multiracial mashup. op-ed. open letter from Ken Fong.
In an age of mash-ups why would one’s race be any different? Society today is made up of multi-racial folks – diversity is the word of the day – and now we’ve got the lingo to address just about any mix you can think of. Black + Asian becomes ‘Blasian’, Hawaiian blood mixed with another race is sometimes referred to as ‘Hapa’, as Filipino mixed with another race, can be called ‘Mestiso’. It’s all very interesting and confusing making it that much easier to make a major ‘faux pas’ if you accidentally use the wrong terminology. Not to mention controversial – when Tiger Woods called himself ‘Cablanasian’ he created quite a ruckus in the black community. In the end, no matter term you decide to use, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re all just people.
Labels aside, one op-ed published in the LA Times saw a speed bump in mixing it up — Diversity may not be the answer: Just existing together won’t erase mistrust; instead, we should work toward creating an identity that includes everyone.
Diversity may not be the answer to our country’s future, but it is nevertheless our country’s future. Even if it were possible to close our borders to future immigrants from everywhere and then promote the reorganization into much more homogeneous communities for those now here, America would still be faced with this looming question: how do we relate to one another collectively as “we the People”?
As any biologist knows, Nature is replete with examples where more bio-diverse species and habitats are better able to handle stress and changes. But perhaps Putnam’s survey is making an important distinction between humans and all over living things. The former is laden with prejudices and preferences; the latter are not. Humans, we have a problem.
Rodriguez writes that, “More important, perhaps, whites and nonwhites alike will have to create a more generous and expansive sense of ‘we.’” In the just-published secular textbook, Crossing the Ethnic Divide, sociology professor Kathleen Garces-Foley agrees and, in her two-and-a-half year study of Evergreen Baptist Church of LA (Rosemead, CA) suggests that the diverse model we are creating may hold one of the keys to America’s diverse future. Driven by the vision of the Church as a new model of humanity, where Christ has destroyed every barrier between us (Ephesians 2) and united us all into one new creation, we have morphed from being an exclusively Japanese American body into one thus far that consists of nearly a dozen API groups, Whites, Blacks, Latinos who are both young and old, rich and poor, educated and not, immigrants and very americanized. This is an intricate work-of-God-in-progress. However, what propels us is an increasing sense of need for what different people can contribute to our understanding of God and who increase our capacity to love and serve others.
Clearly, there will probably never be a day when every American—even Christian ones—embrace this purpose. Nevertheless, Putnam’s survey missed finding pockets of hope.
Rev. Dr. Ken Fong
Evergreen Baptist Church of LA
[update 8/16] Wall Street Journal publishes an op-ed on this too, with a more thoughtfully nuanced commentary in “The Death of Diversity: People in ethnically diverse settings don’t care about each other“, with an interesting plot twist at the end:
Here, too, Robert Putnam has a possible assimilation model. Hold onto your hat. It’s Christian evangelical megachurches. “In many large evangelical congregations,” he writes, “the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed.”