Adanna, a member of the Racial Justice Group for the Diocese of Guildford,shares her story and experience of racial stereotyping, but also why she’s hopeful for the future.
Adannawas born and raised in Nigeria and moved to the UK around 25 years ago to study at the University of Leeds. She has always felt welcomed and included in the churches she’s been a part of, even when she was the only black person attending. With members of the congregation becoming like family, offering support when she first moved to the UK and, more recently, when she and her husband had a child.
As time went on, Adanna was surprised to learn that racial injustice existed in the church and became interested in finding out more and playing a part in combatting it. Although she feels she has been subject to overt discrimination, she can recall moments of racial stereotyping in church and society.
Once, she was told that she looked like Whoopi Goldberg – the similarities only based on hair style and skin colour. Another time a worship pastor assumed she knew and enjoyed gospel. He was very disappointed to learn that she had been to an Anglican school, that her church in Nigeria found gospel music too indulgent – she loves to sing but was more used to cantatas.
It's Adanna’s belief that the church at a local level is often more fair than other places but that there remains a lot of ignorance about race and equality and the assumptions leading to stereotyping.
She now realises that sadly there is significant prejudice, bias and institutional racism to deal with in our churches and structures. However, she has been encouraged by her experiences openness to learning from each other and the welcome to all regardless of doctrinal position.
“I recognise that our churches consist of people on a faith journey, exploring what it means to be God’s holy people, learning to be more like Jesus and are not perfect.” Adanna shares.
“Reflecting on the struggles we experience as we grow closer together and try to be fair and encouraging of all can bear fruit and strengthen our fellowships. The Church of England has a special standing as the National church and needs to set an example and help influence our society for good.”