A reconciliation organization I worked with in Israel-Palestine would often do an exercise with new participants. They would put labels around the room like Arab, Jew, Israeli, Palestinian, Christian, Messianic Jew, etc. They would ask everyone in the group to choose what name they prefer for themselves and to go stand there. The funny thing is, very few of them chose Arab or Israeli as their primary name to describe their identity even though these are the two names most frequently used in Western news reports.
Names are powerful, both the ones we take for ourselves and the ones others may put on us. It is worth thinking about them and listening carefully to others when they talk about what certain names mean to them and why they might choose one but not the other. The following article explores some of challenges of choosing names.
A Japanese Canadian pastor once explained to me that the term “People of Color” is very American. They don’t really use it much up in Canada. It can be a helpful exercise to spend some time reading a few articles about the term to explore both its positive and negative sides. Being willing to face the complexity of issues like this is part of growing in intercultural abilities.
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