I never cared to learn about race or ethnicity before college. As an ethnic minority woman, I definitely experienced discrimination growing up, but it was always something I’d laugh off or completely ignore. I’d occasionally say I “considered myself white” because I grew up in white culture (I was adopted from China). It wasn’t until I started attending Bible studies with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship that I learned to recognize and celebrate my unique racial and cultural background.
InterVarsity is an interdenominational, student-led campus ministry. Nationwide, InterVarsity values community and partnership with churches to impact students and faculty through scripture study and prayer. We seek to bring God’s people closer to knowing Christ’s love through service and ethnic reconciliation.
InterVarsity celebrates that God uniquely created every individual in His image and every culture with value; our faith is not reserved for Westerners or white people. InterVarsity at OU has Multi-Ethnic, South Asian (SAIV), and Global (international student ministry) chapters along with small groups specifically for Latino (LaFe) and African American/black students (Black Campus Ministries or BCM).
It is important for me as an Asian American to realize I cannot fully relate to the experiences of black peers. Therefore, I attend some BCM events to learn about the black student experience but refrain from others to allow black students a comfortable, ethnically homogeneous space for discussion and fellowship in light of the challenges minority students often face adjusting to majority culture.
In addition to weekly Bible studies, InterVarsity has organized cross-cultural events and opportunities to disrupt racism including:
- BCM lecture: Pastor Terry Wilson encouraged African American students in a painful world
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015 Gathering: We remembered America’s history, prayed for the future, and featured the OU Collegiate Gospel Choir and a Q&A with leading OU professor of color, Dr. George Henderson
- MLK Day 2016 Prayer Walk (Fig. A): We invited the campus and community to join us in prayer for racial reconciliation and gospel-style worship around the South Oval
- Art produced by Gina Butler, a white Multi-Ethnic leader (Fig. B): “…The color of a tan band-aid was just skin-colored to me for a long time. In this image they are on an admirable black friend of mine, illustrating their inability to match his skin. The band-aids represent my feelings of inadequacy when it comes to helping with race issues, like a band-aid on a gaping wound. More than that, they represent the misunderstanding of minority ethnicities.”
- Annual World Student Day: Our three chapters hold an international potluck and pray for other campuses around the world
- Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month: LaFe and Multi-Ethnic leaders led Latin dance lessons at our Fall Retreat
- Diwali Night: SAIV and Multi-Ethnic members participate annually
- Mentorship: We partner with Everlasting Light Baptist Church, supporting student mentorship with African American adults
InterVarsity desires to be inclusive in our special events and our identity. The Multi-Ethnic chapter has constructed a diverse executive board (Fig. C) to bring wider ethnic representation to the table for culturally sensitive decisions. We hope to show God’s love and thoughtfully consider the strengths and needs of students of every background. Jesus pursued justice, reaching out to the marginalized and the downtrodden, and as Christians, we desire to emulate him in our relationally-broken world and on our campus.
OU community, consider joining us in disrupting racism in these ways:
- MLK Day 2017: Prayer walk or walk in solidarity
- Stay updated: Visit https://ou.edu/intervarsity/ for future events
- Multi-Ethnic chapter Bible studies: Thursdays, 8 PM in Zarrow Hall
- Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on getting involved with any of the OU InterVarsity chapters or an ethnic-specific small group