When You’re the Minority

Being in the majority feels comfortable. But it also can be detrimental.

White Specks

Jeff and I looked around us that Sunday night. Where was our generation?

We were among the oldest in the room.

(It still feels like a new phenomenon to us, but more people are younger than us than are older than us. The median age in American is 37.8 years old.)

But we also were among the whitest. The comedy club was featuring black Christian comedians this Sunday night (including KevOnStage, who is hilarious) and many (mainly younger) people were arriving to enjoy them.

Two nights later, we showed up at a community prayer vigil. While our age blended in easier, our color still did not.

There is comfort in being the majority. You don’t stand out. Eyes don’t turn your way.

But as the minority in a room, there can be discomfort. Like a white speck on black velvet, you might feel you should be picked off. Taken away for not fitting in.

Youngest, Oldest, Different

I was always the youngest in my class. My mom kicked me out of the house early; she sent me to first grade when I was 5 years old instead of waiting until 6. That meant I was always last to get my driver’s permit, last to get my driver’s license, last to be able to vote.

Now I’m on the other side. On our praise team at church, I’m among the oldest. It sometimes feels awkward. I don’t want to stand out.

In some ways we are all a minority. There is no one else exactly like us. With our exact experiences. Our exact circle of friends. Our exact tendencies.

But in a practical context, majority/minority come in bigger groupings: race, gender, religion, etc.

Being a true minority in this country is a feeling I have not known.

(By 2045, statisticians predict America will become minority white: 49.9% white, 24.6% Hispanics, 13.1% blacks, 7.8% Asians, and 3.8% multiracial populations.

Already there are more nonwhite children than white children under the age of 10.)

I’ve lived most of my life as a member of a majority group. As a middle-class, white, Christian, married American, I’ve grown accustomed to comfort. I can choose to be invisible in a crowd. Or if I prefer, I can use my voice and be heard.

Yet being in the majority can also be a detriment.

As the majority, we can be blind.

  • We can unconsciously (or consciously?) ignore the struggles of those around us.
  • We can lack compassion for those who haven’t been born with the advantages we take for granted.
  • We can use and misuse power over the marginalized without even realizing it.

Jesus as a Minority

Jesus was born into a minority. As a baby, tainted with his mother’s reputation as either crazy or sexually permissive, he had to flee as a refugee to neighboring Egypt to avoid death. Later back in Israel, his Jewish religion placed him as an ethnic and religious minority in the Roman empire. As an adult, he befriended prostitutes, tax collectors, and “sinners,” while amassing hatred among religious elite.

But his largest difference?

Jesus was the only Son of God walking the earth. The only living human who was perfect. The only one who fully understood the Father’s will and carried it out.

And also the only one who most loved everyone. And who loved EVERY one the most.

Break the Bubble

If we’re not the minority, let’s pop our bubbles of sameness and notice those around us. See the colors. Celebrate the differences. Use our privilege for others’ advantage. Demystify the other by becoming the other.

And if we are the minority, let’s continue to share our stories. Be ourselves. Speak out. Reflect the image of God.

It’s how we grow more alike, more in knowledge of each other. We’ll also grow more in compassion. In kindness. In grace.

The more we learn how to love, the more people we’ll discover to love. Just like Jesus.

On both our night at the comedy club and our night at the prayer vigil, Jeff and I listened and learned and broadened our perspective.

But we also laughed and talked and prayed. As one community. We saw friends we already knew, and met new friends.

Comfort is overrated. Color is different, but love is the same.

* * *

How often are you the minority in the room? Please share in the comments.

49 thoughts on “When You’re the Minority

  1. Michele Morin

    There’s so much I love about this sharing, Lisa.
    Most of all, I think, it’s just your encouragement to be comfortable in our own skin and in the place where God, in His sovereignty, has placed us. There is so much good that needs doing. Thanks for all that YOU do!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Michele. God does put us all in different situations for his reasons, many of which we never understand. 🙂 I just have to be willing to step out and show up, which isn’t always easy for this introvert.

  2. blankLinda Stoll

    Lisa, thanks for this challenge. Those minority opportunities can be uncomfortable, yet soul-stretching and wisdom enlarging.

