I am quite elatedly serving as a pastor in one the most multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-faceted communities in my entire ministry. Just one hour north of Los Angeles, Camarillo, and Ventura County (while not the most multi-cultural place in LA) is very diverse. Oxnard, just to the north of Camrarillo boasts a population that is almost 80% hispanic. As a person who grew up in Boise, Idaho in the 1970's and then Salt Lake City in the 1980's, cities that were as Wonder Bread white as can be, living in the same space as people from quite literally the entire globe is quite exciting.
Just last week, while taking my 6 year old daughter to school, I met a young dad from Hydrapradesh, India. His name was Hari (pronounced HADI). I learned that he works for a major tech firm in WeltsLake Village, and studied in Bangalore, India before that (the Silicon Valley of India). It was so refreshing to talk to him. Rather than the bland conversational pleasantries that I usually encounter with people who have grown up in the West ("Good morning, how are you, how's it going"), Hari asked meaningful questions. After I told him I was a pastor starting a new church he said, "And how are you finding that experience?" My day was made better and more rich through encountering someone from a different culture, perhaps a deeper richer culture, than my own.
I have many friends who come from different cultures and races than my own. But here's the thing. What I have found is that it is sort of the main topic that you don't talk about - ever. With someone from a different culture than my own, you just don't say, "What is your perception of race in America?" You are very, very careful not to make generalizations, or observations of any kind. You almost pretend that race doesn't exist. Because if you do, you run the risk of perhaps making a big faux pas, or just saying something totally unhelpful. As I have done many times.
Here's an example of one of the times that I "messed up" with a friend from another culture. In Colorado Springs, I had a friend who was African American named Dean. Dean was a former Navy Seal, had worked in the Special Forces, had flown multiple Secret Ops for the United States in very dangerous parts of the world, and was very tough. I used to work out with Dean at the gym. He was about 250 pounds and was very strong. I actually had the need for a body guard on a couple of occasions in Colorado Springs, and I asked my friend Dean to help me. He was happy to oblige. When I told Dean that I would be moving to Camarillo, he said, "Wow, that's exciting, I would love to come with you, can I come and work on your staff?" And that's when I made my inter-cultural mistake. I said, "Yes, I am sure we could USE someone like you." Now I meant this in the best possible way, but I had messed up. My phrase was objectifying and unhelpful. It meant well, but it came off so very wrong.
On this Martin Luther King Jr. Monday morning, it is good for us to revisit the dream that Rev King (and we should remember that he was an ordained pastor) cast for America. The Dream was that someday, someway in America that race and culture would no longer be an issue. It would no longer be the thing that people talked about. It would no longer be the subject on the forefront of people's minds. Race and culture would no longer be the dividing line between people of different shades of skin.
The Dream Revisited
"I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream - one day this nation will rise up and live up to it's creed, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.
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."
I have a dream today!
Dream is Revisited
Here in America, on Jan. 19, 2015 (52 years after the delivery of the famous speech), protestors are forming in most cities in America to demonstrate against some of the many challenges we face as a country on the subject of race and culture. There are still many wrongs to right. There are still many ills and tragedies to reverse. We must all grow more. I must grow more.
But the dream still lives on!
All For Now,