Okay, so I shamelessly altered the title of someone's blog, When White People Don't Know They're Being White. I love the way this title gets at the unintentional nature of our prejudices. Mostly, we don't want to speak and act with prejudice, but too often hear ourselves saying, "Oops, I did it again." And our prejudices bleed into every aspect of human difference: ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, gender, social class, to name a few examples.
Getting more specific, abled people forget they're being abled when
- they "forget" to create large print bulletins at church, even though several people need them
- they call something mediocre "lame," implying that anyone who walks with an irregular gate is mediocre
- they claim that church facilities don't need to be accessible because there are no members who use wheelchairs (pause for a moment to reflect on the absurdity of that line of reasoning)
- they associate blindness with immorality (as in the phrase "blind to injustice")
- they fear that people with disabilities will be a "drain" on church resources.
Last week, Christena Cleveland posted a marvelous blog entitled Beyond Multiethnic. In this first entry in what promises to be a good series, Cleveland challenges church leaders who want their ethnically homogeneous congregations to become ethnically diverse with a question, “Well, is your church succeeding at loving the diverse people who are already in your midst?" What about the women, the people who are gay, people with disabilities, people with lower incomes and/or informal education? She follows up with an obvious question, “Why are you interested in attracting racially diverse people if you haven’t demonstrated that you can love the racially similar but culturally different people that are already in your midst?”
Besides awakening to ethnic and abled prejudices, people need to think about when straight people don't know they're being straight, when middle class people don't know they're being middle class, when highly educated people don't know they're being highly educated.
How well is your church ministering to members who are at the margins? What lessons do you need to learn from them before you attempt to become diverse in yet another way?