In and out of the classroom
In the early part of the decade, Goshen College created a task force to examine other institutions of higher education across the country responding to the nation's one-third minority population. The committee was challenged with this question: How could GC best serve minority groups on campus?
What the college began as an initiative to serve its minority student population is now an engine for GC curriculum enhancement and campus growth. GC's multicultural education office has evolved to focus on providing multicultural education for all students and the greater campus.
"Our focus is not just on those who are people of color, but on everyone," said Zenebe Abebe, vice president for multicultural education, who, after working at GC from 1978 to 1984, rejoined the college's administration in 1992.
Incorporating multiculturalism into students' everyday lives has a biblical base, Abebe said. "The church comes from east and west, north and south - we are a community of God's people. The church is growing outside of the United States, Canada and Europe, and we must embrace and take an interest in working with people of other cultures." In other words, he added, multicultural education is a natural outgrowth of the college's mission and motto.
GC's wholistic approach to incorporating multiculturalism into campus life is geared toward reaching students both in the classroom and out. "It's not just the 'extras' or special programs that will encourage our students to see multiculturalism as important - that's not enough," said Abebe. "We need to find ways to teach it along with the celebrations and special events."
This means providing resources for the campus both within academic study and through special events which focus campus resources, said Abebe, including: Martin Luther King Jr. All-Campus Study Day, Alumni Scholar forums, Damascus Road anti-racism training, working with the Overground Railroad project, Ethnic Fair and other programs such as the "Celebrating Diversity" session for first-year students in their colloquium settings.
The multicultural education office has worked at the goal of infusing multicultural studies into the GC curriculum by providing enrichment grants to faculty so they can incorporate multicultural aspects into their courses.
With grant monies, faculty members have been able to travel to other cultures, attend seminars, write books, collect curriculum materials and do research. Their grant proposals outlined ways in which their work would impact students. Said Abebe, "The knowledge students gain about multiculturalism should be based on both learnings and activities - they need to be aware of the diversity in the world for their own survival."
Abebe said the special programs and grants have been well-received on campus. "This wholistic approach allows people to listen to the stories of others, both positive and negative," he added.
Stories were also an important part of the GC-sponsored Campus/Town Hall meeting in April, which gave Goshen-area residents, government and business leaders, teachers and ministers the chance to talk about issues of race and prejudice.
The forum contributed to President Clinton's Initiative on Race - One America in the 21st Century campaign, which was announced in June 1997. Colleges and universities were asked by the President's Advisory Board on Race to lead the way in establishing community dialogues on race issues.
Abebe said it is important for the college to take a position of leadership in working at issues of diversity. The campus will benefit from these experiences, he added, especially students.
"When students graduate and go into the work force, there is a greater chance than ever before that they'll have a supervisor who is of a different ethnic background, or they will supervise someone of another culture. They will need to respond to that person and learn to make comfortable relationships," said Abebe.
In comparison to other colleges, GC is leading the way in encouraging curriculum enrichment and offering a variety of innovative programs. "We are often asked to tell our story. We find we are at the cutting edge of offering students the opportunity to learn in a multicultural environment," said Abebe. "Faculty, administration and staff members have been very supportive of the efforts of this office, and our goal is to continue to interest students; they are the ones who most benefit from a deliberate approach to multicultural education."
by Rachel Lapp
King Study Day brings opportunity
to stop 'business as usual'
Rap, jazz and freedom songs - evidence of the impact of African-American musicians on this country's culture and life - rang across campus this year as part of GC's Martin Luther King Jr. All-Campus Study Day. Now an annual event, the day to set aside "business as usual" is filled with events that challenge the campus to think and talk about race relations, share personal stories and recognize shared histories.
This study day is in its fifth year. According to Professor of Economics Del Good, the tradition of study days at the college can be traced to the 1960s, when students and faculty examined concerns, contradictory claims, "facts" and feelings associated with the Vietnam War.
Good, who chairs the MLK study day, said two other major study days have also marked GC's history: in 1968, a day was devoted to celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to the arts; and in 1991, the campus gathered to hear more about the conflict in the Persian Gulf.
In the spring of 1993, a committee planning a convocation for the upcoming Martin Luther King Day proposed that it would be appropriate to pick up the study day format to focus the community on the legacy of Dr. King. Instrumental in proposing the study day were Zenebe Abebe, vice president for multicultural education, and Ruth Krall, professor of religion, nursing and psychology and director of peace studies.
"Instead of dedicating just an hour-long convo to Dr. King, we wanted to involve everyone on campus in a broader discussion," said Abebe. "The study day now incorporates convocations, speakers, films, music, art and academic study."
The goals for the day include:
Good said the MLK study day committee has worked to bring in a variety of activities and speakers to campus.
"We have intentionally tried to reach people who experienced the Civil Rights movement first-hand," said Good. "We want to hear their stories while they are available to students."
