The devil is everywhere – Ni hehe abizera bazajya kuba?
Pragya, In SWAY, responding to what inspired him to write the book about unconscious bias, said, “What we are seeing around us in most parts of the world is that partisan politics is taking Centre stage, dividing people, and causing rifts and conflicts.”
In this post, as in many others, I might have more questions than answers!
As I thought about some of the details of the book and thinking of where to start, I received a short letter from one of the men that I serve; he suggested in his letter that since he was not provided with his requested items (for his Jewish religious practice), it was beginning to seem like an anti-Semitic attack. Some of the conversations I received as I started serving the incarcerated were that some of them are very litigious; they have all the time and will find all reasons to use their time creatively. The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda is said to be the most extreme example of state-sponsored persecution and killings in our recent history after the Holocaust against the Jews by Nazi Germany.
The individual’s claims to hold his orthodox Jewish faith are understood. Now getting him what he needed right away as we follow the policy for the safety of the institution and his fellow inmates have nothing to do with anti-Semitic sentiments.
As a survivor of the horrible genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the likelihood of harboring any hostility or prejudice against the Jewish people would be something I will never do. The inmate suggested he would reach out to outside organizations for advocacy.
He was probably testing me to see how I would respond, and for some reason, I was very disturbed by his remarks, not for anything related to work or the litigious nature that I was told.
I was taken aback by how damaging some of our recent histories have been and still are.
Keeping the black men locked up in their mission.
“Hopefully, this book will help people understand that we are all biased, and we all carry stereotypes and be more aware of how these biases affect our perception of other people, and how it affects our actions and interactions.”
As I drove by Fry’s to pick up a gallon of milk on my way from work, this African brother saw me and started a conversation. “It is rare to see us around here; where are you from?” We started the conversation and exchanged the numbers to meet for coffee sometime. In the 10 minutes or so that we spent together, he almost convinced me Biden and Democrats are the worst leaders for America. See, he is just a hypocrite, and he does not care about us; he had been the architect of all the segregation laws, my new friend had so many accusations against democrats in such a short time that I wondered how our coffee time will be spent.
Leaving stories aside, I would like to look at our politics slightly more. The truth remains that the politic of our recent past and even the present time continue to pray on the wounded still bearing traumas of various atrocities. Is this accurate for me to suggest that the most victimized members of our society end up facing the worst punitive measures resulting from atrocities perpetrated on them by State and evil politics?
“In 2021, the incarceration rate of African Americans in local jails in the United States was 528 incarcerations per 100,000 of the population – the highest rate of any ethnicity. The second highest incarceration rate was among American Indians/Alaska Natives, at 316 incarcerations per 100,000 of the population”.
“I also interviewed many experts and researchers, as well as looking at the current myths and misconceptions around bias. I have also included personal stories because real-life stories and narratives matter to ground the scientific studies.”
This is on a hymn that kept coming back as I sat and wrote, Ni hehe abizera bazajya kuba? Or where will the believers relocate to live? The Kinyarwanda song continues to lament that in this world, there is no place for safety since the devil is everywhere. Unconscious bias can be very hard to deal with, especially since sometimes we have no idea what is happening. This reading like some others we have covered brings to light some of the toughest challenges humanity has to deal with. “I do bring some personal anecdotes into the book to support and supplement, as they are integral to the story here and important in understanding the personal impact that unconscious bias can have on individuals.”
Pragya is correct; personal stories will always be integral to seeing things. I also find myself wondering what happened to me so that I can’t forget the tragic past and move on like nothing ever happened; the effects of my childhood and the history of injustice seem to have become embedded because of the life I lived.
 Pragya Agarwal, “From First Page to Last,” Spotlight on authors, April 10, 2020, accessed March 10, 2023, https://fromfirstpagetolast.com/2020/04/10/dr-pragya-agarwal-qa/.
 Erin Duffin, “Jail Incarceration Rate of Confined Inmates in the United States in 2021, by Race/Hispanic Origin” (January 3, 2023), https://www.statista.com/statistics/816699/local-jail-inmates-in-the-united-states-by-race/.
 Pragya Agarwal, “Dr Pragya Agarwal – Q&A.”
16 responses to “The devil is everywhere – Ni hehe abizera bazajya kuba?”
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Jean de Dieu – thank you for this post. I imagine that you encounter implicit bias in your work in prison system. What biases have been challenged as you work with a group of people that many would rather forget?
Hi Chad, thanks for asking!
