As we head toward thanksgiving day, I want to give a shout out to things / people I am very thankful for. Thankfulness, my Grandmother always said, was the parent of all virtues. Being thankful opens the door for generosity, kindness, and awareness needed in building a community based of love and respect.
Count-Down #4 – Being in a Multi-Cultural Community
I am so thankful, as I said earlier for all my friends and neighbors. But there is a special thankfulness for the opportunity to be in physical community with persons from other cultural and racial backgrounds. I have in my community friends that taught me things, I could have never understood, and friends who have given me gifts, I could have never earned if I had remained in cultural isolation. We are from such different places, yet share life side-by-side.
Martin Luther King Jr. and others have written about how racism and segregation were not only hurtful and unjust for blacks, but also injured whites. Whites were / are injured by broken community, false sense of superiority, and the loss of social and economic capital resulting from physical and emotion separation.
Because we live in a place without physical and emotional separation, Muslim and Mexican immigrants are neighbors and friends, not the “greatest risk facing America since WW2.” We share celebrations, we share stories; and I learn that we share hopes and dreams.
My community is made up of the people who live in my neighborhood, worship in my church, and work in the various places where I interact weekly. This community has given me the very important, yet non-tangible, gifts of awareness and sensitivity. However they have also given me very tangible gifts that defy the “American-Experience- of -Racial- Stereotypes in which white folks are always the givers and people of color are always the recipients.
I am about to take my family to a time-share, thanks to the generous gift of an African-American. I share a car with a Mexican-American. I have been a common laborer working under the leadership of Muslim Serbians as well as Latinos. Presently, I work in an organization where the majority of senior leadership is black. Our family has frequently been blessed in very tangible ways by the diverse people in our community. These experiences stand in contrast to how the legacy of racism and segregation often has not allowed white folks, like me, to receive from the richness of the cultures around us.
I do not say this as any badge of honor. I just wish to say, “it has been an honor to be in a community where we all give and receive as brothers and sisters, together.” I and my family are better because of the diverse people with whom we make and share community. My dream is is that our enriching, empowering, and beautiful experiences will become more and more normative as we learn to live as the Beloved Community.