STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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The fear is real. But we can overcome it by how we live our lives.

arthurjohnpicton on flickr, CC by-NC 2.0

My name is Alvin Thomas. I’m the pastor of The Nations Church in Utica, Michigan.

My parents, my mom and dad, were born in south India. I was born in New York City, so I feel American.

But, as my skin color will tell you, I’m Indian.

I’ve dealt with prejudice all my life. In the Bronx, white kids used to pick on me. They used to call me the N-word, because I’m dark skinned. African American kids used to pick on me because they said I didn’t have nappy hair like them.

"You must be white."

I used to get pushed, tripped in the hallways, pushed in the toilet all the time. So I’ve dealt with it.

The fear is real. It is legitimate. But I think that we can overcome that fear by how I live my life.

And I do not feel comfortable staying inside a church, preparing a sermon for 40 hours. I volunteer my time with Welcoming Michigan. I do ESL coaching every month -- spend hours with them there. I’ve met [people] from Mexico, Korea, China. I have Chinese exchange students that come live with us. Now I’ve got a Pakistani and a Jordanian exchange student living with us.

Sometimes you have to hold people’s hand because they will not go volunteer by themselves. You’ve got to put them in the car, "C’mon let’s go, let’s go meet a new person today."

My Jordanian friend that I told you about, he said, "If I saw a Jew, I’ll kill him."

He kept on saying it over and over and over. "I’ll kill him." He’s 15 years old. 

Credit courtesy of Alvin Thomas
Alvin Thomas, pastor of The Nations Church

So I took him to a synagogue.

"Where are you taking me?"

"Oh I can’t tell you."

"C’mon, tell me, where are you taking me?"

We showed up at the synagogue.

"Are you serious? We’re at a synagogue right now?"

I said, "I just want you to go talk to people."

He had a conversation with a Jew, he says, "I really like him."

I said: "You get over your fears. When you talk to somebody you get over your fears. It's not as bad as you make it out to be."

I’ve got fears.

And so when I talk to people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, I get over my own fears.

If you can’t bring someone of a different culture into your house for dinner, or, forget it, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, taking them someplace for dinner, then I don’t know what your faith is.

It’s great to carry a book, but I don’t know what your faith is.

Song: "Little Peace at Christmas" by Squire Tuck, licensed under Creative Commons.

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