There’s been a lot of talk going around IWU about diversity… apparently it’s diversity month here or something, and February is Black History Month. I think that’s grand. Those people of different skin colors that have put so much into our country specifically and our world in general deserve to be celebrated.
I feel, though, that here at the ‘WU, it’s been blown out of proportion. For those of you who don’t go here: (I’ll try not to be too cynical…)
Walked into chapel last Friday and there’s an all black band warming up onstage. Oh, we must be talking about diversity today. And this isn’t just a one time thing. Happens fairly often. There seems to be a direct correlation between shade of skin onstage and chapel topics regarding diversity. Earlier on in January, for example, it was Hispanic heritage week, or something, and the chapel band was pretty much all Hispanic.
I don’t have a problem with an all black band, or with a Hispanic group. I think it’s neat to worship in the different styles. But it feels like the school is just trying to fill a quota, like they see that it is Black History Month and they scramble to get black people at the forefront so that no-one is offended. It looks like appeasement.
Today in chapel, the first speaker gave us a bunch of numbers about how our school, and most American churches, are not diverse. Something like 92.5% of IWU is white, and only 5% of evangelical churches are multiethnic (not predominantly white… and by that I mean under 60% white.) I do think that a lack of diversity is a problem, but not one that can be fixed by the way things are now. Einstein said that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
There’s a Morgan Freeman quote circulating the interwebs about diversity, in which he says that the only way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it. I respect the man, and his opinion, but I think he’s missing a piece of it. This whole diversity issue is not going to go away if we ignore it, whether that be in everyday life, in our churches or in our schools. You aren’t going to be “racially aware” if you ignore the black kid that stands in front of you in line, beside you in class, or behind your pew in church. You are going to be racially aware when you treat them just like you would a white person (or, if you’re a person of color, like they are one of yours.)
I grew up in that 5% of evangelical churches that was multi-racial, so coming to predominately white IWU has been a bit of a culture shock. I’m not saying I have this whole thing down, because I definitely do not, but I do find it easier to look past the outside. I still have trouble with stereotyping people of color, and it’s something I know I need to work on. But at our church, we all came together to worship. At Camp T, which had people from all backgrounds and skin tones, we all came together to play and learn. That’s being culturally diverse. achieving the greater goal.
We do have to recognize the differences; nothing will get fixed if we do not. We have to bring them up and fix the problems before we can stop talking about it. We will stop talking about it because we don’t need to. Because it’s no big deal. Because we are all the same in God’s eyes.
Granted, every people group has their differences. A black pastor will probably draw more black churchgoers than white ones. This is not wrong; in fact, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. (Every culture has its plusses and minuses. That’s the way the world works.) One of the greatest mistakes we can make in trying to become diverse is to look at the numbers. People respond better to their culture, generally, than to someone else’s culture. You can’t change that. What you can do is love. Accept the differences; God made them that way for a reason. (If you look hard enough, you’ll find someone who thinks you have a lot of odd things going on too.)
Accept the differences and learn. Just love. It’s hard. It can be hard to get past stereotypes and past injuries. But guarantee someone somewhere will see you, and you will remind them of some injury, something painful from their past. You didn’t do anything, you’ve been a church-goer all your life, and A-plus student who volunteers on the weekends (or you rarely attend church and bomb half of your tests. Whatever. You didn’t do a thing to this person.) You can’t do anything about their reaction. But you can love. That’s what He calls us to do.
And now I’ll try to ignore the fact that while ranting about being culturally diverse, I wrote with a predominantly white, female bias. Oh well.
This man (beast/mythological creature/tree-hugger?) says it extraordinarily well…
“At the far end of town where the grickle-grass grows, and the wind smells slow and sour when it blows… ”
And with that, friends,
Postscript (cause that looks so much more legit that a simple “p.s.”) : if I managed to offend any of you, I’m sorry. If I was legitimately wrong, explain and I’ll reconsider. If you have a problem with an opinion, well, those are much harder to change. Though I’m open to it. Mostly. Sorta. I realize that I probably foot my put in my mouth (put my foot in my mouth… that was completely unintentional…) a few times, and I’ll regret it a few years (months) out.