Guest / Limited Access /

I used to take a certain amount of pride in being the first African American on staff at Christianity Today. But I was routinely humbled when I realized that being first isn't all it's cracked up to be. When you're the only one, there's always a sense that you're in an extremely unstable position, as if one healthy gust of wind could topple you—and with you, the hopes of other people with your skin color.

Sometimes, I had to remind myself to "be black," to make sure the rest of the editors weren't overlooking some important point or advancing something that might be insensitive to nonwhites. This became exhausting. On the one hand, I wanted to be a good race man and represent "my people" well. But on the other, I hated all that responsibility. I just wanted to be an excellent journalist.

Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon echoed the opinion of many African Americans when, in a column about golfer Tiger Woods, he wrote, "There's a social responsibility that comes with being black in America, regardless of the profession, and that obligation increases exponentially with stature. There are rules adopted out of necessity, even desperation, by the subculture we as black folks inhabit. … One of the rules is you speak up, even if it means taking some lumps."

I did my best to speak up when it seemed necessary, and at times I caught grief for it. Other times, I decided it would be best to act like Jesus before Herod and simply say nothing. It gets old, you know—this taking-your-lumps business.

"People sometimes ignore you," says Bruce Fields, a professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. "Or, if there is attention directed toward you, it is subtly communicated ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Equal-Opportunity Offender
Uzbek government crackdown on Muslims worries evangelicals.
RecommendedAmericans Warm Up to Every Religious Group Except Evangelicals
Americans Warm Up to Every Religious Group Except Evangelicals
Pew finds fewer people personally know an evangelical anymore.
TrendingAll 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.
Editor's PickMy Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.
Christianity Today
Exit Interviews
hide thisFebruary February

In the Magazine

February 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.