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[339] Multiculturalism

There seems to be a growing interest in multicultural Christian institutions. In a pro-diversity society, churches and Christian colleges seek multiethnic populations. But being multiethnic is not the same as being multicultural. In a recent Barna study called Beyond Diversity, 29% of blacks claimed to have experienced racism in a diverse church. That is not a surprising finding, as there are always people who are slow to open their hearts and minds to people different from themselves.

More important is that 27% of blacks felt pressure to give up a part of their cultural identity, with 28% finding it difficult to build relationships, and 33% feeling there are barriers to moving into a leadership position. I suspect one would find very similar sentiments at Christian colleges.

The punchline to all this is that demographic diversity is not synonymous with being multicultural. Too often what looks like multiculturalism is a can’t-tell-the-book-by-its-cover situation. Institutions like these practice what sociologists call forced assimilation. Non-whites are welcome to the extent that they blend in with the majority white culture. It may be unintentional but it is real and subtly oppressive. One civil rights leader–when innocently asked about cooperation–said that too often cooperation meant blacks doing the co-ing and whites doing the operating. Demographic diversity is often no more than skin deep and Christian institutions–colleges and churches–need to do better than that. DC

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