written by Hollen Hostetler in collaboration with Whitney Peck
Recently, our world has been reeling as we have been brought face to face with the stark reality of racism. The truth that many of our brothers and sisters around the world have had to deal with this reality their entire lives is sobering and hopefully prompts us to engage in meaningful conversations, take time to listen and seek to understand, and consider how the Lord might desire us to respond. We caught up with Whitney Peck, a musician serving the Lord in Albania, to ask her some questions about her story and experiences.
- Tell me a little about yourself and where you are serving.
My name is Whitney Peck, and I am from a small town in Kansas. I was adopted at 5 weeks old by a loving white couple. I am the youngest in my family with three older siblings, two of whom are also of mixed race. I have been teaching and doing worship in Albania for the last four years.
- What was your experience growing up?
I was thankful to grow up in a very biracial community, even though it was Kansas. However, because it was Kansas, I knew that even fifteen minutes outside of my city was a very different world. I also grew up going to church, but the churches were very segregated. My parents tried to find a church that represented multiple cultures, but we ended up in a church where we were really the only people of color there. We loved church, but there wasn’t really anyone around to look at and say, “I wanna be like her when I grow up.” It was the same on TV, everyone you saw or the people the media deemed beautiful were white, blonde, and blue eyed. From about the ages of ten to fourteen, I would pray to wake up with the exact same personality but be white, blonde, and blue eyed (I also prayed to be sixteen, but I think everyone wanted to be 16). I had great friends. I just thought maybe people would like or accept me more if I was beautiful (which in my head was white). I hated my hair, my skin, my big nose, and my big lips. In truth, they weren’t ugly; I just didn’t often see anyone that looked like me who was considered beautiful.
- What has your experience been as a missionary and a person of color?
I get stared at every single day. I walk past people, and I hear them say something about my hair, or they try to guess where I’m from (usually they guess Brazil). Most of it is good; usually they love my hair and end up with their hands in it before they remember the person attached to the hair. I have been told on numerous occasions that they “always wanted a black friend” or “they always wanted to marry a black man.” I am obviously a foreigner, and people here in Albania love foreigners and want to know why they are here and where they are from. The things I prayed to change as a kid have now become my greatest tool here in Albania. I never have to start a conversation when people come up to me, usually because of my hair.
- What does the church need to understand about racism and why?
Everyone really just wants to be treated like everyone else. If you do it, say it, or give it in love, people will see the difference. I think the Bible is very clear about how we deal with racism: “LOVE your neighbor as yourself.” It doesn’t specify which neighbor, or which type of neighbor – it’s talking about all your neighbors.
- How might the arts and racial reconciliation intersect?
I think the arts in general are what is going to reconcile the races. Support each other in what you create. So much of the arts are already very interracial – you can be an example in the things you create.
To read more about Whitney's story, click here: Adopted Twice