Diversity is not Inclusion

The Adventist Church prides itself on its diversity. The fact that we have an international membership that spans the globe is something we tout frequently. The satisfaction we have in knowing this is highlighted every quinquennium in the Parade of Nations (an event I’ve always wanted to participate in but have never gotten the chance – but alas). It’s a wonderful display of the multitude of places our members hail from. In recent years, diversity within organizations has often been made an explicit goal. Corporations and workplaces all champion diversity. We want people from a variety of backgrounds and demographics on our teams. And this intentionality is a noble objective. Although there are some who feel that systematic attempts at diversity are problematic, we know enough about social psychology, as well as examples throughout history, to know that despite idealistic hopes that inequality in representation will just organically sort itself out, this is also unrealistic without effort. The inherent biases of our own brains, as well as the biases baked into the mechanisms of society, are too profound to be overcome by mere chance. Actual energy must be exerted. But diversity in and of itself is not the end game.

In November 2019 it was widely publicized that the popular US-based show, America’s Got Talent, was saying goodbye to one of its judges. The variety show, which has several international counterparts around the world, is wildly popular because it showcases talents across the spectrum. It’s precisely the type of show you’d expect to naturally lend itself to being diverse in every aspect. But the diversity of on-air talent and panel of hosts was apparently superficial. The judge who was let go, Gabrielle Union, is African American. It was revealed that her departure stemmed from long-standing issues about her hair. Union, who often wore her hair in styles that displayed its natural texture, was told that her hair was “too black”.

This actually isn’t uncommon. There is a high level of stigma associated with styles that feature Black hair in its unprocessed state. There are countless stories of women and men who’ve been fired, denied being hired or otherwise been discriminated against because of their hair (see: here, here and here). America’s judicial system upheld the right for employers to do this . So far, only a thimbleful of states have made it illegal to discriminate against natural hair (see: here and here). Both girls and boys have faced suspensions, sports penalties, expulsions and the inability to march in graduation because of wearing their hair the way it grows from their heads. Only recently has every branch of the US military made it allowable for black women to wear natural hairstyles (see: here and here). Many people of other races are often unaware of this fact and don’t recognize why Black people get offended when individuals of other cultures who have straight hair are often accused of insensitivity and appropriation when they deliberately try to imitate culturally significant Black hairstyles. It escapes them that those of other ethnicities are afforded the luxury of temporarily choosing to adopt the trappings of Blackness and later abandon them at will – like one would a costume. All the while they are praised for the same hairstyles Black people are penalized for. The point that Black women sometimes adopt straight styles is a false equivalence because first, many Black women have straight hair naturally and secondly, Black people are negatively impacted for not assimilating. Not just professionally and academically as in the previous examples, but also socially and emotionally by those who either speak of their hair pejoratively or fetishizingly.

Black people are often welcome in spaces with an “asterisk”. The caveats to diversity will often include discarding the unique aspects of cultural identity. Just showing up and occupying a space is allowed, but that’s where it ends. That’s what is referred to as tokenism. It’s diversity without inclusion.

I know Spectrum is an international publication. And many times people lament that race issues are a uniquely American phenomenon. But that’s untrue. I would dare say that there is no country on earth that doesn’t have influences of cultural or ethnic discrimination interwoven in its history and/or present. Speaking with people around the world, prejudice rears its head in societies on every continent. If you don’t think it’s a problem where you are, you are most likely in the majority culture or your demographic is reflected in the demographics of those with the most power and influence in your country. Invariably, the dominant culture (whether defined by numbers or socio-political influence) in a society will seek to maintain the status quo; diversification is met with resistance. It’s a threat to “the way we do things”. Reluctantly, others may be allowed in – as long as they don’t try to change anything or bring any new perspectives. This was on global display in the treatment if Meghan Markle after her marriage to Prince Harry. Discrimination is the most logical explanation for the starkly contrasted treatment of the Duchess of Sussex, as compared to her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, for doing the same things. Criticisms against her were fueled by the underlying xenophobic fears that she was trying to “change” the British Royal Family.

Christian circles are no stranger to this behavior. It can be insidious. In the name of preserving Christian morals, church leaders vehemently decry dance routines by Afro-Latinas performing at the Super Bowl, yet are strangely silent when it comes to choreography carried out by similarly attired blond-haired blue-eyed cheerleaders on any given Sunday (including that very game). Trepidation over potential deviations from traditional patterns keeps underrepresented people at arm’s length. This is why churches and schools will often see “white flight” when a critical mass of the population becomes “too brown”. Apprehension about change is what makes organizations reticent to take on more than a few people from the minority population – and only with those important asterisks. Differentiations are made between sacred and secular music and worship based on the cultural origins of the instruments used. Bar tunes from medieval Europe are acceptable melodies to transform into hymns. But sounds borrowed from African traditional roots are clearly evil. In our proclamation of what is holy we are often inadvertently reinforcing whatever has its origins in the dominant culture. The same supremacy that perpetuates the intellectual dishonesty that divorces Jerusalem from the Middle East and co-ops Christianity as a European religion also lifts Egypt out of Africa and tries to separate Black people from Black culture – in the name of “spiritual growth”. It is taught that it is a sign of godly maturity to set aside culture if it is in the name of assimilation within the predominant culture.

