"When the denomination opens the door to minority ethnic members, it has to welcome their problems as well. You can no longer say, 'it's your problem.'"
Reverend Harold Caicedo is passionate about the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) being a place for all people. A church where leaders and church members embrace everyone, as Christ does. A place where ethnic diversity is not a problem. A place where it is the solution.
I interviewed Harold to get his perspectives on antiracism and the Christian Reformed Church. Harold’s office looks more like a library than an office. He is an academic and a practitioner used by God in the following roles:
- Harold is the pastor of the El Sembrador Church in Fontana, CA
- California South regional governing body leader
- National delegate to denominational Council of Delegates
- Consejo Latino President
He aims to unify the diverse views of Latino and Anglo leaders to better serve reformed churches. Harold seeks better connections between church leaders, agency staff, and resources. He sees this through on committee work with the National Council of Delegates. Harold is an active leader in the work of antiracism. His perspectives are insightful for our work.
So, why did he sound so out of tune when I asked him about discrimination?
“Discrimination in the US," he states, "is a widespread generalized experience for Hispanics. In other words, a common view among Hispanics is that they are denied benefit or access simply for being Hispanic. It has never happened to me." With an interrupted pause he continues, “not within the Reformed Christian Church."
“For example,” he says, “The leaders at the River church helped me start the El Sembrador congregation. They helped pay my tuition. Leaders and directors in the denomination sought my friendship and input. I have never felt discrimination." He admits, personally: “I don't have much experience. On the contrary, I have always had support from everyone."
I was grateful that Harold did not conclude “discrimination doesn't exist”. Some Immigrants deny that it exists. But He did not.
He sees discrimination in leadership that is not inclusive. “Ethnic minorities are not part of the whole,” he concludes. “They exist as extensions or additions in a majority culture. They are not considered when selecting executive committees. Nor are they included in deliberating doctrinal issues." He sees a majority culture insulated unto itself. Many times, operating independently of minority ethnic leadership.
Harold speaks with hope, when he talks about equity. “When people are included in decisions and are not dismissed simply because they are different than “us”, that is equity,” he says. Harold regrets that some minority (ethnic) leaders believe that “they close the doors on us." “If only, we'd have a space of equals,” he says. He suggests that there is not an inclusive space for mutual decision-making.
What I don't hear in this conversation is an acknowledgement that the leadership issues he raises are rooted in racism. Harold speaks of an inferiority view present in some minority ethnic leaders but blames it on a person's point of view. He does not see it as a problem common to a group. When he spoke of insulated leadership, he did not say it was because of a superiority view. He blames it on leadership. Harold does not use terms like internalized racial superiority, internalized racial oppression, or systemic racism. Yet he was able to point to examples of that. He, like many Christians, seems uncomfortable pinning the problems he sees on racism.
Antiracism work is not easy but should not be neglected. It is seeing each other through Christ's eyes. It is listening as Christ listened. It is as Harold exhorts to embrace the gifts and challenges of all people. We need embracing. The challenge is to not dismiss or ignore the joy and sorrow in each other’s stories. This is a call of bearing with each other’s burdens. It is a call to mutual discipleship. It will not happen overnight, and it will not be pleasant all the time. It will create a more inclusive story.
In some ways, Harold is talking about antiracism. He speaks against programmatic ministry. He cautions against a ministry that does not create caring relationships. “Love for those who speak English as well as for those who speak Spanish, must be the reason for ministry,” he proclaims. Harold yearns for deeper relationships with immigrants and their families. He would like us to feel the pain of legal family separations. He would like to close the gap between us and Christians living hardships in poverty. We are without excuse when we ignore this injustice.
Harold suggest the following anti-racism measures:
- Include minority ethnic input in denominational decisions
- Broaden denominational understanding of Who We Are, diverse in culture but not divided
- Create value for story
- Evaluate structures & budget priorities
Meaningful faith cannot ignore racism. The church has been entrusted with a powerful voice. The voice of the Kingdom changes us completely. It is the voice of love that never fails. It bears patiently with those suffering the pangs that divide us along color lines. It does not dishonor. It speaks against evil. The Kingdom voice tears down the wall of us and them. The Kingdom of God is a voice of transformational power. Harold has this voice. Our church has this voice. Let us use God’s voice to overcome racism.