The implicit bias in my work is to see everyone as a criminal. Some of these men have had their lives transformed by the grace of God and are serving the Lord as we all do. They are facing the consequences of their acts and have done their time.
“Unconscious bias can be very hard to deal with, especially since sometimes we have no idea what is happening.” This line made me think of the sublty of Spiritual Warfare as displayed in C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters.” Granted, some biases are helpful and not harmful. But the harmful biases can certainly be used by the devil in his schemes for evil. As you said Jean, “there is no place for safety since the devil is everywhere.”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts my friend.
Thanks David, the good news we have a hiding place in the Lord who has conquered on our behalf. These great resources help us not only remain aware of our own biases but also spot them when they surface from others.
Thank you for sharing your stories
I am curious if the gentleman who is Jewish- does he have the Old Testament? I hope that he can get what he needs to worship God the way he would like. It sounds like he is impatient and demanding different things. I pray he sees Christ in you.
I pray things go well with the gentleman who you gave your number to. It sounds like he is someone who seeks to be understood. You obviously are a good man, who is willing to listen. I pray your coffee appt goes well!
Please know that this makes me want to hear more of your story:
“I also find myself wondering what happened to me so that I can’t forget the tragic past and move on like nothing ever happened; the effects of my childhood and the history of injustice seem to have become embedded because of the life I lived”
…When and if you have the opportunity to share. I have much to learn from you!
Hi Kristy, thank you so much for your comment; I look forward to sharing more of my journey from pain to purpose, as I call it. I continue to thank God for the opportunity to serve the brothers behind bars. I haven’t had my coffee time yet with the brother, but I will do it sometime soon, God willing.
Jean, thank you for sharing. I cannot even imagine the atrocities you have seen and experienced.
“The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda is said to be the most extreme example of state-sponsored persecution and killings in our recent history after the Holocaust against the Jews by Nazi Germany.”
It is horrible the things that are happening around the world that we do not even hear about. A friend of mine recently wrote a post on Facebook about struggles in Georgia. She wrote,
“I am curious who has seen on the news what is happening in Georgia (the country, not the state)? It perplexes me why US news is so poor in covering international happenings… While traveling in Europe, I would turn on the news and see and hear more than I do in the US. I just don’t understand how a leading democracy in the world doesn’t do a better job of keeping its citizens in the know. Anyways sharing, because it is important to see how people are struggling to obtain freedom and how much democracy is valued…. Same for my Armenians in Artsakh who are still under blockade because they want to live on their lands of their ancestors. . .”
There is so much out there happening of which we are unaware. How can we be more aware of the world outside our comfort zone? How do we love and pray for those who are different? Not sure there is an answer, but I will keep seeking.
Thank you so much; you are so kind. Tell you what, I sometimes think it is better not to know! I used to seek to learn much in the news until it started to hurt. I want to do something more than pray. I have faith in prayer, but I find it hard to sit and watch the information of so much going the wrong way. Praying to grow more still knowing He is Lord.
Jean, Thank you for your post and for interacting with the message of Agarwal’s book in such a powerful way. So many things struck me in your writing that I will continue to think about. In your last paragraph, you mentioned the importance of sharing personal stories. Can you say more, maybe in another post or when you have time, about the power and potential in sharing personal stories?
Thank you, Jean! I so appreciate your writing.
Yes, Agarwal mentions that one of the motivations to write the book was her personal story and I agree with her, personal stories can be great motivation. I think I am an example as I attempt to help refugee children as John Maxwell inspires us, Good management of bad experience leads to great growth.
I always love when you write. Your personal stories are very moving, both from your childhood and also with your work in the prison. Press on in the Lord my dear friend!
I appreciate your heart for missions and love hearing your stories. Lately, I am learning a lot about Native American Inmates. I remember your ministry whenever we met and chatted. I also retain the Sweat Lodge story you told me whenever I facilitate sweat lodges.
In my recent studies for my NPO, I was amazed that there is now overwhelming evidence that people of color experience traumatic stress as a result of long-term systemic racism. It’s a result of being in a state of fear all the time. This stress impacts us mentally, physically, and spiritually.
What you personally experienced was so much greater – I can’t even imagine. However, your story of survival and success is a powerful testimony to what God can do. You are a light for so many.
Yes, Audrey, you are exactly right. Thank you for your interaction.
“Personal stories will always be integral to seeing things…”
What a powerful post Jean! We will continue to learn and grow through you sharing your story. Thank you for continuing us to learn through your powerful experiences.
You are right, Alana,
Personal stories are very integral to the way we see things.