    Our own personal comfort zones are way too cozy, aren’t they. Oh what we’ve missed along the way …

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Linda. I do love a cozy comfort zone! 🙂 But you’re right…if we stay there, we miss SO much goodness and growth and enjoyment along the way. God makes it worth our while if we’ll step out in faith.

  3. blankLaurie

    I have been in your shoes many times, Lisa. At running club, I am one of the oldest people there. I ran a race last year, where I was the oldest woman registered. How can that be? I, too, was the youngest in my class, starting first grade at 5, last of my friends to get her driver’s license.

    It is good to know what it feels like to be the minority. Empathy builds compassion, which we need more of in this country. Good for you for sharing this experience!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      So you understand. Being the youngest during school years was sometimes fun, but not when it came time to get driver’s licenses. lol.

      Good for you in being the oldest in your running club! That’s really an inspiration to younger runners. Plus you should win more prizes because of fewer people in your age group, right? 🙂

  4. blankLynn D. Morrissey

    Very thoughtful, sensitive, caring, and challenging post. I worked in the inner city of Saint Louis for a season (and even briefly in my childhood as a minority), and it changed me in all positive ways. I need more of that now. Tx for sharing.
    Lynn

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’m sure you had many interesting experiences there, Lynn. Yes, it does change us and thankfully usually in positive ways. There are times in our volunteer work with the poor that I can see how people can get cynical over the years. But we have some great role models we watch and they are still going strong in their ministry to those who are the least heard in our society. I think we all need more of that.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Good for you, Lauren. Getting a hold on our white privilege is a slippery thing, but definitely something we need to be grappling with. It can make a big difference in the way we treat others if we break loose some of our unconscious ways of thinking.

  5. blankDolly at Soulstops

    Lisa,
    I appreciate your honesty and sensitivity. I resonated with what you said but I come from a place of not being in the majority. Cheers for you and Jeff for being willing to stretch yourselves out of your comfort zone and for you being willing to be the oldest on your worship team 🙂 Mixing of different generations and different backgrounds must make God smile 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Dolly. I really don’t know what it feels like to be in a minority group other than in teeny tiny ways, so I like to learn from those of you who DO know and have experienced it for a lifetime.

  6. blankStacey Pardoe

    This is such a wonderful post, Lisa. May we learn to be comfortable in our own skin, and when we’re not, may we remember this truth that Jesus was in the minority as well!

  7. blankSarah Geringer

    Great observations, Lisa. I live in a bubble of comfort but I’m trying hard to change my mindset. I like the way you described Jesus as a minority–I hadn’t thought about that before. So thankful he identifies with us in our struggles, and challenges us to keep growing.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I’m glad that Jesus identifies with each of our struggles, regardless of where we’re coming from. He has a special capacity to do that. May we continue learning how, too! I appreciate your heart, Sarah.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Amen to that, Joanne. Our comfort zone can be so snug around us that it’s hard to even WANT to unzip it and crawl out. But it’s good for us to, not only for others, but for ourselves to grow as well.

  8. blankTheresa Boedeker

    Lisa, I agree, it is good to get out of our comfort zones and be the minority sometimes. It can be a good teacher. Majority or minority, we are still alike in so many other ways and we can concentrate on connecting over our sameness.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Theresa; we all share SO many similarities, more than we even know. Sometimes we may have to dig a little to find them, but they always exist. It’s worth our effort to uncover them.

  9. blankKaren Friday

    Beautiful article, Lisa. We do get comfortable and one way or another ignore those who are different around us. I like the idea of breaking the bubble. Love these lines talking of Jesus, “And also the only one who most loved everyone. And who loved EVERY one the most.” So true.

    When I went to Zimbabwe in college, we were among the minority. Back then, they had segregated busing. But because we were there to show the Jesus film and proclaim the gospel, we road the African national buses. People stared at us every where we went. And in the rural villages, hundred’s of kids followed us down dusty roads because they had never seen a white person before. We let them touch us and touch our hair and sit on our laps. Our translators said other missionaries in the past would not even come inside the village gate. We chose to live among them, stay in tiny rooms to sleep inside their small houses, eat with them, teach them about Jesus. We saw thousands come to Jesus that summer. It’s an experience that makes me tear up writing this as I remember how hard but blessed the whole summer turned out to be. I certainly want to break these barriers on American soil too. (Sorry this is so long. ) 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I love hear your story, Karen. I can’t imagine how that felt to be living in Zimbabwe. The closest thing I can imagine is just short-term mission trips to Central America, but that’s so minuscule in comparison. I’m sure that experience was a life-changing one, which obviously still touches you today. Thanks for letting it touch me today too.

