Daniel tearing down a fence blocking view of our neighbors.

Ephesians 2:11-19 (NIV) 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.

Last Fall, I had to tear down my fence because it was rotting and some parts were already falling down. This led to my dog escaping into the neighborhood, so unlike other home repairs I could not put it off. In the process of tearing the ugly 10ft fence that came with the house, I met the neighbors behind us. Two properties connect to our back yard and the families were unknown to us. As one neighbor saw me struggling with the fence while they were having a family party, they graciously sent a ice old adult beverage over their chain-link fence. A couple days later as I slowly demolished the fence on a Sunday afternoon they passed over a plate of fajitas for the whole family. I knew these were good people at that point. The other neighbor has 5 grand kids that frequently visit who are close to the age of my children. Thanks to the fence being down they talk through the chain-link. With friends and food, there was not much incentive to rebuild a giant wood fence. Now we pass kids over the fence and climb over ourselves for parties and play (at least we did before COVID hit). Had the fence not been in ill-repair we never would have become friends with our neighbors behind us. We replaced the parts we had to in order to keep the dog in, but allowing only the chain-link has allowed our kids to have instant friends that they can talk to through the fence.

I believe this is true in our relationships between people of different cultures. These new neighbors we discovered happen to be immigrants from Mexico. With the fence down and relationships built, I am no longer angry when they have a party late on Saturday night. If it goes too late and I can’t sleep, I shout across the chest high chain-link and they turn the music down or off. I don’t need to get upset and call the cops. I ask them for respect and they give it.

All this makes me wonder as tensions between cultures escalate, is there not away to tear down walls of hostility and start building relationships across boundaries? Can we as white folks be asked to tone down our policies that are unjust to others? Racial justice starts with showing respect and understanding that there are indeed injustices stemming from a system that left out many cultures until the last 60 years. White males made all the rules for the vast majority of American history. Thankfully, that is beginning to change, but we have a long way to go before we have a society that is equitable for all.

To break down the walls of ignorance in my life, I am trying to do the work of awareness and self-reflection. I read White Fragility and gained many insights on how I have benefited from being a part of the dominant culture. I started reading articles on the issues at the heart of racism. I am listening to podcasts that deal with the realities of racial injustice in America. I was touched by reading John Lewis’ memoir, Across that Bridge. I am improving my relationships with family and friends that are part of different cultures by asking them questions about their experiences of discrimination and prejudice. I am inviting people to point out the ways I am being intensive or contributing to further injustice for people of color. I want to keep tearing down the walls and fences in my life. It is uncomfortable to uncover past hurts and discover the ways I have been implicit in a system rigged in my favor. Yet, every time I do the hard work of tearing down the walls of hostility in my life between cultures, I am rewarded with better friendships and a better quality of life. Paul gives us this great framework for intercultural relationships it is time for us to embrace it and begin the lifelong journey of learning from one another for the benefit of all! What are you willing to do in order to dismantle divisions?

With much love,

from this concerned white boy