The Multiracial Divide Without Easy Answers

The past couple of posts here have highlighted issues regarding race and diversity.
America is the land of…increasing diversity. It’s not slowing down anytime soon.
However, do “we” really celebrate diversity in this country? Should we? Why can’t we all just get along? Afterall, afloat or sinking, American or not, we’re all in the same boat together.

An LA Times article on a recent provocative Robert Putnam study suggests,

there is a strong positive relationship between interracial trust and ethnic homogeneity. In other words, the less diverse your community, the more likely you are to trust the people in it who are different from you. The flip side is also true: The more ethnically diverse the people you live around, the less you trust them.

The article also highlights this issue of identity and its categorizations, how we may construct our social identities for some sense of solidarity yet simultaneously separate ourselves from others but over time even these constructions may fall apart.

We can even “mash-up” our identities according to our preference (nuyorican, blasian…ask Tiger Woods).

Just existing together won’t erase mistrust; instead, we should work toward creating an identity that includes everyone.

The Rev.Dr. Ken Fong posted an open letter in response to this article of which I’m very appreciative of (O Ken, how I love thee),

Diversity may not be the answer to our country’s future, but it is nevertheless our country’s future. Even if it were possible to close our borders to future immigrants from everywhere and then promote the reorganization into much more homogeneous communities for those now here, America would still be faced with this looming question: how do we relate to one another collectively as “we the People”?

As any biologist knows, Nature is replete with examples where more bio-diverse species and habitats are better able to handle stress and changes. But perhaps Putnam’s survey is making an important distinction between humans and all over living things. The former is laden with prejudices and preferences; the latter are not. Humans, we have a problem.

Rodriguez writes that, “More important, perhaps, whites and nonwhites alike will have to create a more generous and expansive sense of ‘we.’” In the just-published secular textbook, Crossing the Ethnic Divide, sociology professor Kathleen Garces-Foley agrees and, in her two-and-a-half year study of Evergreen Baptist Church of LA (Rosemead, CA) suggests that the diverse model we are creating may hold one of the keys to America’s diverse future. Driven by the vision of the Church as a new model of humanity, where Christ has destroyed every barrier between us (Ephesians 2) and united us all into one new creation, we have morphed from being an exclusively Japanese American body into one thus far that consists of nearly a dozen API groups, Whites, Blacks, Latinos who are both young and old, rich and poor, educated and not, immigrants and very americanized. This is an intricate work-of-God-in-progress. However, what propels us is an increasing sense of need for what different people can contribute to our understanding of God and who increase our capacity to love and serve others.

Clearly, there will probably never be a day when every American—even Christian ones—embrace this purpose. Nevertheless, Putnam’s survey missed finding pockets of hope.

Rev. Dr. Ken Fong
Senior Pastor
Evergreen Baptist Church of LA
Rosemead, CA

Read also DJChuang post on this with more links to follow, multiracial mashup. op-ed. open letter from Ken Fong

I love God’s vision of the church as the new model for humanity. Yes it is a work in progress.
I just wonder in the Chinese church, we talk about wanting a multicultural church…eventually, should it be now or later, is there a plan to getting there wherever there is?
Does the Chinese or immigrant church even share the same understanding of this vision?
Do they or we for that matter realize what it takes to fulfill this vision – realizing that we need each other in how each different person can contribute to our understanding of God? Love that lays our lives down for another.
We want the resurrection glory but I doubt we want the cross that gets us there.
Again, maybe, just maybe we’re dreaming the wrong dreams for our lives.

We’re one but we’re not the same…we get to carry each other, carry each other…” – One, U2


3 Responses to “The Multiracial Divide Without Easy Answers”

  1. August 29, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Hello Brother,
    I happened on your site because I am searching for answers. I have a small congregation in the hills of California. Maybe 15 people if they all came every Sunday. A large family from Liberia has just settled into our community and has chosen to come to our UMC. I certainly did not have any clue that problems would araise from the community and within the church, I thought only of how great it was to be multi-racial.

    My little church has 3 African Americans who attend regularly and of the 3, two are a married couple who have been attending for about 8 years or less, in their 70’s. Oh, I am a Hispanic female in my late 50’s. Much of my congregation is older with others in their 30’3, all white.

    We had a meeting to address some issues and to tell you the truth it was a disaster! Name calling, raised voices, and I began to see the issues were relative to ethnicity verses Christianity. And I told them so! I said that the congregation was entering unknown territory with respect to multiple ethnicities and there needed to be clarification to move forward. All hell broke lose with the Blacks saying, ‘what was I saying?”, the whites said nothing, and I the Mexican was verbaly and unrespectfully maligned.

    Is achieving multi-racial Christianity possible when it hardly works in our society? We as a people have been striving for at least 150 years in the US to get to the place where we hear each other before see each other. I’m not just a human being like one of the Black ladies said, me includes my ethnicity. But as a Hispanic my experiences are based on my past interactions with other ethicities. This congregation has not been altogether embracing of me, and they are being asked to become predominantly Black! I do not feel I can lead them forward. Can you please help me make sense of some of the dynamics going on here?

  2. 2 L T
    September 5, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for leaving a comment and sharing your situation here. I feel your pain.
    I resonate with what you’ve experienced.

    Being with anyone different than ourselves regardless of gender, class and color is much more of a challenge than we realize. In the church we may chant that we’re one in Christ but the day to day reality of dwelling with one another in the mud brings out what’s really in our hearts.

    While we do experience glimpses of multi-racial harmony or peaceful loving relationships from time to time it is not the norm nor will it be on this side of heaven. We emphasize multi-racial moreso in our present times because it’s what we’re confronted with in this country. It is the work of God and we should join him.

    What should we strive for? Making less enemies in this world and more neighbors. Loving my brother and sister. Love that makes me bleed. Keeping my promises when it hurts me and I lose out. Loving without easy answers. It starts with you. It starts with me.

  3. November 16, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Hey, look what I found during a random Google search on my name! thanks for the props and the love! One of the biggest misnomers many of us have is that the life in Christ together is supposed to be COMFORTABLE. Does that sound like the narrow path that leads to the cross? As we keep finding, it requires keeping the goal of becoming a truly redemptive community in front of us, which means having to humbly face our failings and fumblings. But it is still the only way forward I know of that offers any hope.

    IVP just published “Dynmaic Diversity” by Milne. Check it out. Great book!


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[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
or simply expose what goes on in the mind of this abcpastor

this may be a bit ambitious or even naiive but i do hope that through the posts we can bring together different faith communities, passions for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping of the body of Christ.

if you are an abc pastor or have any suggestions or would like to contribute to make this space evolve, just comment.


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