catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 11 :: 2003.05.23 — 2003.06.05


Confessions of a racist?

A few months ago, a topic popped up on the discussion board titled, "Is cino Dutch?" At the time, one possible answer to that questions was, "Mostly, yes." We draw a large crowd of people connected to Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, which has a traditionally Reformed, mostly Dutch student body. And, while I cannot tell the color of a person's skin by what they write on the discussion board, I have a feeling most of cino's members at least look like they could have graduated from Dordt as part of the comfortable majority.

So is this something to be ashamed of?

While I wish I could diversify the color of the people participating in *cino as well as the people in my life, I just don't know how. I live in a town with a 20% non-white population. In the six months I've been here, I've only met a few people from that 20%.

I used to live in the south suburbs of Chicago where I hopped on the L every morning in a mostly African American neighborhood. Every day I was conscious of the color shift, from all black on the south side of town to all white around the near north side to a variety of skin tones on the far north side. To be honest, I was not completely at home in any of these places because I could not help but notice and analyze the colors around me. On the south side, I felt the object of judgment as the only white person. On the north side, I shifted to being the judge as I mentally categorized all of the white people as wealthy urbanite snobs, for which I blindly denied my own surface snobbishness as a resident of a wealthy, white suburb. Does all of this make me a racist?

Who's to blame for my monochromatic life? If I?m solely responsible, how would I go about changing? Would seeking out friends who are not white make me a racist anyway? Is it possible to be comfortably surrounded by almost all people of one color and not be a racist?

I don't have any answers to these questions, but I do know that the discomfort I felt on the L indicates that a monochromatic life cannot be healthy for any of us. Most of us are in a place where unofficial segregation is natural and accepted and this situation did not just occur in an instant. We took a long time to get here and it's going to take a long time and a lot of hard work to get to where we should be. Making progress toward colorful lives might require some superficial steps at first, but I think the long-term effects warrant such steps.

As my husband and I look into opening a volunteer-run store in our small town, I hope to be able to actively pair volunteer workers of different races and ethnicities. When we have kids, I'd like to start an intentionally multi-cultural play group that will benefit both kids and parents. I would also like to intentionally diversify the races and ethnicities of people participating in culture is not optional because cino is, after all, trying to have a positive effect on the universal Church and will not be completely effective without the full participation of our brothers and sisters of color.

But again, my inclinations to help cino diversify are stalled by that nagging voice of political correctness asking the question that betrays my ignorance: Does seeking out people of color to participate in cino make me a racist or just one individual who wants to better understand the various members of God's family?

Discussion topic: Is *cino racist?

Admittedly, *cino's members are nearly all white. Should we be seeking to diversify our members? If so, how? Is the desire to intentionally diversify a form of racism in itself?

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