A Letter from a Brown Brother in Christ

Gripped
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I don’t consider myself white or Black. I’m what you call a brown brother in Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, brown people are a blend of white and Black ancestry. My last name is Fernandez, which originates in Spain, but both my parents hail from the Dominican Republic, and I was born and raised in Miami, Fla. I can speak three languages: English, Spanish, and Spanglish. Yes, Spanglish—a combination of English and Spanish that is a very real part of everyday life in Miami. Recently, I was reminded of my whiteness when I was diagnosed with a potentially debilitating hand condition called Dupuytren’s disease. It is nicknamed “Viking disease” because it is believed to have been passed down by the Vikings and is disproportionately present among those of Nordic descent. Now, every time I look at the palms of my hands I’m reminded of my whiteness, but every time I flip my hands over and look at the backs, I’m reminded of my Blackness. It is remarkable how much darker my brownness can get with just a couple of hours in the South Florida sun. Remember, brown people don’t get red in the sun; we just get browner. 

The good news about my recent diagnosis with Dupuytren’s disease is that after my last MRI, the doctor said that my condition is currently inactive. In fact, my doctor couldn’t believe it. He said he had never seen a case like mine before, one in which the condition was evident but completely dormant at the same time. So this most likely means that my whiteness gave me the disease, but my Blackness has kept it in check. Needless to say, I consider myself blessed to be brown.  

Another big blessing of being a blend of colors is that my brownness has allowed me to see the most pressing issues of our day from a different point of view. This is why it is so troubling for me to look around and see such a divided church and country. I see so many lines that divide the church: white vs. Black, mask vs. no mask, vaccinated vs. unvaccinated, open borders vs. closed borders, and the have-too-much vs. the have-too-little. When I see these divisions, my brownness compels me to ask, “Is there a third way to approach these issues?” As a matter of fact, there is! My brownness has enabled me to see things from a third perspective.     

What if we began looking at the issue of immigration from the perspective of what God’s Word has to say about our responsibility toward aliens and foreigners? Whatever happened to “hate the sin but love the sinner”? It seems to me like nowadays we not only hate the sin, but we also manage to hate the sinner. What if we looked at the issue of racism from the perspective of the apostle Paul, who reminds us in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor 

Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  

It seems that the world we live in continues to grow more polarized with each passing headline.  My third perspective has taught me that instead of meeting in the middle, we should meet at the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s at the cross where we see that the nails the Roman soldiers drove into our Savior pierced both sides of his hands: the lighter side and the darker side.

About the Author

Felix Fernandez is pastor of South Kendall Community Church Miami, FL.

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