Not OK. How I learned to say it.
It was a cringe-worthy moment.
I am ashamed to remember it.
It was the last night of a large, border-medicine mission trip.
Where I mentored ~40 medical students, in how to care for folks in a low-resource environment. How to use your faith, and Christian love, with your medical training. How to lead someone to Jesus in a makeshift exam room, without coercing them (even gently) because you are the doctor. Never abuse your power.
And ten of these students were with me, all day every day. I mentored them even more closely.
We had amazing experiences. And heard horrifying stories.
The abuse of the Juarez drug cartels. People fleeing for their lives. People using their faith to survive kidnapping, attempted murder, the destruction of their businesses. Some of it by the official police. The complex world of illegal immigration, in that context.
And, as doctors do, we coped. With humor. Sometimes inappropriate humor.
And I passed on a very inappropriate inside joke, from American labor and delivery and obstetrics.
It was called “hispanicus hystericus,” and referred to a Latina woman who panics during labor.
I had no idea how hurtful this was; I knew it was inappropriate. And I meant it to be kept private, like a lot of inappropriate things. I would never have admitted that it was BOTH racist and sexist. Not even to myself.
But the Bible doesn’t promise to cover our sins.
Luke 12:3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
Yeah. Thanks a lot, Jesus.
And so it was that my occasional, inappropriate, both-racist-and-sexist joke, that was mean to stay just between us, got repeated on testimony night. Out loud.
I love humor, but this wasn’t as good as I had thought it was.
I asked one of my star students, who had led several broken and grateful people to Jesus, and eternal salvation, that week–with great love and compassion, what he had learned.
“Um, Hispanic Woman Syndrome?” He queried, nervously.
What followed changed my life forever.
In the uncomfortable silence, a voice rang out.
Jackie Velasquez was a second-year resident who had come along to help teach the students.
She never came back.
But into that embarrassing moment, her clarion call to right burned itself into my brain.
Into the tortured social constraints of an ethnically diverse church and mission field testimony service, it resonated.
Clear and loud.
I told her it was my fault.
She didn’t believe me.
She never forgave him.
And I learned something that night.
The hard way.
Years before, I had voluntarily joined an oppressive church.
Because it was so energetic. So invigorating.
And because I was fully hooked and committed before the pastor began to teach about sex roles.
Women at home.
Needing to be excellent in their housework. Because if they weren’t, they were just lazy.
How women needed men to protect them from their natural instinct to be foolish.
How every personal decision needed to be informed by the principles taught by the apostle.
That got really weird, eventually.
And after the suicide-deaths of two Jesus-loving, people-pleasing young women, my world was shattered.
I eventually left.
And then freaked out.
It took years of counseling and personal growth–after all, I had left the apostle.
And therefore, the Word of God.
Um…not so much.
But it took time.
And beginning these mission trips was part of my tip-toeing back into the Church, after many years away.
And that night, in her indignation and (truly) righteous anger, a second-year Hispanic resident handed me a gift.
I have learned to say, simply: “Not OK.”
When things happen around me. “Not OK.”
When folks I like and work with make racist, or sexist, remarks. “Not OK.”
It is a powerful tool.
I only regret that I took my own (inadvertently?) racist and sexist words for me to learn it.
And thank God, I am learning.
Proverbs 31:8 Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.