A couple of weeks ago I asked if it was possible to respect all the differences that 33,820 denominations represent and still be one body? The dream of unity in the midst of diversity sounds idyllic. When I read Martin Luther King's, “I have a dream” speech, I can’t help but be inspired: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. “
This is the kind of nation that I want to raise my children in.
In many ways King’s dream is becoming reality.
But if I am going to be honest—working towards unity isn’t easy. I would not describe myself as a racist, but I find myself doing racist things and making racist assumptions. I certainly benefit from being white.
I am also an immigrant.
At DOOR, we work hard at creating an egalitarian (belief in the equality of all people) workplace. But sometimes I want equality to mean that my perspectives and beliefs are the ideals that everyone should adopt. When this occurs, I have begun the process of disrespecting the perspectives and beliefs of my co-workers.
At best, what I am doing is arrogant. At its worst, it becomes racist or sexist.
Creating a space where all people are respected is much easier to talk about than to accomplish. We shy away from that which is dissimilar. Differences like skin color, language, religion, and gender quickly become things to stereotype and fear.
Even people who are intentionally working towards King’s dream can fall into stereotyping and fear.
Working towards unity is messy. We will not always get it right. For those of us who are white, we need to recognize that white privilege is simply part of the air we breathe; we need to own that we will act in racist ways both unintentionally and intentionally. For those who are not white, your grace and forgiveness is appreciated and needed.
Like an alcoholic needs to admit that he/she is powerless over alcohol, the first step to achieving King’s dream is to admit that we are racist and in need of God’s power to overcome this evil.