Is my daughter racist?

Archie Poulos

One evening last week I was driving with my daughter through the centre of Sydney.

We were stopped at the lights at a busy corner and I turned to my daughter and commented that I couldn't see anyone who wasn't Asian in appearance. I intended to go on to suggest that we talk with an Asian church about investigating the possibility of taking up one of the self-contained pavement newspaper stands as a base to evangelise from, when she replied that she didn't like it that there were so many Asian faces.

That stopped my thoughts in their tracks. She had never in the past shown any signs of being racist. I have spent the last quarter century in ethnic ministry. Yet, did her comment betray that I am a racist and that she picked up her attitude from me?

I explored further.

From my lips came what I thought was a calm question: "Do you hear others say things like that?"

Her reply: "On the bus and at school all the time."

At least it didn't come from me. but I was still worried.

"Why don't you like there being so many Asian faces around", I enquired. "We walk past here every day to the bus stop, and I feel out of place, as if I don't belong".

So I thought for a while about that while we argued about which radio station to listen to.

My daughter's response was not racist; it was natural. No one likes being the odd one out. You feel insecure, threatened; as if everyone knows what to do except you.

I am glad my daughter had this experience. It will help her to mature as she begins to understand how people coming to our shores must feel when they arrive. In fact it must be worse for others than for my daughter because she, while feeling out of place, is still at least part of the majority culture.

In our churches I see similar things happen. Our churches try very hard to welcome people from other cultures, and we think we do a good job.

Yet we so often fail to realise that the mere fact of being the majority culture alienates people. We need to think about how to help those of other cultures, who take the very difficult step of coming onto our turf, into our churches, to not be disaffected just because they feel the oppression of being someone who is very different to the majority culture.

I have lots to say on this, but I'll wait for your comments and pick it up another time.