Yo Soy Kristy

Reflections On Faith From Liminal Spaces

A Story of Race and Ethnicity

Posted on January 8, 2021

When I was in in middle school, I had an unrequited crush on a boy. We were at lunch one day, and I was thrilled to death to have his attention in a conversation. Then suddenly said boy, who was racially White, asked me, “So, Kristy, what are you? Are you half White?”

Middle school Kristina didn’t quite know how to answer this direct question. My brain did some quick simplistic logic. Well, my mom does have a fairly light complexion whereas my dad is quite solidly Brown…so I quickly came to the conclusion that yes- if we’re talking skin color- maybe half White was a correct label. My mom was White and my dad was Brown. So middle school Kristina must be both.

“Yes! I responded enthusiastically, eager to keep this convo going with the cute blue-eyed 13 year old. His face brightened a bit and he responded, “I thought so! What is your mom’s maiden name then?” “Quintero!” I stated proudly. I was glad to be able to make him feel good about his racial identifying skills. 

But then his face looked confused and his response slowed… “But…that’s still a Mexican last name isn’t it?” Then my face was confused too and I answered, “Well, yes, she’s Mexican American too. But she looks White. Was that not what you meant?”

And that was that. My little middle school crush walked away confused and my little 13 year old heart was convinced I had lost the man I was meant to marry.

Unfortunately, my ethnicity/race confusion didn’t stop there. I realized then that when people asked me “what” I was, they didn’t mean skin color. They meant something else. So I stuck with the reality that I was indeed a Brown woman who tanned well and was not White after all. My mom’s maternal and paternal surnames were Ochoa and Quintero. My father’s were Hinojosa and Garza. I figured all those names were definitely Mexican: so there you go. Hispanic non-White it was for me.

That is until I went to college. My bronzed skin self from high school was no longer on a swim team in the sun every day and my pale skin took a front seat once again. With the surname Garza, I was never viewed as fully White, but maybe close enough. I was attending a college with a less than 5% Latinx  population so I was pretty ethnically and culturally isolated during those years. I also happened to be all in with evangelicalism, which as we are all aware, is very White too.

My senior year of college, I started dating a clean cut White man who was a Resident Advisor and leader in his church college group. When we started dating, my ethnic identity didn’t come up much. Until I heard his friends from his dorm say, “Oh you’re dating that hot Mexican girl.” And so again I was reminded: nope you definitely are NOT a White girl. No matter how pale my face or how disconnected to my culture, whiteness was not me. It was like I was ALMOST White. White enough to not get followed around in a retail store, but not White enough to not be treated like an “other”.  So that’s where I lived for a long time.  A very, very long time.

Getting married to my college boyfriend meant my last name became Robinson. Other than my very “ethnic” wedding, I’m not sure the White world I occupied thought about it much. But I did always wonder why I felt so different. Why I always felt a bit on the outside. Why I’d get passed up for leadership, or why potential colleagues would say “you just aren’t quite what we’re looking for”.  Why was I still so excluded?

Re-engaging and embracing my own ethnicity was a slow decades long story that I’ve shared about and written about plenty. The title of “Woman of Color” seemed to encompass everyone who wasn’t White so I figured that was as good as any way of defining myself. I appreciated the shift too to BIPOC because that was even more inclusive and specific. I wasn’t Indigenous. Nor Black. So there you go. Problematic erasure solved! I had found my home label.

Until I didn’t. In justice circles in particular, the language I was using was identified as problematic there too. Suddenly labels like “White-passing” or “White coded” were insufficient terminology and didn’t fit. Latinx activists were clear with me: to say I’m White-passing is to say I’m White. They mean the same thing. To say otherwise is erasing the experience of Brown and Black Latinx people. Terms like Mestizaje — which I had used in my previous writings and a published book were also problematic: it is a term that’s colonizing so it’s oppressive. Harmful.

I’m now 40.  I’m still comfortable identifying as a Mexican American woman, as that feels like undeniable genetics and heritage. Grandparents Mexican. Parents Mexican. Think that means me too.

But that’s about all I’ve got. Language is fluid and dynamic. Ever changing and evolving. I’m okay with that. But it sure can get complex for a sometimes Brown, sometimes White (especially during a pandemic) and always non-Black person like myself who wants my language to reflect my ethics of inclusion and dignity for all. And we ALL know that is still a work we have to keep moving towards.

