Charity Stutzman / by Michael Falco

Who is Charity Stutzman?

Charity Stutzman is originally from Holmes County, Ohio. She was raised as a Mennonite in a majority white, rural Amish Mennonite community. Charity attended a Mennonite religious college and still attends a Mennonite church. She lived in San Antonio, Texas before moving to Richmond where she was called to be a caseworker with Child Protective Services. She is married to a black man. 

Excerpt from interview with Charity Stutzman by Whitney Dow, 2018

Stutzman: [18:36:40] So, my ancestors were Amish, generations ago. I was raised Mennonite. Not so much in the sense of the bonnets, or driving the buggies, or even wearing dresses, but more in just terms of beliefs. We drove a car, we look normal. It was more about religious beliefs and religious experiences, rather than the actual outward projection of an image.

Q: And what is the Mennonite belief system?

Stutzman: [16:36:19] So, for us, there’s a large emphasis on service. Service in the community. There’s also a large emphasis on baptism, outside of infant baptism. So, people being able to make a choice and decision about their own baptism, rather than somebody making it for them as an infant. We believe in peace. Don’t believe that war or violence is the answer, or the solution, really, to anything. There is a lot of focus on family, focus on service, and focus on community in general.

Q: And are you still a Mennonite? Do you still practice?

Stutzman: [16:37:12] I do. I go to a Mennonite church. I went to a Mennonite college, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg [Virginia]. I still strongly believe that violence and war is not the answer to any of the problems that we have in the world today, and that there should be a focus on peace-building, there should be a focus on conversation, there should be a focus on communication, in order to figure out people’s problems. I feel like if people would just sit down and listen to each other, that that would solve a lot of problems, but we’re so quick to—how do I want to say? We’re so quick to dog what other people say, and to disagree, and to point fingers, rather than being able to find common ground among each other, and work out our differences that way.

Q: How did you get involved in this project? What compelled you to respond to the survey, agree to the interview?

Stutzman: [16:38:13] Because I feel like, as a white individual, that I am kind of an anomaly, in terms of being raised in an all-white community, and then realizing, as I was being raised, though my upbringing was fantastic, that there was something missing. That there was a lack of culture, there was a lack of diversity. Everything was dull, after a while. It was colorless. Even though the area’s beautiful, there was no race, there was no ethnicity, there was no difference. It was—just, it was boring. You don’t walk down the street and see somebody from a different country than you, and hear a different language, or smell the food, hear the music, hear different languages that are being spoken that are different than yours. That’s what makes this world beautiful, that’s what makes the culture that we live in beautiful, is everybody else coming together just to create their own sort of niche, that makes life interesting, and makes it beautiful. You don’t get that where I was raised. You get one thing. You get one sort of food. Your sense of reality is just dull. It’s just blurred, I don’t know how else to say. I don’t know how else to say it.

Interview Transcript