Dustin Jensen – Spouse of Danielle’s colleague. Grew up in rural Washington, mostly white communities. He attended Christian schools through college. Became a pastor and left ministry after 12 years. Joined the local government shipyard to make money. Married, has three kids. Is on a journey to rediscover his faith and personal growth.
Krishon Allen – Native New Yorker, currently residing in Maryland with his wife and two daughters. Following is time in the US Navy he began a personal relationship with Christ. Faith is a driving force in his life. He is currently an Assistant Program Manager for the Naval Sea Systems Command and is the process of building a faith-cased coaching and mentoring program.
These friends talk about current events and racial relations and reconciliation. They were first connected in 2017 where they were both selected to be a part of a Naval leadership development cadre in Washington DC. It was through this training that they began to forge a friendship and engage in deep meaningful conversations.
Dustin said when he met Krishon he was in a place where we was challenging ideas in his life: his faith, his posture towards race and his view of women…. So that when he entered the leadership program he wanted to challenge himself, he wanted and made a conscious choice to be with people who were different than him, who didn’t look like him. He wanted to be in a different relationship and had a posture of learning and listening.
Krishon acknowledged that on the surface is didn’t look like they had a lot in common but they were both husbands and fathers who were away from their families. The friendship was cultivated through mutual interests. The time in DC made it easy to continue their relationship when they left their time.
They talked and emailed for those two years up until COVID and then they started weekly ZOOM calls. It was Dustin who added the dynamic of listening to podcasts and discussing books. The discussions have been challenging.
Dustin said there was a deepening and a continuing of their relationship that may not have come naturally before they added outside content to their discussions. It was a new layer of vulnerability that they intentionally leaned into. They chose to engage and be willing to engage in those difficult conversations within the safety of their friendship.
The first thing that Dustin did as he began to engage in difficult conversations and in building trust in his relationship was admitting there were things he didn’t know. He walked alongside his wife going to grad school and he questioned and challenged things she was learning along the way. So to come into a cross-racial relationship we have to change our posture: there are thing you don’t know, and you don’t know that you don’t know them until you engage someone else’s pain and struggle.
For Krishon it wasn’t difficult to engage with Dustin because of his own upbringing. He said he didn’t to make anything easy and just “coast” for the sake of building relationship.
Dustin acknowledged that Krishon is not responsible for Dustin’s journey as a white person, but Krishon has been willing to engage and go along with Dustin on the journey. It was a willingness to go along together.
[Long gap 12:42-48]
Danielle says our area is really white and they met in a different part of the country that is very different from Kitsap and more diverse. That is the challenge for our area in the NW, that while there are people of color, there aren’t many. The importance is looking at the diversity within the whole country. There is power is looking at another person’s face, it humanizes them. And you become more human to each other.
Dustin says after living in (and loving) a culturally and racial diverse area like DC. it is difficult to come back to a predominantly white area and feel like “how in the world can I engage culture and diversity and equality?”
Maggie says there is a lack of interest or lack of engagement in cross cultural relationships in our area. The important thing is, like Dustin said, coming from a place of interest and posture of wanting to be challenged. It is an intentional seeking out of people who are different than you. We must have a posture of learning and humility (admitting you don’t know everything).
Maggie asked about a tool or resource that Dustin and Krishon used during their discussions of race and race relations.
Krishon mentioned the book “Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice” by Eric Mason. He encouraged Dustin to read it since Krishon had read it with some friends. Krishon said that honestly a lot of their conversations just flowed organically—“When you have a black man and a white man having race conversations who have all the text you need is right there.” They just share their experiences.
One experience they had in DC was that they went out for a run and afterward Krishon asked Dustin if he wanted to get coffee. Dustin said he didn’t bring anything. Krishon was shocked because when he leaves for a run he brings his ID and debit card just in case someone wants to challenge his movement today. Dustin probably never had to prove his identity. Ahmaud Arbury of course highlighted this even more but to this Dustin day doesn’t ever go on a run without thinking about his run with Krishon. Dustin says that experiences and stories impact us but they have to come out of relationship. Sure they’ve shared books together like “Why We Can’t Wait,” by MLK, but it’s their relationship that impacts them the most. There are a lot of resources but you’ll get so much more out of real relationship.
