asked them more about each of their own backgrounds, knowing that each of them had a distinct and valuable culture and story as well.

        One thing I’ve found hopeful and inspiring is that as I’ve come to embrace who I am, culture, family, and all the other things that have shaped me… it’s inspired me to want to learn about others even more. And I not only see what they bring uniquely to their team and ministry (which makes for great fruitfulness, btw!), but I grow closer to them personally, and my heart grows in seeing how God has gifted each person, and is working powerfully in each person’s life. So as I become more aware as an ethnic minority, I am more likely to value and respect those in the majority culture.

        Do you find that’s true for you, too? Has learning about ethnic minorities’ cultures and stories made you more aware of your own culture? What have you learned about your culture?

        Also, you mentioned some of the pain you feel may have been caused by Caucasians… and I appreciate your humility there. I’m also curious what are the good things you’ve learned about your culture?