Beyond Diversity Training

Almost every for profit and non-profit institution requires some sort of Diversity Training these days.  (Just the words “Diversity Training” make many of us roll our eyes.)  I wish I had a dollar for every White Church Person who told me that they wanted their church to be more “diverse.” [Note: Churches with mostly People of Color never tell me they want to be more diverse.  Discuss.]

Edgar Villanueva has written:

“Diversity” is how white people talk about race when they don’t want to talk about race, but it also can mean the representation of any marginalized group including Indigenous people, women, queer folk, people with disabilities, immitrants, and people of particular regious or ethnic background.  It can mean people with different mindsets and values, or people of different ages and people from different parts of the country.

Healthy organizations look for the second part.  The “but it also can mean” part.

Some congregations tell me that they have no diversity in their churches because there’s no diversity in their town/neighborhood.  We forget that “diversity” includes skin colors – yes – but even the most homogeneous community has diversity in terms of physical abilities, ages, income, and life experiences.

But the bottom line here is that we White Church People lie about diversity:

  • We actually don’t want to be more inclusive unless that means that the “others” become like us and don’t ask us to change.
  • We are actually more interested in how we look than who we are.  “We have a Black administrative assistant” is often about optics. (My North Carolina siblings: remember that our state motto is To Be Rather Than to Seem.)
  • Even when we welcome a Person of Color on staff, we expect that person to be our consultant on All Things Racial rather than allow them to bring the full wealth of their gifts to the table with the power to influence our congregation’s culture.

Also from Edgar Villanueva:

Having a seat at the table is not the same as feeling free to speak in your own voice, to offer your own divergent ideas, to bring your full self to bear on the work.

There is a lot – a whole lot – of competative wokeness going on right now.  Yay for all of us who have marched, tweeted, and shared #BLM photos.  The most woke among us still have work to do in eradicating racism.

Let’s not fail in this amazing opportunity in the (almost) summer of 2020 to wrestle with the truth of who we are – White Churches – and who God has called us to be.  It’s not about optics.  It’s about inclusion and equity.

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