This is a hard post to write. I want to show my passion for diversity, but I don’t want to be preachy. I want to be real and honest, but I don’t want to offend. I want to be bold, but I don’t want to be bossy. All I can share is what is in my heart and what we have chosen to do as a family.
It’s said that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time of the week in our great country. Though our social worlds and occupational worlds may be fully integrated, for some reason, our faith communities remain, in large part, fairly homogenous. Our separations can stem from differences in race, class, economics, and culture. My husband and I have chosen an outlier for our worship experience each Sunday. Our church is a definite mixture of race and socioeconomics. We are located in North Baton Rouge at the Baton Rouge Dreamcenter on Winbourne. Our congregation is majority African American. Most of our members that attend our church are either working class or on the poverty line. We have some members that have been homeless and found refuge and hope within our walls or through outreaches. We have families that have been ravaged by violence and difficulty, but we also have a sweet spirit of unity and support. My boys spend their Sundays often being either the only or one of the few white children in their classes. And you know what? We love it that way. They are accustomed to hugging and shaking the hands of older black women, rough and haggard white men, black teenagers, and young multi-racial couples. They run up and down the aisles in our sanctuary, oblivious to the many social markers that would cause most adults pause. We value this environment for many reasons, including spiritual encouragement and community, but one close to our heart is the normalcy of the diversity. The familiarity eliminates the foreign “otherness” that humans often create when we encounter people different than us.
My husband and I decided a long time ago that we wanted to raise our sons in environments of diversity. So, when I say diversity, what do you think of? Different skin colors? Different accents? Different abilities? Different brand names? Diversity simply means differences. In our nation, the biggest differences are often race and class and the differently abled. So, when we incorporate the differences of others into our children’s experiences, we are preparing them for our modern reality and enriching their understanding of humanity.
Dr. Christopher Metzler, a leading voice on diversity, explains how we as parents can be intentional about living a lifestyle of diversity with our children. He distinguishes between the occasional “field trip” and an immersive lifestyle. Metzler advises, “It is not enough to simply visit cultural events, eat ethnic foods and thus learn about differences from a voyeuristic point of view. Instead, we must make a deliberate effort to get out of the familiar and show our children we mean it. Accepting differences should be how we live our lives.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about festivals and restaurants and community service, but I believe we have to be more purposeful in immersive experiences for our children. If prejudice and racism are learned, then acceptance and understanding can be, too. We have the awesome opportunity to raise humans who love and accept one another despite all sorts of differences. So, the diversity training starts with us. Now more than ever our country needs young generations that acknowledge difference and choose to see the benefits instead of the discomfort.
In addition to our church, we also like to read books with characters of different ethnicities, celebrate historical heroes and athletes of different ethnicities, and let our actions and language reflect open hearts and minds. Our Sundays are so special to us because we know that our family is experiencing our city, Baton Rouge, in a way that will greatly impact our boys. We pray they will love God and love all people, and we hope our time at the Dreamcenter on Winbourne with our diverse congregation is providing that foundation.