Our Problems with Diversity

thebodyofChristIt’s amazing the transformation that the United States of America has undergone in such a short span of time.  Once an outwardly segregationist empire, capitalism has changed the way that we do business.  There are inter-cultural services being offered and businesses owned by persons of various cultural backgrounds share the same block and sometimes building in many American neighborhoods and cities.  And while we can point to the reality of covert racism, the fact that is it no longer popular to be racist is a reason for praise and our new reality is a stark contrast from the Jim Crow days of “for whites only.”

Realizing the merrier the cultures, the more money could be made, America has changed its tune, attempting to appeal to all nations.  These persons agree that they all like and have in common the need for one color: green.  Don’t put all your shows, ads or products in one cultural basket.  Diversity sells.  And that’s really what it’s all about anyway: money.  Our love of it is the root of all of our troubles and of all kinds of evil (First Timothy 6.10).

We don’t do what is right; we do what is profitable.  So, if it is in our profitable financially, then we do what is right.  It does not matter if we hurt some one’s feelings but it does matter if and when our actions hurt our pockets, our stocks, our company.  So, we don’t love diversity; we love what it can do for us.

Not appearing accepting of diversity and continuing to employ racial slurs when addressing cultural groups affects our bottom line.  We need only look to the most recent case of Paula Deen who lost her show on the Food Network and millions of dollars in endorsements after using the racial slur nigger.  The Washington NFL team that stands behind the teams name, a racial slur against the first peoples of what is now the United States is also creating a stir within many communities who are saying that is now time for a change.  Being on the wrong side of diversity can cost you your livelihood and your reputation.

So, now we love the word diversity for what it adds to our appearance, how modern, progressive, liberal and advanced it makes us look.  We don’t want to appear backwards, ignorant, intolerant or racist.  So, we have embraced the word with one hand and our fingers are crossed with the other.  Because this “change” has nothing to do with seeing someone as a person but seeks to ensure that we look like a better person.

So, now we accept that we are a diverse nation but we have not always been accepting of our differences.  There are innumerable accounts that demonstrate that America and her citizens were not welcoming to the stranger, that she did not love her neighbor, that she poked fun at the physical, cultural and social differences of other cultures because they did not fit into the newly created category of white.  America also gave much effort to changing those persons who immigrated to the country (Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White is a great resource.).

We still have our problems with diversity.  So, while we love for it to come out of our mouths, I hate to tell you this (well, not really), we do not want it to come into our lives.  “Prove it,” you say.

We need only to examine our commercials; the recent stir over Cheerios use of a “modern family,” an intercultural family points to our hypocrisy.  We are saying what sounds good, what we should say, what is appropriate, what is politically correct (What office are we running for, by the way?).  We are minding our racial manners but we’re not fooling anyone.   We can say what is acceptable but until we accept it in our hearts, there will be no change.

And there hasn’t been.  It’s all talk.  Diversity is just the word of the moment; it’s newness will fade and soon it will no longer be “in” or the cool thing to say.

Look at our relationships, our friendships, our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches.  We love how the word diversity makes us feel.  We want to believe that we are all in this life together, that we love and accept everybody.  But, we don’t really like diversity.  We like sameness, predictability, uniformity.

We want to take care of our own and we want to own the best of everything (whether God- given or human made) to give to our own.  And this is just one of the problems with diversity.

Here are a few others:

1. In order for us to like others, they have to be like us.  We think that we are the model human being and that everyone should be a copy of us, a version of our culture.  We want there to be one kind of human being.

2.  We do not want to share with those who are outside of our family, tribe or culture.  We believe that the earth is ours and the fullness thereof, that it was made for us and that the other six billion people in the world are bad copies of the image of God, mistakes, servants and/ or cursed (Psalm 24.1).

3.  We don’t play well with ‘others.’  We have not learned to communicate inter-culturally in a respectful and kind manner.  We remain ignorant of the culture and history of other people groups.  We accept stereotypes as truth and all them to inform our understanding of other cultures.

4.  We don’t want to accept differences.  We believe that accepting them would someone diminish our value, that God can only make one group “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalm 139.14).  But, we can all be special though we are not all the same.

5.  We think that we are better: better looking, better- equipped, better- purposed than others.  It is simply not true.  We are all just different.

Despite our problems with diversity, it does not change the fact that differences remain.  We cannot function without diversity.  I love the image of the Church; we are one body (First Corinthians 12).  Could you imagine trying to work and everyone wants to be the eyes or the mouth or the hands?  Everyone has a role to play and we need every member, every culture in order to live and to advance the cause of Christ.

The same can be said of nature or the animals.  Diversity is necessary.  It is apart of all of life and despite our problems with it, no one is going anywhere.  We must reconcile our differences and realize that diversity is the solution to our problems.

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