So in light of this, I’ve decided I am White. If by White you mean non-Black. I am also Brown. If by Brown you mean non-White.  

And if I’m in Mexico. I am güerita. Cuz I am as pale as snow sometimes and have not nor will I ever be a Mexican citizen. 

But if I find myself in small town Texas, I might be labeled that “Mexican” that was once “hot” in my teens, but now I’m 40 and tired of such definitions . Just call me a goddess like my husband does and that will suffice. For the moment.

I share all this because I want to remind people that this whole concept of race was always a social construct that didn’t carry water, but it is also something very real in our world. As someone who wants to use language that doesn’t harm, erase, or oppress others, I have spent 4 decades of my life following the trend of ever shifting racial categorizations. If there is a way to define my reality in just and whole terms that doesn’t dehumanize anyone including myself, that would be lovely. I am down for the cause. Until then, I invite you in to this winding journey with me. Yes, I carry many identities. Yes, I am a follower of Jesus. But I follow him in a body, in a cultural context, and in a world that is broken and beautiful and racists and diverse and oppressive and liberated. I will keep working at doing right by others and myself.

Signed, A Latinx cishet female who’s maybe considered White. Maybe Brown. Maybe PoC. Not Evangelical. Definitely Christian. That’s all I’ve got.  

The Single Voice

Posted on February 20, 2017

Since the vast majority of para-church ministries are still largely led by white men, and because there seems to be a stronger push for ethnic diversity in recent years, I’ve seen a theme emerge among my friends who are women of color. It is a theme of what I call the single voice.

What this means is that as ministry leaders seek to diversify their organizations-with speakers at conferences, VP’s on executive teams, or simply diverse leadership at all levels- they tend to only want ONE person from certain ethnic groups to be their token minority. What this creates is a scarcity mentality among minorities who are all vying for that one space. It ends up pitting women of color against one another. Rather than fighting to make room for more of us, we often quietly shut the leadership door behind us, secretly glad we got the spotlight for that moment.

And I get it, I’ve seen it in my own heart too when I’ve watched other Latinas get platformed over me in that coveted ONE space. We all know its reality in these majority white ministries. We joke about it, lament over it, and even repent of it at times.

Several years ago I had a Latina friend on an advisory panel for a large white organization. She noticed early on that there was no Asian American representation on the board, and so she decided to advocate for more voices in the mix. The response she was given was, “Well, if you are willing to give up your spot on this panel, we can invite an Asian American to take your place.” Again, there’s always only room for one.

Hold it wide open. Take the door off the hinges if you have to, even if it ticks off all the powers that be. It is the work of justice.

So whats a woman of color to do in these spaces?

  • Always work to extend the table. Invite others with you into these spaces. Fight to maintain a theology of abundance when it comes to power and influence even if the leaders around you behave differently. I saw a great example of this in the movie Hidden Figures that I watched this weekend. Dorothy Vaughan realized at some point in the movie that the skills of her department were going to become obsolete. So she taught herself and the black women she supervised a new computer language that would prepare them for the future of NASA. She didn’t just look out for herself, but for so many other women behind her. What an inspiring picture of brining others along with us.
  • Or create a new table. We all know that there are times old wineskins can’t hold new wine. For women of color, sometimes our loyalty to these ministries keep us around longer than is good or healthy for our souls. There comes a point where we need to stop trying to change places that may speak of wanting diversity but continually break their word or resist movement towards that end. Phrases like “change is slow” can only placate for so long, right?

I do know, though, that the Lord has called some of my friends to stay in the fight in these ministries longer than I ever could. Hats off to you, my friends. Just be sure not to close the leadership door behind you on the way in. Hold it wide open. Take the door off the hinges if you have to, even if it ticks off all the powers that be. It is the work of justice. It is the announcement of the peaceable kingdom that has come and is coming again.

Let’s be in this together.

Tired in the Tension: My Reflections on Today’s March

Posted on January 21, 2017

I’m tired today.

I’ve been watching all morning the vitriol back and forth between people I know, all of whom would claim to love Jesus. So much judgement being hurled. It hurts and it feels personal. It all has to do with the Women’s March.