Danielle says, “Information does nothing for people. Read this book, get this information, look at these stats. They can believe them or not. But people walk away unchanged.” At times she says she is glad people read books but then she thinks she’s sad they are reading it because they will have more information and do nothing about it.
What Dustin and Krishon are talking about is having Intentional Proximity, and it has give and take on both sides.
Krishon says you can say you have a really good friend but if you’re not willing to share the hard parts, than it’s not the real thing: We need to share our frustrations with people who don’t look like us, because when we share our frustrations with people who look like us and think like us, they have the same frustration. The point is for understanding (not to carry it).
Danielle asks how do you know someone understands, if they have actually internalized what they’ve heard?
Krishon says it is them having follow up questions in response to what you’ve shared. If all they have to say is “ok” or “I understand,” then I have to question whether they actually do understand. The questions show that the wheels are turning. Krishon gives Dustin a lot of credit because he also goes into action, doing further research to engage. Understanding means they are investing.
Dustin says that understanding is a journey not a destination. He can look back on his life and see where he has grown and changed. Dustin acknowledges that he isn’t “there” and that he has more learning and understanding, to challenge assumptions and continually engage.
An assumption that he has challenged recently is “I understand history.” He grew up loving history, his favorite subject in school. He has realized over the past couple of weeks how little history he knows. There are big absences in his learning of history and as well as a lack of different perspectives of history.
Maggie says even the term history shows how binary our thinking is, as if there is a single narrative that comes out of an experience. There are many histories and perspectives, not a single history or a single perspective. There is more than one way to see what has happened. We need to take what we have learned and ask, “is this it or is there more to the story?”
Krishon doesn’t think he’s had any assumptions challenged by his meeting and becoming friends with Dustin. The first thing he saw in Dustin was his faith, and how they are both men of faith. That’s why he wanted to be friends with Dustin through their leadership course. If anything the assumption there was that if they are both men of faith then you have issues with some social things happening in our society.
Maggie asked how their faith has influenced their friendship and their discussion about what is also happening in our country around race?
Krishon believes the church is failing here; they should be the change and should be on the forefront of making a positive change in race relationships and unity in the church body.
Dustin says he’d like to say that their faith gives them more hope. They have had difficult conversations challenging the church around the predominantly white male church leading in an area that they don’t have expertise in. What the church should be, can be and is not. There are some examples of people being the church, the Allender Center podcast about challenging theology. There’s just a lot of challenging conversations about church right now.
Danielle thinks that’s the hard part—you want to stay connected to the body to our community but we don’t have faith leaders who are leading in this area. So when we look around Danielle says, “Maybe we’re the leaders.” Leading from our houses, from where ever we are… Using our voices to encourage the church, to call on the church to change, to read the scriptures in another way, to look a history in another way, to embrace each other another way.
Dustin says it is more than just race and diversity... it's also about gender equality. We need to be asking how does the church approach people, how are people represented in the church? There are a lot of facets.
Krishon says it’s also defining of racism. Until we can have as many sermons on racism that we do on tithing only then can get somewhere. Racism is a heart issue. There needs to be repentance in dealing with racism. It’s not going to be easy sermons on racism but they are necessary for change.
Krishon is reading: A Black Woman’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali N. Gross
Krishon is listening to: The Leadership Podcast with Craig Groeschel, The HBR Idea Cast, The Daily Podcast
Krishon is inspired by: the drive and consistency in this movement.
Dustin is reading: The Woke Church by Eric Mason
Dustin is listening to: 1619 Podcast, The HBR Podcast, The Allender Center Podcast
Dustin is inspired by: Stories
Krishon has completed his Master’s in Mentorship and has been building up some writing and getting his website launched for a mentorship and coaching program. Check it out at www.krishonallen.com
To connect with Krishon on instagram @krishon_t
Twitter is @therealkrishon
To connect with Dustin on his blog Axe Handle Hikes
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