Study day guests have included Yolanda King, daughter of Dr. King; educator and civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton; award-winning recording artist Everett F. Greene; Gloria Scott, president of Bennett College, a historically black college for women; and Vinie Burrows, actress and United Nations delegate for the Women's International Democratic Federation.
by Rachel Lapp
Get on the bus:
Students study civil rights in moving classroom
Get on board, children, children" goes the familiar freedom song, and 13 students from six U.S. colleges did just that by participating in the Agora project, "The Overground Railroad," last summer.
During an 18 day trip, the "classroom on wheels" took the students, including GC's Cheri Krause and Penn Miller, and three faculty members through five southern states for a total of 2,220 miles. The bus will roll again this summer, and GC Assistant Professor of Communication Pat McFarlane and students Carrie Meyers (Fr., Goshen), Rebecca Rich (Fr., Archbold, Ohio) and Elizabeth C. Miller (Jr., Harleysville, Pa.) will be on it.
Described as a "modern day citizenship school" by GC Vice President for Multicultural Education Zenebe Abebe in the Jan. 22, 1998 issue of Black Issues in Higher Education, the trip is led by educator and civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton. This "'intensive mobile classroom' had a specific goal in mind," according to Abebe, which was "to engage an intercollegiate group of students in discussion and hands-on learning about one of the most crucial central issues of our time the struggle to advance true democracy in a pluralistic society."
Connecting learning environments with historic narrative and contempo-rary experience is an important part of the class. Students visit sites relevant to the civil rights movement and learn from men and women who made contributions to democracy by their actions during the period.
"The civil rights movement was such a massive people's movement," said Cotton in a video about the project made by Abebe. "We do damage to history when we pull out individual people. Martin Luther King Jr. was an excellent spokesperson, visionary and leader, but he didn't start the movement. So we also have to remember the Esau Jenkins and the Fannie Lou Hamers and many others."
Sites on the trip included the Highlander Research Center, New Market, Tenn.; the
National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tenn., where students talked with one of the former striking sanitation workers and a lawyer who worked on the case that brought King to the city that was to be the site of his assassination; Birmingham, Ala.; Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala., Martin Luther King Jr.'s first pastorate; home of the Voting Rights Museum and the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the "Freedom Walk" took place, Selma, Ala.; the Martin Luther King Center, Atlanta, Ga.; the site of the first "sit in," Greensboro, N.C.; and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Durham, N.C.
Along the way, they learned songs that inspired those working for civil rights and watched relevant films.
Krause, a senior from Albany, Ohio, said she enjoyed the music of the era, and realized singing was used as a way to unify and energize demonstrators, whether at a sit-in, rally or in prison.
Said Penn Miller, a sophomore from Akron, Pa.,"The struggle for civil rights is one of the areas of American history we can be proud of because of its non-violent nature, which is directly related to the Mennonite (faith)," said Miller, a sophomore from Akron, Pa. "It showed non-violence is really a powerful way to lead people.
Abebe wrote, "The stories of civil disobedience in the fight against (a) system of racism were beyond my imagination. The patience, ability to forgive and resilience were of divine proportion."
Hearing individual stories really "make a difference" when thinking about the civil rights movement, Krause said. "These deeply ingrown stereotypes we have about people disintegrate" when hearing powerful personal testimonies.
Krause was especially moved by the story of a women at Laura Ingram Park who, pictured as a young girl, could be seen in a film clip showing African-American demonstrators pounded by water hoses and confronted by police dogs. "Her courage and strength was wonderful and incredibly inspiring."
by Rachel Lapp
Damascus Road training
contributes to campus life
In March 1995, a multiethnic group of Anabaptists met in Chicago to discuss dismantling racism in the church. The result is Damascus Road anti-racism training. Not a simple one-day seminar, the ongoing program is aimed at working with Anabaptist institutions at the incorporation of people of diverse races and cultures, in conjunction with Mennonite Central Committee.
Two teams of GC administrators, faculty and staff members have participated in Damascus Road anti-racism training; a third team is currently enrolled in the program, which works at anti-racism education and organization. Teams are comprised of equal numbers of men and women who learn about oppressive power structures as well as ways to dismantle racism in a group setting.
GC staff members are participating in the program with the goal of coming back to campus with new ideas and tools to eradicate racism. The GC team members have been joined by personnel from a number of other organizations.
Several people who participated in Damascus Road training discuss their learnings in this setting:
Being a part of GC's Damascus Road anti-racism team has been a profoundly educational and spiritual experience for me. I'm increasingly aware of just how much I have benefited from and used white privilege. The privilege I experience in a predominantly white society that favors the color of my skin - whether I am buying a new car or talking to a police officer brings a new perspective to my sense of personal achievement. It's not that I should resent receiving grace, respect and the opportunity to succeed, but when people of color don't receive the same, something is very wrong.
