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  • Writer's pictureRon Nelson

Something to Ponder: Motorcycles vs. Cars

Since 2013, Sowing Seeds of Joy has trained and equipped short-term missions teams to travel and serve in Brazil. Those taken were dazzled by the beauty, charm, and warmth of the people, enchanted with the Brazilian culture, and drawn to the language spoken. On two or three visits, our short-termers took in the site known to Brazilians as the eighth wonder of the world - The sand dunes of Brazil, which are officially known as the Lençóis Maranhenses located approximately halfway between the Amazon River Basin and the Atlantic Ocean.

The sand dunes of Brazil are but one wonder; another is the apparent battle between Brazilians on motorcycles verse their fellow citizens in cars. I quickly reflected on my experiences in Brazil when I read the analogy below sent to me by Samantha Deck.

Samantha or “Sam” serves with me on the Inclusion and Diversity committee for the organization Missio Nexus. The committee’s task is to generate conversation on the issue of inclusion and diversity in missions.

And there lies my objective as I share this analogy….Sam wrote, and I quote:

"When the subject of minorities and the minority experience has come up online or in person, inevitably I've had white colleagues who will tell me, "I know what it's like to be the minority! I've been the only white person in a room when I lived in... [fill in the blank continent]".

For years I didn't know why that didn't sit well with me. Yes, they were the numerical minority in the room. Why did I not think they had the minority experience? They felt they had been cheated in the open market by sellers who would look at them and raise their prices, forcing them to pay the "foreigner tax." They were mistreated or shut out of things because of their skin color. What was the difference?

A few months ago, as I was driving, an analogy came to me that has helped me to think about and explain the difference.

In the United States, the majority vehicle on U.S. roads is the car. The roads are full of cars, with some larger and some smaller vehicles also sharing the road. A person of color in the United States, as a minority, is like a motorcycle sharing the road with cars. They are definitely allowed to be on the road, but they have to be very, very careful. If somehow a car doesn't see them, or either they or the car make a mistake, it can be a deadly incident for the one driving the motorcycle. It can be damaging for a car to bump into or be bumped by a motorcycle too, but the driver and passengers of the car will likely have a much better outcome.

On the other hand, another minority vehicle that has access to the roads is a fire engine. A fire truck is definitely a minority vehicle on the road. There aren't many of them compared to cars. But when a fire truck drives onto the road and turns on its sirens, all the cars in the road move out of the way or stop so the fire engine can drive around or past them. And if a car didn't heed that and somehow got hit by a fire engine? That could be a very devastating day for that car.

The key to understanding the minority experience is all about POWER.

The difference in the two experiences is power. Both a motorcycle and a fire engine are minority vehicles. But the motorcycle has less relative power and position compared to the car. And the fire engine's size, strength, and power cause it to be the one that cars need to heed and take care around.

Who we are as we go out into the world, depending on the history of the place that we are at and our relative position of power compared to those we are with, determine what kind of minority experience we might be having? The minority experience isn't as much about being numerically fewer in a place, but about the power we hold in a space." [THE END]

In Brazil, because of the massive number of bikers on the roads, the motorcycles have the POWER, even the fire engines don’t stand a chance.

Again, something to ponder.

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