Fifty years. Half a decade since Martin Luther King Jr. made the historic march on Washington and declared in his speech that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I have firsthand accounts of the Cedarville experience for minorities. It has always been and will continue to be a very different experience from our brothers and sisters in the ethnic majority. Why? Well, old habits die hard. While segregation may have died long ago, racist conceptualizations and structures of power are alive and well today. If this doesn’t bug you, it should- it really should. Why? Because we as humans cannot un-see what is to be seen. Allow me to explain.
Say you have a friend and the two of you got separated in a crowd. You’re lost and trying to find your buddy. A police officer may have seen your friend and asks you to describe him. What do you say?
I’m sure we’d LIKE to believe in political correctness here- but ultimately the person you describe would include what you SEE with your eyes. Skin color and ethnicity is a huge part of that. You don’t describe strangers in terms of ‘he’s nice’ or ‘he has a good heart’, descriptions are based on what is visible about that person and what differences might stand out to a passerby.
To those who believe ethnic diversity is a ‘made up’ issue within the body of Christ- let me remind you that this make believe issue kept and KEEPS many people separate to this day. One has only to look at the demographics of a map in any city in America to see how this is accurate. In some instances there are firm lines where impoverished, minority neighborhoods meet with the majority.
We are all different and sometimes these differences are apparent. If you want to address the problem of unity you need to first focus on the aspect of diversity. What are the attitudes towards those on campus who are not white (or White)? Carl Ruby and Dean Purple were huge advocates for students who didn’t quite fit in because of who they were as people.
The wonderful thing about celebrating diversity is that doing so celebrates the different aspects of Christ. For lack of a better authoritative pronoun, we refer to God as a man- but is he? He is neither male nor female. He isn’t black, white, brown, purple or any other color. Rather, ALL people are made in his likeness. Not just white males with blue eyes and brown hair. Ignoring diversity is tantamount to ignoring the many-faceted aspects of God’s own creativity.
In an attempt to diversify Cedarville, we mustn’t forget that while Christ called the church body to unity, he also created each and every person differently. This difference should be celebrated and encouraged. It should not be pointed out to make brochures look good, but neither should it be swept under the rug of indifference. In pursuit of unity, are we sacrificing who others are in a call for one-ness?
Dr. White, “Christian unity that sees no race or division”1 is not the problem at Cedarville. The problem lies in Cedarville only identifying with white culture as a whole. One has only to look at the board of trustees to see that none of them are people of color, and only one is a woman. Diversity starts at the head until it is a heart issue- a heart to seek out and understand people for who they ARE- not being colorblind and praying for diversity. This issue cannot be silenced. If we as a community remain silent, we do a great deal of injustice to the previous generations who have worked so hard to get where we are today.
Calling for blind oneness is easy when you do not walk away from that statement as an under-appreciated member of society.