If we are to pat ourselves on the back for our diversity, it must be matched by a willingness to be inclusive as well. It goes beyond having a Black face in a certain space, but also being willing to listen to and embrace the unique voices and contributions that accompany the people with those faces. Inclusivity means having speakers talk about intersectionality within conversations, without claiming that it’s derailing the topic. It means ceding some room to forms of art and worship that may be different from your particular brand of normal. It means going beyond merely tolerating, but learning to appreciate the distinctiveness people bring from their backgrounds. It means being curious and taking steps to educate oneself about others’ thoughts and perspectives. It means refraining from making fun of that practice that seems “foreign” to you and resisting the urge to cast condemnation on traditions that are unlike your own. It means having the GC showcase music that is truly reflective of diverse nations instead of versions watered down to blend in with the well-worn terrain. It means having preachers address issues of race and culture on Sabbaths other than the ones in February. I hope we move beyond diversity and strive to achieve inclusion.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is a clinical psychologist and ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:

https://spectrummagazine.org/author/courtney-ray

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10194
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Courtney, thank you. Right on time and on point for conversations I’ve been having recently.

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Thanks for the article!

But that would me welcoming sinners, right? Into the church?

And welcoming all people who are called into service by the Holy Spirit would mean welcoming female clergy? Outrageous!

And what about the gays? Them too? Oh my!

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Now you’ve gone to meddling and opened up a box of snakes!!
[bigger than a few worms]

The 1st letter to the Corinthians is about receiving Gifts of the Spirit.
Would women who love God receive these Gifts?
Would GLTO’s who love God receive these Gifts?

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My specialty.

Yes, I think that anyone who bases their faith in the NT writings, especially Paul’s authentic writings, is irreconcilably disingenuous if they think women are second class members of the church - if they think there are “Christian gender roles” and other such nonsense. This sort of mental gymnastics can be maintained only while in a continuous state of denial.

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From my recent reading of the conditions for receiving the
Gifts of the Spirit, I believe all humans are eligible for the Gifts.
Paul seems to indicate that the greatest Gift we can receive is
the ability to Love. Love God, Love fellow men.

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AND WHAT ABOUT THE GAYS — THEM TOO ??

With one in twenty — about five percent — a significant minority —being gay / lesbian, should they not also have inclusivity in congregations?

The Democrats tout the diversity of their large number of presidential candidates, which have included blacks, Hispanics, whites, and Asians — and for the first time — unprecedented — a gay candidate - -Pete Buttigieg. So the word DIVERSITY should not be only inclusive of racial minorities but also of sexual orientations.

And this gay / lesbian percentage of the demographic holds true over every race, ethnic group, and nationality. This means that every extended family - black, white, Hispanic, Asian — of 20 or 25 persons, has at least one niece / nephew / cousin / aunt / uncle / child / grandchild / parent who is gay / lesbian.

Those people who assert that they do not have a gay family member are ignorant of the fact that such a family member has not self identified as gay / lesbian for fear of rejection.

And in the minority groups — black — Hispanic — rejection, shunning and shaming is more prevalent than even in the white families…

Pastor Courtney Ray, you did a SPLENDID job of consciousness raising about the racist / social problems that blacks face in a white society —-

Just as gays face ostracism / shunning / shaming / rejection / hostility from homophobic heterosexuals.

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The danger with some of these observations is that you’ll find whatever you are looking for.
Any level of racism towards Markle came from a very minor pocket indeed.

Any serious analysis can easily demonstrate that she had most people and media eating out of her hand, they were besotted by her and the whole romance.

Things only went south when she forgot the job description that she no doubt indicated she understood over and over before committing.

Find us a photo of Kate Middleton at Wimbledon surrounded by dozens of empty seats and I’ll take back my words.

To be a royal Brit that matters is not the same as a Hollywood starlet and it seems she and most Americans don’t understand the difference.

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If the church intends to remain relevant (instead of just remnant), these are issues it must address honestly. We are moving more and more towards an “us vs them” mindset at the corporate church level and articles like this one help brings us back to reality.

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Tim,
The people you mention have nothing to fear. They will always be welcome in the new church that I will be starting soon. Just ordered the signs that will be posted in front of the building,

Church For Sinners Only
(Saints should look for another church)

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Oh I just must share. Saints & Sinners:

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“Nothing but lost beginners.”
A great line.