Spiritually, learning to be anti-racist and becoming an advocate for people of color are essential to being faithful to God. At every significant turning point in biblical revelation God's love for all peoples is central: from the creation of one human family in the beginning to the call of Abraham so that "all families ... shall be blessed," to the great commission of Jesus, to the "new humanity" in the church, to the new Jerusalem in the end. If GC aims to participate in God's work, as surely it does, then respect and equal opportunity must be afforded every student. It is to this end that we must serve Christ.
Two of the most important learnings I gained from participating in the Damascus Road training are the reality of white privilege and the power of racism resistance. First, like most Caucasians, I assumed in the past that my experience in the public arena was normative; rather the courtesy, encouragement and respect that I usually receive is often white privilege in action. People of color often cannot assume that they will be treated respectfully, and this has enormous psychological consequences.
Second, racism resistance has existed alongside racism from the very beginning. I discovered, through Damascus Road, the great hope that results from telling those resistance stories rather than focusing exclusively on racial abuse and injustice. Helping people to recall and tell those stories truly empowers them.
I was fortunate to participate in the first Damascus Road team from GC. Before then, I gave little thought to the dynamics of racism. As a white male, I grew up in an environment that allowed me the privilege of not having to give much thought to racism. Being in the majority, I had never experienced closed doors or rejection because of my skin color. While I was aware that the playing field of opportunities was not level, I did not think much about how I benefited from that unbalance and that I might be partially responsible for supporting the racist system.
The Damascus Road project gave me the necessary space to see our nation's history with different eyes. I learned that racism was not natural but rather constructed over time. I learned how racism gave opportunities and privileges to my ancestors and consequently opportunities and privileges to me. I learned about institutional racism and about systems that separated me from people of color. As a result of this training, I see my own life through new eyes. I see my freedom to move freely, to speak openly and candidly, to make choices easily, to be around people that make me comfortable, and to live where I want to live and travel where I want to travel. All this is largely because I experience privilege as a white person in this country.
I not only learned about how racism unfairly served me at the expense of others - I also became aware of what I have lost to racism. Because I am "white" I know very little about my heritage. I never developed an awareness of where I came from. Because of privileges that were handed to me, I never had to work at adapting myself to another's culture or understanding. I am aware that I have not worked at appreciating another person's heritage. I don't know any language other then English. I've never had to work to adapt to a different value system or a foreign culture. Because I have always experienced being white as "being normal," I've missed seeing the significance of other cultures.
I am grateful for the insight gained by my Damascus Road training and am eager to learn more and contribute in whatever way I can to dismantling racism.
I've done some new thinking as a result of participating in Damascus Road training. Damascus Road emphasizes the importance of identifying systematic racism in all of the institutions to which we belong. White people were taught the concept that being white has a power of its own.
The work we did as a team was great and continues to be helpful back on campus. We meet monthly to set goals for working with students, faculty and staff on identifying any racism and institutional racism imbedded in policies and procedures. We want GC to have systems in place where all have equal ground and can feel safe. Our work is grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ and his teachings of love and "no one greater than another."
There is nothing as discouraging to me as the fact that racism still exists, and that supremacist groups continue to hate and separate people. I graduated from GC in 1971 with the belief that racism would end; I have learned that racism has such a terrible, rippling effect that goes for generations in the lives of the perpetrators of racism as well as the victims of racism.
I am grateful that GC continues its commitment to stand against racism. The multicultural education office - and having three Damascus Road teams - provides wonderful strength to facing this evil wherever it is found and whatever form it takes on.
by Rachel Lapp
Beyond scratching the surface:
Moving toward a multicultural society
by Pat and Art McFarlane
During a bus ride to a regional high school basketball game, a parent turned to an ex-mission worker and asked, "The Miller who pastors the urban church in Philadelphia - is he black?" The former mission worker responded, "No. He's as Mennonite as they come."
Despite all the rhetoric about multiculturalism in the church, many Euro-Americans still confuse ethnicity with faith. And though this conversation was between Mennonites, similar experiences happen in other settings. In this case, a person of color who was doctrinally Anabaptist was not accepted as a "real" Mennonite - a brother equal in the sight of God and Euro-American church members.
Though we've made advances in discussing racism, the problem remains. In recent years, several church denominations have publicly condemned racism. A statement adopted by the Mennonite Church General Assembly in 1989, states, "Racism is a particular social reality of evil our Lord asks us to confront in becoming God's people . . . We declare here and now that expressions and attitudes of racism are sin and are never acceptable in our Christian life. . . . We confess that our church institutions . . . have not always escaped our society's pattern of institutional racism. We are called by the Gospel to review our practices in employment, promotion, purchasing of materials, and inclusion of minorities on boards and committees. Where inequity is found, we need to repent, be reconciled, and take affirmative action to correct it."