When I first heard about the march happening here in LA, I was excited. I saw it as a chance to “pray with my feet” for the rights of minority women, immigrants, and refugees. It seemed to be a way to put action to my verbal protest of rhetoric and policies that are coming from our now president and his administration.

Then I saw the article from Christianity Today and learned all about how clearly it was being communicated to pro-life groups that their support wasn’t wanted.

Sigh. As a woman of color who values life from conception to death, I hated the sinking feeling that came from knowing my values weren’t wanted at the table in this march. It stung.

I live in two very different worlds.

So, I decided to sit it out today. I knew friends who were going anyway, “complicating the narrative” as some were saying by being pro-life marchers in the mix. They were the believers holding signs saying things like “no human is illegal”, “black lives matter” and “refugees welcome”. Some were marching for Native women. Some were marching alongside their Muslim friends. Some were marching with their young kids, praying they will grow to know a better country. They were my people, and they didn’t take the lack of alignment with the entire platform of the march as a sign they couldn’t come and walk in solidarity with women whose values overlapped in a many ways with Imago Dei. I supported them in spirit. Prayed for them as I saw their pictures online.

But then I saw all the other posts. Friends who were indignant that anyone who valued life would be out there today. Friends who said things about how those liberals just needed to stop the whining because women are not actually oppressed.

I live in two very different worlds. I live in a world where friends who follow Jesus saw their march today as a living out of gospel values in both word and deed, even if they disagreed with parts of the platform as Christian women and men. I also live in a world where, to other friends, it was unfathomable that any true follower of Jesus would march next to anyone who thought killing babies was okay. To them, it was a politically liberal march with a liberal agenda. It was a bunch of angry women wearing pink hats yelling about vaginas. That’s it.

If I’m honest, I know that both of these worlds were in my head when I decided to stay home today. I also know, again if I’m being truly honest, that I stayed back today partly because of my moral conscience, but also because the world of my friends who would judge me for going felt too weighty for me right now. I have been so hurt the last few months (and years) by Christians whom I would call friends. Friends who have questioned whether I care at all about the unborn. Friends who have made outrageous, evil claims about me related to why I voted for Hillary. Friends who have dismissed my concerns about Trump as insignificant in light of supreme court justices and roe v wade. My objections were simply a sign that I had strayed too far and had become “liberal”. The label itself has become the ultimate way for evangelicals to malign their fellow Christians who disagree with them.

So, I made a decision to not to invite more criticism by showing up at a march for women’s rights that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ saw as questionable at best, morally bankrupt at worst. I was tired of being labeled and targeted as someone who was outside the evangelical club because of my advocacy for marginalized communities of color. I hated giving my evangelical friends another reason to throw me outside the gates because it wasn’t clear enough-based on only my Facebook posts-where I stood on issues like abortion.

Ironically, the more I have come alongside the marginalized, the more pro-life I have become. I have sat in women’s clinics with students who having already had abortions, hoped beyond hope that God could have mercy on them. I’ve talked to Christian women who daily live through the haunting trauma of having aborted a child and are never able to tell another person about it because of their fear of rejection by the Church. It is because of these and many other stories that I remain pro-life.

But, alas, it has become easier to label me as “liberal”, instead.

I would also love to work at bridging this divide that exists in between my two worlds. Worlds that I care about and worlds where I still find myself. But the gap just seems to get wider, and my arms just seem to get tired trying to hold myself in the tension.

Well, I’m tired of issues like immigration, Black Lives Matter, and refugees all being labeled as a liberal agenda. Because my motivation behind these social issues, and many others, is not primarily political but theological. Imago Dei, Imago Dei, Imago Dei is the compass that holds me to standing alongside these communities. I believe it is what it means to live out of Micah 6:8. I believe it is how I model my belief not only in the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also in the life he lived too.

Now at the close of the day as the marches have ended and people head home, I see I made my decision based on exhaustion and fear, rather than out of conviction. I should have marched today. That would have been me living out of my convictions.

And I would also love to work at bridging this divide that exists in between my two worlds. Worlds that I care about and worlds where I still find myself. But the gap just seems to get wider, and my arms just seem to get tired trying to hold myself in the tension. Friends, I’m tired of being tired.

Lord, have mercy on your church. Lord, have mercy on me.

