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Lori Barker

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

“Perhaps because they immigrated to the US from Barbados, my parents took an interest in international students at La Sierra University. Our home was always open, with students from China, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad, all over. Plus my family loved to travel and explore different cultures. Attending La Sierra Academy also gave me an appreciation for diverse cultures. These experiences ignited my passion for multicultural psychology. Life would be boring if we were all the same. So how do we learn to get along? How do we learn to embrace our diversity? To not be afraid of our differences, but to love, value, and respect them? To see their beauty?

Photo of Dr Lori Barker in her library

“Multicultural psychology looks at the impact culture has on us. Culture impacts everything, not just things like language and food and music, but how we see the world; how we interpret events; how we do relationships; and how we develop as human beings. Topics like stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, oppression, and racism fall under the umbrella of multicultural psychology. My life’s mission is to teach people about these issues. By doing so, I also believe I’m fulfilling Christ’s mission.

“Since George Floyd’s murder, I've actually seen a dramatic shift. Many white people have opened their eyes and said, ‘Oh, that’s what you’ve been trying to tell us for 400 years. Finally, we get it.’ People who have never before been open to discussing race have reached out to me to say, ‘Help me understand. I want to grow.’ Before, when I saw cases of clear cut racism, white friends said, ‘Well maybe that wasn’t about race, maybe that’s about something else’ or ‘Maybe you’re too sensitive.’ It felt like beating my head against a brick wall. Now their ears and eyes are open and they are willing to listen and have the conversations. Now we need our white allies to speak up. Sadly, if a white person speaks up they are more likely to be taken seriously. It’s easy for a Black person’s voice to be written off as complaining, self-interested, or biased.

“As far as the SDA church, many levels of the organization have made ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ statements and taken a stand against racism. Okay, that’s great. That’s needed. But those statements have no teeth. The church as an organization needs to clearly state what actions they are going to take to fight against racism, discrimination, and oppression in all its forms. This change must go from one end to the other, from the GC down to each individual church member. What is each church going to do to make a difference? Each Conference? Union? It starts with statements and conversations but then needs to move to specific action steps. That’s what we need now to keep the momentum going.

“Because you cannot understand someone else’s experience without getting to know them, one of the simplest ways to make a difference is to make friends with people of other backgrounds. Build relationships. Have crucial conversations. Churches can bring diverse groups together to sit down and share experiences with an open heart and mind. This will generate empathy and healing. It is also important to join and support social justice organizations. This can be done through donations of time, money, and resources. Do your online research and find an organization working on a cause you believe in. For example, “Black Lives Matter” is not just a slogan, it is an organization with chapters around the world, including here in the Inland Empire. Get involved.

“The church is in large part segregated. Martin Luther King said that Sunday (Sabbath) morning is the most segregated day of the week in America. Some people ask, why can’t we all worship together? This is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it would be ideal for everyone to worship freely together. On the other hand, we need to value and respect our cultural differences. Some people see this separation as a threat, or where one form of worship is superior to another, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t all worship the same. Black people worship differently than white people. Since slavery, Black churches have been a safe zone where we can breathe a sigh of relief, where we don’t have to have our guard up or deal with those daily microaggressions, where we come together to love and support one another in the way only we can. And that’s okay.

“I think the key right now is action! Educate yourself, educate those around you, organize, and keep the momentum going. You can make a difference. Everybody has a sphere of influence, people you come in contact with every day. My role is as an educator. I have an area of knowledge that I can share. Your actions to support social justice may be different from mine, but do something! This will take courage and require you to get outside of your comfort zone. Action means taking risks, it means taking hits; not everyone is going to like what you do. But in the end, it will be worth it. Jesus was a revolutionary. Follow his example.”

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