A romanticized picture of diversity makes it difficult, if not impossible, to have a real commitment to progressing an organization toward diversity goals. A romanticized picture of diversity does not prepare one well for the "first fight" in the relationship. Your excitement, your passion, your confidence will get rocked, and you may not recover. Romanticizing diversity will not prepare you for the first time a Black aquaintance informs you of your privilege and calls you, yes you, racist. It will not comfort you when a Hispanic colleague puts you face to face with the history of the southwest and challenges you to explain your citizenship credentials. It will not help you when a First Nation's friend dares you to defend Manifest Destiny. It will not sustain you when your friends get tired of listening to you and the people you are trying to 'help' don't trust you. This is when you will fully realize that reconciliation comes with a cost. The cost of commitment.
Holding the vision before us is critical. Imagining that our schools, churches, or workplaces could hold the same level of synergy and fellowship as the first church is important. Envisioning a space where multilingual, multiethnic people gather together to worship the Creator is life-giving. Being inspired by what is possible with the Spirit of God is sometimes all that keeps us going. The vision itself should be romantic, for sure... the work, however, is often not.
The work is dirty and messy. The sacrifice is real. Never have I seen the work of racial reconciliation achieved, true fellowship found, and all people celebrated with sincerity without those involved first being transformed. That is why commitment is so important. Too many people give up on this work because it requires personal transformation.
What is transformed? This work could involve the transformation of everything you have been taught to believe about America... about the world. It could transform your social network- loss of old friends, good friends. It could transform your relationships with your family members, could impact your relationships with your co-workers, and just might cause you to leave a church you love. This isn't dating diversity. This is being married to it-
no matter what.
Is this is the journey God has called you too?
Too many Christian ministries are just dating diversity. They make promises and pamphlets. They form relationships and build trust with people of color who believe the vision only to find that you were just dating. People of color and those who are committed to the work of racial reconciliation are brokenhearted, because you are not prepared to give the love you desire. You want people of color to sing your praises. You want validation. You want to be known for what you have done. You want to be perceived as a place that 'gets it'. You want the pretty pictures with a rainbow of colors, the powerpoints in multiple languages and the ability to counsel others on how you did it. But you don't want to transform yourself- to give up your process, to reframe your mentality, to challenge the status quo, to lose your friends (or donors, or members), to undergo a cultural shift, to share power. You're not really interested in walking through the fire it takes to refine a commitment to diversity. You just want to date- hold hands, watch a movie, be seen in public, have a good time.
Its time to make a choice. Commit, one way or the other. But no more breaking the hearts of those who are committed and the POC relying on your promises. Too many families, students, coworkers and friends are counting on you to be a safe place. Commit and you could be. You could be the place where all people experience God.