Non-Being: Latina Reflections from Urbana15

Posted on January 17, 2016

As we enter into MLK weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about Black Lives Matter and the current civil disobedience taking place to fight for the dignity and humanity of Black people today. At Urbana15, Michelle Higgins, an activist in BLM, was given a platform to speak prophetically to the 16,000 people present, challenging them to enter in to the fight alongside our Black brothers and sisters made in the image of God. It was powerful and a significant moment in the history of InterVarsity and Urbana.

But I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t quite sure where I belonged in that night. For my Black colleagues and friends, it seemed to be a night of incredible healing and affirmation. While I was grateful for people I cared about, I also knew it wasn’t my story being affirmed. So as a friend of that community, I rejoiced and wept on their behalf as we are called to do as one household of faith.

At the same time, much of the talk given by Michelle Higgins was often focused on the White majority culture, inviting the White community to lay down their privilege and give up the need to “be in control”. I am a Christian and I do have privilege in many ways, but I’m not White. In fact, the Latino experience in the U.S probably more closely resembles that of the Black community in the area of police brutality. Michelle Alexander, in her book The New Jim Crow also makes mention of Latinos in her statistics about mass incarceration and discrimination. So while it was a strong charge that Michelle Higgins made that night, it didn’t necessarily feel like my charge. My community’s story is different than other Evangelicals who might need to stop hiding their head in the sand.

The experience overall reminded me of the stories my parents would tell of what segregation and the Civil Rights era felt like for them as Mexican Americans. My dad once told me he never quite knew which bus he was supposed to get on or what door he was supposed to walk through during that time in history. His complexion was dark, so he wasn’t seen as white. But he wasn’t seen as black either. He just simply wasn’t seen.

Latino theologian and priest Father Virgilio Elizondo wrote of his own story in his book The Future Is Mestizo. He wrote about the days of segregation and the way that shaped him and his community’s identity: “I remember well the problems we experienced just trying to go to the toilet. If we went into the one marked ‘colored’ we were chased out…because we were not technically Black. Yet, we were often chased out from the ones marked ‘White’ because we had dark skin. So we didn’t even have toilets to which we could go. Our being was actually our non-being”. (p. 18)

That night at Urbana, as I listened to Michelle Higgins speak, I resonated with her words about police brutality and discrimination. Because the Latino community experiences many of these same things, it wasn’t a huge leap to believe the experience of the Black community. But Michelle wasn’t talking about the Latino community that night. On the other side of this were the reactions of many White evangelicals after her talk, which varied. Some felt offended and threatened by her language of White supremacy being the “side piece” of the Evangelical church. I, though, just felt like an outsider looking in.

Ultimately, I am and have been committed to listening to my Black friends and collegues in order to understand and carry with them the burdens and pain they feel. I come alongside BLM not because of InterVarsity or any other ministry, but because I believe my Black friends and know that I have to do something about it too. I also see my Latino mentors and other leaders of color in the Christian community doing the same thing, bringing what voice and privilege they have to the dialogue and public conversation. I know this is the right thing to do.

But, if I’m honest, at the end of the day I do still wonder where we belong in this narrative unfolding right now. What will history record about the Latino voice in this new Civil Rights fight? Will we be non-beings? Are we non-beings now?

photo courtesy: National Archives

United Lament

Posted on October 28, 2015

Another video showed up in my news feed yesterday. Another black person. Another white police officer. Another argument between believers yelling over one other in this odd social media world.

“All lives matter!” a white man yells. Don’t you care about millions of unborn babies murdered legally every year? Don’t you care about believers around the world being persecuted? Black men and women aren’t unique. Why be so exclusive?

“Black lives matter!” a black woman yells back. Don’t you get it? Don’t you realize how horrible you sound denying this? No one is putting one vulnerable group above another. Do our collective lives matter as the black community? It does not feel like it. Not with videos like this. Not with Eric Garner. Not with Corey Jones.

And so now I wonder…at 3 am in the morning I wonder… God where are you in the midst of this? We look like crazy people to the world around us and not in the “salt and light” kind of way. We look anxious. We look scared. We look indignant. We look stupid.

Honestly, do we really think we look like you?

