Stepping off the walkway: A few easy steps you could take to combat injustice

A while ago, in the post Tamir Rice and the unbearable reasonableness of it all, I referenced the idea that racism, sexism and other systemic injustices are like a moving walkway. If one simply stands still, one is taken to the same undesirable and as you might encounter if you were actively pursuing racism, sexism, etc.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

  • There are fewer women in Industry A to help make Industry A a woman-welcoming environment. Why? Because…
  • …there are fewer women applying for Industry A positions, because there are fewer women pursuing Industry A related degree. Why? Because…
  • …there are fewer women who feel welcome in those programs because there are fewer women in Industry A to help make the Industry A programs a woman-welcoming environment.

If you work in Industry A, even if you are not actively against the idea of women in Industry A, not taking action means that your industry ends up in the same place as if you were actively anti-woman. There will be few women in Industry A. And while the example above is a simplified, hypothetical example, if you replaced the phrase Industry A with either Ministry or Technology, this simplified, hypothetical example would not be very far from the truth. I work in both industries.

So what can you do about it (or maybe, what can I do about it)? Here are some ideas directed at the industries in which I work, but I’m sure you can adapt to yours.

  • Say something – You can point out, in a non-anxious way, the particular moving walkway that you’re on. Here are some examples
    • “I notice that we don’t have many women in our applicant pool. What can we do to fix that?”
    • “Our industry is notorious for being unfriendly to minorities. What can we do that’s different from the stereotype here?”
    • “Our speakers seem to mostly represent a single demographic, can we broaden that?”
  • Do the same thing in a different place – Sometimes we use the same communication channels or take the same actions in the same networks and get trapped with the same results. What if you moved some of these? for example
    • You’ve probably put your job posting on local colleges’ message board. Perhaps you can also send send it to the career office of the nearest HBCU, or perhaps to the local Women in Industry A group.
    • You’ve often put the posters for your college ministry in the student center. Do you know where the Hispanic Student Group meets? How about putting some posters there?
  • Do one significant thing differently – There’s often a big difference between where our industry is, and where it should be to just and equitable. There’s a lot of changes to be made and it can seem overwhelming. Perhaps you can start with a single change. For example –
    • Consider keeping your job posting open until your applicant pool has a certain number of qualified female applicants.
    • Consider only accepting conference speaking engagements where there is at least one woman or minority on the slate.

You might be at the end of this post and thinking that I did not fulfill my promise of “easy steps”. The truth is, they will all require some bravery, and they don’t solve the entire problem of the various -isms of our society. I’m not even sure they will all work. But the step that I can guarantee will result in continued injustice is to do nothing.

Photo Credit: WikiHow

Cross-cultural ministry doesn’t just happen

There are some things we expect to just happen naturally, without much deliberate effort. You just need to bring the appropriate elements together, and let things happen. If we bring kids to a playground, we don’t expect it will take much effort to generate fun, you just bring the kids and the equipment in the same space and mostly let things happen. We tend to think about cross-cultural relationships in the same way. All we need to do is to bring enough people of different cultural backgrounds into the same space and cross-cultural friendships will naturally happen, right?

Part of the ideal of recruiting foreign students to American campuses is that the friendships formed across international lines will leave those from many countries (including the United States) with new perspectives and personal connections in many nations. For many foreign students in the United States, that’s just not happening, according to a new study.

The research — which appears today in the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication — finds that nearly 40 percent of international students report having no close American friends and say that they wish they had more meaningful interaction with those born in the United States.

via New study finds many foreign students lack American friends | Inside Higher Ed.

Oh…

So if it’s hard for people who are immersed in a culture that is not their own to make friends with people of that culture, then what does it mean for us who aren’t immersed? What does this mean for those of us who value cross-cultural relationships, partnerships and ministry?

In part, it means that we can’t take relationships for granted. It’s human nature to tend toward the safe and easy, while avoiding the strange and difficult and that impulse carries through to our ministry. But if we believe the picture in Revelation of different language groups, people groups and nationalities worshiping together in God’s Kingdom, and we truly wish for God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, then we must come to grips with the fact that in general we don’t just fall into multiculturalism. It takes, and is worth, a deliberate leap.

Image Credit: Ice Cream by Chris JL