Luneta National Park in the Philippines features art and poetry including “Ako Ay Pilipino”.
By Jesse N. Love | Additional Photos by Nobel Foundation, Wikipedia
Note: This week, clergy and laity from the PNWUMC will be sharing letters in the style of Bishop Woodie White celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Each letter will express some of the ideas, frustrations, questions and hopes from representatives in the PNW. Follow these letters here at The PNW News Blog!
Dear Dr. King,
We are in one of the most interesting and trying times in our nation. As we enter 2017, injustice, economic inequality, and racism still linger. I sometimes wonder if your dream of having your children and others, be judged not by the color of their skin, but of the strength of their character, still has the same impact during the time you spoke those words 50 years ago.
Recently, I thought of my own cultural identity — which I attribute both my skin color and my character. While with friends, I was chatting with one of their children. After playing and cleaning around the house, I mentioned to him that his parents, his siblings, and myself are Filipino. To the child’s surprise, it may have been the first time he realized an important part of his own cultural identity.
From that moment, I reminisced on being 9 years old and visiting my parents’ homeland of the Philippines for the first time. My father felt it was important for us to know who we are and where our family came from. It was a formative experience for me to befriend kids who all had dark brown skin and hair as I did, to hear our native languages spoken all around us, and to see the provinces where our families once lived and thrived.
Over the years, I’ve stayed proud of my heritage*, despite minor experiences in life when I’ve felt lesser-than for embracing my ethnicity. Being aware of who you are is important for one’s own well-being, especially when identifying yourself with larger groups for social and emotional connection. But lately, my inner-spirit has been in a struggle to identify who I am…and who we are as Americans and as Christians.
An interesting (yet disheartening) phenomena I’ve experienced is realizing that some people prioritize their national identity over their cultural heritage. For many, America is first; whoever you are as a person of color or a person of faith, takes a back seat. I observe some who embrace American might over compassion towards other people in their struggle for recognition and maintaining their own sovereignty. As a Christian, I still feel conflicted when it comes to the plight of indigenous people scarred by the expansion of rule in the name of Christ (see “An Identity Crisis”).
America is becoming so diverse in ethnic makeup and beliefs — that being judged by one’s skin color is a superficial way of knowing deep inside who one really is. But, what I’ve also realized is judging solely on the content of one’s strength of character and abilities, being colorblind to the systemic struggle of people of color, can be damaging, too.
How can we value our differences, instead of hurting one another because of them? How we find harmony or simply manage conflicting feelings of ethnicity, nationality, and religiosity, in today’s world?
Dr. King, I pray that despite who we identify with, we all realize with have the potential to create positive change, to stand up against injustice and to help meet the needs of others in real, Christ-like service…while still embracing who we are as children of God in a multiethnic, multicultural nation.
- Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. -Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV)
- Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. -Romans 15:7 (NRSV)
- So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! –2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)
- There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound. –1 Corinthians 14:10 (NRSV)
- For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. –1 Corinthians 12:12 (NRSV)
*Just a few things I’m proud of as a Filipino-American:
- The legacy of Filipino farm workers
- Filipinos were America’s allies in WWII and Filipino-Americans who are serving in the military today
- We have great illustrators, actors, and musicians
- Filipino cuisine is emerging onto a modern food scene
- We are very proud to be Christians, especially Methodists.
Jesse N. Love serves as the graphic designer and print manager for the PNWUMC and has visited the Philippines four times.