And I wonder…In the silence of my home with my sweet girls asleep next to me I wonder…Lord, do we have the ability to see your image in humanity as a whole? As progressives. As conservatives. As Syrian refugees. As migrant workers. As citizens. As gun-owners. As terribly poor. As undoubtedly rich. As people of color. As white middle-class Americans.

As for me, I am unashamedly a follower of Jesus. I am a granddaughter of immigrants. My grandfather initially came to the U.S. as an undocumented farm worker. I hate guns, having had one pointed at me. I have broken bread with some of the most loving Muslim men and women who have treated me like family. I have friends who identify as gay. All of these influence me as I engage with and talk about the controversial issues of today.

I am also a woman forever changed by the grace of God, moved to the core for the brokenness in our world. I too long for peace. In Israel and in Palestine. In my own Christian community. For my neighbors in the broadest sense.

So can we be in this together, those of us in the household of faith? Can we be in this around the greatest of commandments? Jesus made it simple for us. The world will know us by our love. Can we give it unconditionally and indiscriminately? Can we lavish it on our dearest relationships, our vilest enemy, and everyone in between?

Even in writing this, I feel so very foolish. But in my foolishness, I will still beg you. Can we please stop? Let’s lament together for the dead little bodies washed up on shores. For the cruel dismembering of vulnerable babies. For the mass incarceration of black men. For issues of police brutality. For the rampant violence in our schools and campuses. For the burned down church buildings across the South. For our persecuted family in the world. Can we be a united voice against all dehumanization and atrocity?

Oh Father may we be one as the trinity teaches us. Let us learn to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you. The world needs this. We need this.

Room: A Las Posadas Story

Posted on December 24, 2014

The smell of incense caught my attention, reminding me of all the Catholic masses I had attended as a girl. The fragrance invited me to enter in to this Posada as a sacred space as we moved together through the street, reliving the journey of Mary and Joseph in the middle of downtown LA.

I was struck by the chorus of the song we were singing…”Caminemos a Belén. Caminemos con Maria”. We walk to Bethlehem. We walk with Mary. What a sense of rejection this young woman must have experienced, seeking shelter as a vulnerable, pregnant wife. I felt compelled to stay in that moment, pouring my own hurts and rejections of the year into the story of Christmas.

It was a moment that made me realize that the Christmas story is really a narrative of varied emotions. There is rejection, pain, angelic joy, worship, and even grief mixed in to the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. In the walk around Olvera street re-enacting the journey of the poor couple, pregnant with the divine, I stepped into this Christmas season offering my own journey as a way to connect more deeply with the story that has shaped all my stories since. While I was taught as a child that Christmas was about a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the more life I’ve lived, the more I’ve wondered what people do with all the brokenness they feel during the holiday. How do they handle disappointment and loss? Pain and heartache? Where do these fit in the season of Christmas?

But there as I walked the streets of Olvera, I remembered that the Christmas story is big enough and deep enough to hold all our journey. Jesus, King of the Jews, was born in a stable — on the margins of society as an infant and as light to a dark and hostile world.

There were angels proclaiming his incredible birth in the skies to unimportant shepherds. There were magi from afar seeking to find him to worship him. There was an anxious king who with murder and fear in his voice, ordered the death of innocent children. They were to become our first martyrs.

So whatever we bring this season to Christmas, I find comfort in knowing the story of Jesus’ birth has room for all of it. For the mothers whose cries rise up this season as “Rachel weeping for her children”, the story of Jesus runs deep enough to carry you. For those who live on the outskirts of their worlds, rejected and unseen, this beautiful story was first revealed to you.

So whatever we bring this season to Christmas, I find comfort in knowing the story of Jesus’ birth has room for all of it.

There is immense joy in the narrative of Jesus’ birth — the inauguration of the kingdom coming. But until the world is made right and all that is broken is made new, I’m so grateful that Jesus can hold within his own birth story all our own sadness and longing we experience this side of that coming Kingdom.

May we await the Savior holding together these truths.

Sweet Girl

Posted on March 8, 2014

I wish I could tell you, sweet girl, just how worthwhile I think you are. All those scribbled stories hidden away in piles of shoe boxes in your closet- I know every word, every expression, every poem written in them. And I think they’re wonderful. You are gifted.

