Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Diversity




After four days of meetings, thoughtful presentations, engaging conversations, and sometimes furtive, impromptu strategizing, what is clearer to me than it ever was before wis how blame easy it is to talk about the glories of "diversity," and how blame difficult it is to work at coexistance. We seem almost hard-wired to love our own, but when we do so, we often love at the expense of others. It takes the directives, the commands really, of biblical love to counter that which is, it seems, instinctive. We are more "at home" with people who are like us; and, without a doubt, more uncomfortable with those who, for whatever reason--gender, race, age, ethnicity, socio-economic level--are not.

In Brazil several years ago, I stood just beside a flavela, a slum, with two teenage kids of a mixed-race marriage, bright kids who were eager to tell me about their country's successes and its problems. I told them that, after some time looking around their world, I'd simply come to believe that far sweeter multi-racial music was being created by Brazillian diversity than that which was created in mine. They shrugged their shoulders--unconvinced. "I'll have life easier than my sister," the boy said. "I'm lighter than she is." Honestly, I had to look to see the very thin variation in shade he was referring to. I hadn't seen it before at all. I was myself blind to the variations they agreed were visible and vulnerable. His sister, without question, agreed.

"People of color" come in a crayon box full of hues and have behind them a variety of racial and ethnic experiences; their stories are often vastly different. Mexicans are not Puerto Ricans; Koreans are not Taiwanese. Most people understand that Asians, in general, have had far less trouble achieving what we mythically call "the American Dream" in this society than Native Americans or African-Americas--and, of course, there are good and obvious reasons. They're both POCs, but they're not at all alike.

But then, to be African-American these days might well mean many things. More recently immigrated African-Americans have to study to understand a heritage of slavery, if they consider slavery their heritage at all. A few years ago, one of my students from the Caribbean tried to start a Black student organization on campus but found little support among the African-American students.

But really, what on earth does it mean to be "white"? White is sometimes thought to be an absence of color. Can I be accurately defined by what I am not?

Differences simply exist. Coexistence is possible, it seems, only by biblical directive. And there is biblical directive: our command is to love. I just hate it when people think or act as if that command is a piece of cake. It isn't.

We have to work. All of us.

That's what I learned, in spades, this week.

1 comment:

jcalvinward said...

James, this is James Ward from Chattanooga. Thanks for this post; it expresses thoughts I have had as I have lived in a cross-cultural community. I have also seen the students of color at Covenant fail to bond in the overwhelmingly white culture of the PCA. We tried to put a gospel choir together this spring, and few of the African American students participated. The ethnic pride of the boomer generation has given way to...something else, not quite sure. Love your blog.