  10. blankLeigha | OfferingGrace

    Lisa, thank you for this. I had not thought of Jesus as being a minority, but now I see it. Thank you so much for your encouraging words reminding us to be comfortable with who we are even when that means we are the oldest in the room ;). Dropping by from WorthBeyondRubies linkup.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’m still learning to accept myself as the oldest in certain situations, even though I’m not always happy about it. lol. I was at an event yesterday talking to a gentleman in his 90’s, and it made me feel very young. I guess it’s all relative (until you’re in your 90’s then likely you are almost always the oldest in the room!). 🙂

  11. blankLisa Brittain

    I love that you were brave and gently tackled this topic. I’m finding myself in the older range of the crowd and I have been more often than not part of the majority skin color in my lifetime. However, I celebrate diversity and love to meet people who are not like me.
    Thank you for your tender heart and wise words.
    ~Lisa

  12. blankDebbie Wilson

    Lisa, one of Randy Alcorn’s fiction books first opened my eyes to what it might feel like to be a minority. Before reading that I’d never given it much thought. This is a great post. Thanks for your work.

  13. blankfloyd samons

    Very well thought out and heart opening post, Lisa.

    I’m like you in that I was always the youngest. Even in business, now I’m one of the oldest.

    I’ve had that “look” my whole life. I’ve had security follow me around the stores as if I were a common thief. I’ve had preacher’s call me out in church during their sermons for having long hair. They don’t stop to ask or know that I’ve donated my hair eight times. It’s not a big thing or I wouldn’t bring it up now, but to make your point.

    We’re all minorities or judged by the world for one thing or another… it might as well be for knowing the love of God and sharing it with them.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes it grows our compassion for others to have felt like the minority in at least some way in our lives. Not comfortable though. I’m glad you’ve been your own man, Floyd. This is a wonderful truth: “We’re all minorities or judged by the world for one thing or another… it might as well be for knowing the love of God and sharing it with them.”

  14. blankMary Geisen

    This is very interesting. I have always been in the majority but find I am a minority in my church based on age and being a single woman. I was part of a Bible study recently where I was also a minority based on my ethnicity. It is a shift for sure but one I am finding very freeing. Than you for these thoughts.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing this testimony, Mary. “It is a shift for sure but one I am finding very freeing.” Hearing real-life situations like yours helps us all to be more willing to step out.

  15. blankBrittany

    This is beautiful Lisa. We must all learn to build bridges that embrace differences. I was just thinking about this same thing today. I stick out like crazy in so many areas of my life, yet God is intentional about how He creates us and wants to use the things that make us stick out to bring otters to Him.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Good for you, Brittany. Sticking out can be uncomfortable, but what a difference you must be making! You likely aren’t even aware of all the impact you’re making. Blessings to you.

  16. blankPatricia

    Fabulous post. As a minority in some parts of the US, but not in my town and I love it. Having been refused service, followed in boutiques, and having listened to crass jokes from the pulpit no less, can make one bitter or better. I chose better.
    Smile better.
    Say hello better.
    Hug better.
    Love better.
    Life is good.
    In this day and age, your post is so needed. Thank you for sharing!

  17. blanknylse

    I have thought about this a lot especially when i relocated. It became very clear that if we were a white family that we would fit in seamlessly; just pick up where we left off but being brown we didn’t have that luxury.
    I appreciated this post and your thoughts.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      That luxury…how easy it is for many of us to take that for granted. 🙁 And what we take for granted, we often can take advantage of, consciously or unconsciously. Thanks for sharing your perspective! We need to hear your voice.

  18. blankKellyRBaker

    Great thoughts, Lisa. Yeah, that compassion that Jesus has is good for us to apply too. I think it will make a difference to do what you said. I’m going to check out your comedian. Michael Jr. is my favorite Christian comedian. 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      KevOnStage has a lot of youtube videos and a very active FB page. He always makes me laugh. I love Michael Jr. as well! And that reminds me that I heard a radio advertisement that he is coming somewhere close to me soon. I’ll have to go look that up right now. 🙂

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