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It’s poetry:


We’re saints and we’re sinners
Nothing more than lost beginners
Both now facing endless falls
Its hell or heaven cry’s
The pulpits’ scorn

Every saint now has a past
So may the sinners’ future last
Every ghost still has a haunt
Where he or she feels they belong
All possessing tortured souls
Confessing all that’s yet to be
Saints and sinners are
Lunatics a vicious breed

So Armageddon here we come
Who are the chosen ones?
Consequences who you’ve been
For in damnation Satan grins

From: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/floggingmolly/saintssinners.html

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I’ve worked in TV industry, and I think I believe producers more than those behind the rumor Mill. And that’s why it throws the wrench in the argument from the get go and soils otherwise Noble effort to point out the perils of tokenism. In fact, if the author would be serious, then he wouldn’t even be talking about why Gabrielle was let go, but why she was hired in the first place.

From what I gather, the complaints about her hair wasn’t about it being black in style, but because rapid style changes create potential continuity for shows that may need to be spliced and cut together. It’s a procedural preferences of producers that there should be some continuity without rapid daily changes to how a person looks, of which hair is a big part.

But, it’s very easy to twist that story into something else.

Then there are allegations of comedian hosts making racially comments. Really? A comedian making fun of stereotypes? That’s aweful. No comedians ever did that, right?

The problem is that people who thing they are responsible to force their “wokeness” on everyone else around tend to be a nightmare to work with. It becomes an environment of people walking on eggshells , making sure no one ever takes anything out of context… At which point the creativity and fluidity dies.

I know that the author’s article goes beyond these issues, but the tendency is to presume racism because there are comparable situations in history, therefore it must be because of some hidden bias… And not mere procedural preferences.

If Gabrielle is going to complain about Jay Leno, she shouldn’t be caught laughing at racial jokes on Comedy Central roasts, or Chapelle’s performances. But you see, that kind of consistent stance would seem too rigid

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Again, there’s seem to be a generic swing to the extreme assumptions without allowing the accused to speak as to why. The underlying reason are imolied “because they are black” , but there’s a generic ignorance of the industry expectations in entertainment / news industry when it comes to someone’s image, for example.

I actually began in news production, and anchors are a multi-million dollar investment into a brand image of the station. Their face and consistent look IS the brand. You may think it’s unfair, but it’s not merely the case with the black anchors. We hired specific hair dressers for them. They were not allowed to go elsewhere. They were shopped for by an image consultants, etc. It’s simply the reality of the TV news in competitive markets.

Of course a producer would throw a hissy fit when an anchor, after a station invested considerable amount in establishing dicided to look completely different! I don’t care if you are white, black or yellow. It means new billboards. It means new promos. It means new brand campaigns. It means… You are fired, and a person that doesn’t pull that stunt is hired. That’s the reality of the industry.

On the other end of the spectrum, we can’t forget the structure of the Fundamentalism past, and the generic buzz cuts in the military that wipes any individuality off of you the moment you signed up.

I went to a school that didn’t allow hair longer than few inches past ears on males. I’d get sent to principal, and had to have it cut down.

Also, you have to keep in mind that certain kinds of hair maybe an occupational hazard… like it could be in a theme park with bunch of moving parts it could be caught up into. It wouldn’t be out if line with a corporation to minimize legal risks.

So… no it’s not the first time it happened… to people in general. And there are more viable things to gripe about… Like this one, for example:

It’s a generational problem that should be stopped at the root… but it’s not. And the fact that black kids get to carry that negative self-valuation since early childhood should be an embarrassment to us all.

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Here’s one for you to check out.

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So far in that perfect church: empty pews, pastors starving, mortgage unpaid.
Oh, those sinners… :roll_eyes:

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Hi Elmer. On a different thread a poster made reference how all of Gods children will be safe and secure in the knowledge that the sinners will be outside a wall. (Mexico paid for that wall ). Purity has been a movement since the beginning of man. Purity and position seekers were even part of Jesus’s most beloved followers. Reaching the point of being able to accept Christ died for all man kind is vacant from purity for some.

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As a mathematician (Ph.D.), I feel compelled to point out that this is a common misunderstanding about probability. The averages only hold true for large samples. Even if there is no hereditary or environmental influence, by pure chance, some groups of 20-25 would have no gays, and others would have 3 or more. It’s still true that most of us who think no one we know is gay, just don’t know anyone who is willing to tell us they are gay.

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Thank you Robert, for this splendid professional mathematical / statistical input.

But maybe you would concede that those who have no family member in their extended family who is LGBT certainly must have someone in their social circle or work colleagues who is gay / lesbian ?

Part of the problem is that many LGBT are “ closeted “ — hiding the fact that they have gay leanings, for fear of the pervasive discrimination against gays. So even family members or work colleagues maybe unaware of the true situation.

I guess the point I was trying g to make here, is that gays / lesbians are a significant minority in our population — more than most straight people realize.

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