I wish I could tell you, sweet girl, how smart I think you are. I wish I could crawl up next to you in your bed as you escape into your books and announce to you, “That other world you’re looking for really does exist- the place where you are seen, known, and oh so deeply loved. You really are valuable.”

Yes, I wish I could tell you, sweet girl, all the ways I see that you’ve been fashioned for giving something sacred to the world through your words. Your own art.

So let me braid your full hair while you jump into your fictions of fairy tales and far off places. Let’s read your favorite book together and let me be the one to tell you that I think you are just as brave as the characters you’ve come to adore. You are just as full of faith as you fight for those you love. How I wish I could call that out in you.

But I can’t. I can’t go back to that sweet girl and see the world through her eyes again. I can’t be the voice of authority that speaks to her about her truest self. That moment passed. That sweet girl grew up wounded, lost, and unsure that she belonged anywhere.

But I am learning. I’m learning to coax that sweet girl back out into existence every time I sit down to give my stories back to the world. It is true that I am seen, known, and loved. It is true that I have something to offer the people and places so hungry for words of beauty and compassion. Hungry for others to tell them that they are seen too.

I am that sweet girl. And I’m learning to bring back her unique voice of courage, strength, and fierce love. I’m reclaiming her and giving her space to be who she was always meant to be in me.

Today I am participating in Story Sessions’ “The Girls We Once Were”. Would you join us?

image credit: Susana Fernandez

Weakness and Giftedness

Posted on February 10, 2014

I’ve been in a season of forgetfulness lately. It started about six months ago, which happened to coincide with a major transition in my life. Since then, It’s been really difficult for me to keep thoughts in my head or to remember anything of significance. I used to pride myself in my ability to remember word for word whole conversations I would have. Now I’m lucky to remember names and to recall titles of books I’m reading.

As I’ve been processing my new reality with mentors, it seems that all this might be related to this strange thing called grief, this feeling of living like my brain is submerged in water and like I can’t seem to get air. Most of the time I can accept that I don’t have a memory like I once did. Other times I feel intense fear connected to whether I’ll ever recover and feel normal again.

Missionary Tragedies: A Prayer

Posted on December 16, 2013

“God shapes his servants to embody the Word they proclaim. But other forces are also at work, shaping or misshaping God’s servants for their divinely appointed tasks. People are sometimes twisted out of the form God intended for them through the actions of misguided church and mission leaders, and this process can transform some of God’s fittest servants into misfits. Jakób Jocz was such a servant.”

I read this tragic story about the life of Jakób Jocz written by Stuart Dauermann this past month. In it, he shares the journey of missionary Jakób Jocz and how his calling from God to reach his own Jewish commmunity never came to fruition due to poor choices on the part of his mission agency and mission leaders responsible for his shepherding and placement. He called the life of Jakób a “missionary tragedy” as it left him as a “square peg” being forced into “round holes” of his mission agency. The quote below was the most sobering:

“Some might say mission agencies and church structures are means God uses to shape God’s servants for God’s purposes. That is certainly true. Others would say we must never forget the sovereignty of God, who works in mysterious ways to accomplish all things according to his will. That would be true as well. But it is just as true that there are times when institutional leaders use God’s servants for ends that have more to do with cultural arrogance and organizational agendas than the call of God.”


Posted on November 8, 2013

“We’re going to dress up as what?”


Those words from my husband made my heart start beating faster. The idea of walking into a room full of new people dressed in a shepherd costume made me start to panic.

“And this is the first I’m hearing of it? As we’re driving there right now?” My tone was accusatory. I had found a target for my anxiety. It was my husband sitting behind the wheel of our rental car. Perfect. He couldn’t escape!

“You got the same texts I did yesterday,” he replied.

What? I yanked out my phone. Sure enough, I had missed the messages that said our meeting that day was going to involve a halloween costume contest and our whole team was going to dress up as shepherds. Well. There went my full-proof plan of triangulating to deal with my stress.

All of this happened this past month as my husband and I traveled to California to visit our new team and other ministers in LA that are working with college students. It was going to be my first time to meet most of the people in that room for our all day gathering. I was nervous. I felt vulnerable. And then I found out I was going to be dressed as a shepherd. Double the nervousness. Double the vulnerable feelings. Double not wanting to appear like either of those emotions were dominating me. You now have a picture of the inner workings of me on the way to my shepherd costume meeting.