Daniel Birai – Denver, Colorado … Black History Month. That is a loaded phrase. It might bring up feelings of joy, progress, bitterness, frustration, anger, confusion, and apathy. The list could go on and on.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a storyteller who has a TED talk entitled “The Danger of a Single Story” which essentially warns everyone to not focus on a single narrative.

While attending Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree, I remember a conversation that one of my friends, an African American graduate student, had with me during a social event. She overheard me having a heated discussion with a mutual friend who had called me an African American.

I told her I wasn’t an African American … . I was a Kenyan American. I knew what tribe I was from in Kenya—a Kisii. My mother had bought me cows and goats. My middle name is Nyansimera. I cooked Ugali. I even spoke some Swahili. How could I be an African American? That didn’t fit my experience.

She very abruptly pulled me to the side and essentially said: “Daniel, our country is locked into a Black versus White narrative. We don’t have space for your Kenyan narrative. Get with the program. You are black … period.” I was shocked, angered, frustrated, and confused.

Until I realized that I’ve done the same thing … with other categories of people … Conservative church members … Liberal church members … Republicans … Democrats … Rich people … Poor people. I have made something very complex and nuanced into something simple … simple enough for me to put in a box and move on.

How convenient … and unfair.

No matter what emotions come up to you when we talk about Black History Month, I’m grateful that we have a Savior who didn’t try and make our complex life simple. Instead, he entered humanity, with all of its frailty and drama and brokenness, and lived our story. And redeemed it.

So, Jesus, redeem us today, from the dangers of a single narrative.

—Daniel Birai is lead pastor of LifeSource Adventist Fellowship. Photo by Unsplash.