Diversity = Asian & Gay?

Maybe I’m exaggerating here; actually, I’m certain that I’m exaggerating. Hyperbole is sometimes useful to illustrate a subtler point. And there is a point to this post, obscure though it may be. The point is simply this:

It seems to me when people talk about living in a “diverse” city, or having “diverse” friends, or being in a church that welcomes “diversity,” what they’re really saying is Gay people and/or Asian people with perhaps a sprinkling of Middle Easterners or Eastern Europeans thrown in for good measure. What they don’t mean is Black Americans, or White people from the south, or Hispanics (the “work in your yard, sit in the back of the pickup truck” kind of Hispanics don’t count in terms of diversity, only the “wow, can you teach me salsa dancing” kind do).

Okay… I’m and evil wrong person for using these exaggerated stereotypes. But how wrong is it really? To discuss diversity one metric to possibly use would be the raw percentages of non-Whites (since Whites / Euro-Americans are dominant in the US) in a city. The higher the percentage, the more “diverse” the place; this is a simple measure, right? Given that metric, the state of Mississippi would be considered one of the most diverse in the nation since it has a non-White population of nearly 50% or more. Except that most of those non-Whites are Blacks, and they don’t count towards the idea of diversity, unless there are some Asians and gay people in the mix and the Black people aren’t too low brow.

So perhaps that metric isn’t a good one. Maybe it is better to analyze diversity based on residential housing patterns. A diverse city would have many different ethnic groups living there. Thus, Chicago or L.A. are very diverse cities, right? Except that Chicago is notoriously residentially segregated, at least most of the Black people are. And there are many White ethnic enclaves throughout the city as well.

Is that diverse or not? Does being able to find good “ethnic” food count as being diverse, even though usually what counts as “ethnic” are various Asian cuisines with the occasional nod to Ethiopian and Mediterranean/Middle eastern dishes.

What if someone is Asian and grew up in the south, and their favorite foods are grits and turnip greens? Does that count as suitably “diverse?”

What does any of this have to do with anything, and what does it all have to do with the church, and Christianity, which is after all the topic of this blog? Actually, I’m not sure. It’s just that I wonder how much the much touted “diversity” we talk about in our society is really just a proxy for saying “Wow, there are Asian people here, and Asian people are the currently ‘cool’ ethnicity, so yay!!” It is kind of like the way people say “urban” when they really mean Black.

Author: elderj

I was born the fourth child and third son of godly parents in Nashville Tennessee. After leaving home for college I got involved with InterVarsity, then graduated with a degree in finance. After that I got a masters in history. Nowadays I spend too much time reading, writing, thinking, and occasionally doing my job.

9 thoughts on “Diversity = Asian & Gay?”

  1. You’ve got a lot of good things to say, elderj.

    But you’ve probably been reading and reacting too much to Eugene’s blog.

    I’m pretty sure that Asians aren’t the currently ‘cool’ ethnicity :^).

    You make excellent points that the supposed ‘diversity’ of the Pacific Northwest is mostly about pretty well off whites and Asians.

    Some of us have lived in more truly diverse environments that present more challenges, as you obviously have.

    I deeply appreciated your argument that real diversity is about more than race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Class and education are more important divisions right now, but most folks can’t see it at this point. It’s very encouraging that you can. Now we need to build some momentum for that take :^)

    In any case, I wish you’d speak up beyond your own blog.

    We need you.

  2. Thanks Tom for stopping by….

    Yeah, this post is a bit of a riff off some things on Eugene’s blog, but I’ve been thinking about this notion for a while. I’ve grown increasingly weary of a kind of condescension that comes from certain sectors of the Christian community, whether it is about racial “diversity”, justice issues, or simply how we “do” church together. It is unfortunate that it parallels very neatly with class and educational divisions, and even political divisions in our country.

    Sure, I’d like to speak up beyond my blog, but how would I do that?

  3. J,

    I think you are dead on with this. And the way people reach “diversity” is different from region to region. I may have some thoughts later, but glad to see you have a blog! I will be reading for sure!


  4. Well, at the very least don’t give up on engaging with other blogs that take a different tack. Different voices are crucial.

    Keep working on ways to speak to a different audience, and be willing to take some hammering. If you’re going to dish it out you’ve got to be willing to take it. I’m a progressive Christian who’s spent the 30 years of my adult life among an evangelical community made up mostly of very conservative people–both culturally and politically–who were feeling their oats and largely unwilling to listen to even the smallest deviations from their take. That’s real life at one point or another for all of us. You’ve got an important point of view, but it won’t be heard if you’re not willing to push through the headwind.

    Get with some other conservative folks of color (sorry for the clumsy and possibly inaccurate descriptor) and get creative. Lots of ways to be heard and make an impact. You’re obviously gifted and thoughtful. Go for it.

  5. Just stumbled onto your blog. I like Tom’s advice about getting “with some other conservative folks of color.” I believe many of us are trying to find the voices we allowed to be shushed for the sake of political correctness; ironically, two hateful words which we’re supposed to see as “minority friendly.” In the education field, if you’re not runing around professing pride in your racial or sexual “identity,” then you’re the kid everyone loves to exclude. That’s diversity.

    I also agree with the point about diversity being more an issue of class and education. Unfortunatley, even in the ivory towers most diversity discussions are limited to skin color. Too bad for the white Christian students who are basically expected to passively sit and be enlightened by the harsh criticisms directed at them through these discussions.

  6. @Rich – yeah, it’s interesting that you have one as well. Thanks for stopping by. Visit more often.

    @Tom – Yes, I enjoy the discussion as it sharpens and challenges my own thinking about issues. Your description of me as a “conservative person of color” is probably the first time I’ve been described that way. I find it intriguing.

    @Margaret – there is a bit of overlooking of the class issue, and some assumptions made about what it means to be white in our society that are often not looked at seriously enough

  7. Thanks for the update, I thought diversity still meant ‘hispanic’. That’s so 90s…I think. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve been Stateside. You’re lucky, on Guam, diversity in cuisine is still Thai or Indian. Haven’t been able to get my Middle Eastern, Ethiopian food in a long, long time. God bless!

  8. elder j, i liked this post. it’s funny. per the recent conversation on nextgenerasian’s blog, i stated that i feel left out when race conversations don’t include races beyond black/white. however, i COMPLETELY agree with you that diversity often means just asians (in terms of minorities). I feel that people often see us as “easy” minorities to add into their mix. People don’t see us as a threat, or as that different… so we are viewed as progress toward diversity, but people don’t see us a challenge to homogeneity. I realize that this sounds very paradoxical… can these thoughts coexist?

  9. oops. i did not mean to write “it’s funny.” I must have been on another wavelength. oh my. it’s late.

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