This is a good start. And initiatives such as the Damascus Road anti-racism project should be com-mended. But we have just begun to scratch the surface in dealing with the deep-seated attitudes of racism in the church and elsewhere.
Sociologists define racism as "the belief that one racial category is innately superior or inferior to another" (Sociology, Macionis, p. 352). But what does racism really mean on a daily basis in the absence of people of color being called derogatory names or being excluded from organizations?
As members of a multicultural, multiracial family, we have experienced both racial discrimination and wholehearted acceptance at the hands of other Christians. Unfortunately, the pain of discrimination - with its economic and emotional toll - too frequently outweighs moments of true acceptance.
Racism defined most simply is a breaking of the second commandment as Christ taught: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Racism also violates the Golden Rule admonishing us to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Racism fears people of different races and cultures. In an article in Ms. magazine, Brent Staples, a former reporter for Chicago Sun-Times, describes how a white woman ran to get away from him when he was on a late-night walk in Chicago. "It was in the echo of that terrified woman's footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I'd come into - the ability to alter public space in ugly ways," Staples says. Staples notes that on late-night walks he often whistles melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi, a technique that makes other pedestrians less fearful of his presence.
Racism also patronizes. The individual who offers solicitous help to the quite capable young Chinese student may not be aware that she has begun to treat another differently than she might wish to be treated herself. While patronization occurs in many situations, it may be a particular temptation to Euro-American Mennonites. We are a good people, and we like to help others. But these beliefs could describe a number of ethnic groups and - if believed to be indigenous to Mennonite faith and life - they may result in a patronizing racism that presumes superiority and privilege.
Racism often denigrates personhood. In one of its ugliest forms, racism says, "I will never accept you for who you are. So, to me, you have no value as a person." With the removal of Jim Crow laws, the perpetrator of racism today may refuse to ride in the same carpool, work in the same department, eat at the same table, or talk on the phone with the object of his or her racism.
Racism often stereotypes others. For example, people often say, "All Mexicans are . . . ," or "All blacks are . . . ," as if all members of an ethnic group display similar characteristics.
Racism also creates victims - twice. Recently, a Euro-American church member asked a question about an African-American individual who had experienced racism within a church setting: "But has he forgiven those who wronged him?" She was asking not only for this individual to have endured the racism but also to have forgiven it without the one who had wronged him making it right. He was thus to endure and forgive without question or confrontation. He was indeed victimized twice, asked to bear the burden of the wrongdoer and the wronged.
Racism often masquerades as "concern," particularly in the church. For example, an individual may express a concern about using someone from another race or ethnic group in the local church or business setting. Since "good" Christians know they should not be openly racist, they may raise a "concern" that will effectively bar that person from a church position or promotion in the organization.
Racism usually includes an element of disrespect. Since another is deemed less valuable, the thoughts and feelings of that individual cannot matter much. It is only another short step to a disrespect of that individual's rights to equal education, employment and housing opportunities.
Organizations cannot be against racism in general if we are not against racism in particular. It is in the naming of racism - specific acts by specific individuals or institutions at specific times - that we are empowered to eradicate this evil. We must identify racism as a named sin rather than a casual misunderstanding between believers. We must stop calling it something else.
How do we become a Christian community where racism is replaced by true equality? How do we develop a multicultural community where members of the majority race and culture accept all individuals as equal in worth to themselves and all cultures as equal in worth to their own? In an article, "Teach Diversity - with a Smile," journalist Barbara Ehrenreich notes that she was a victim of "monoculturalism." She says the beneficiaries of multiculturalism are not just the "oppressed peoples" but also those whom she labels the "victims of monoculturalism":
"Our educations, whether at Yale or at State U., were narrow and parochial and left us ill-equipped to navigate a society that truly is multicultural and is becoming more so every day. The culture that we studied was, in fact, one culture and, from a world perspective, all too limited and ingrown. Diversity is challenging, but those of us who have seen the alternative know it is also richer, livelier, and ultimately more fun" (from Patterns: A Short Prose Reader with Argumentation, Houghton Mifflin, 1992).
Like Ehrenreich, we have found that a multicultural world is simply much more exciting than a world of people who dress and talk like one another. And after the year 2000, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians will make up one-third of the nation's students and approximately 45 percent of the nation's work force. For institutions to remain relevant, they must be heterogeneous.
How do we model a truly multicultural church and community? True multiculturalism can only be achieved when Euro-American leaders make space in their hearts for individuals from different races and cultures and are ready to share power with them. For this change to occur, leaders need to do several difficult things:
Admit the problem: Euro-American leaders need to examine themselves to determine whether they have a Eurocentric mindset that enhances the perspectives, lifestyles, religious expressions and careers of fellow Euro-Americans. This often leads to the exclusion and oppression of minorities as leaders seek out people who are most like themselves to fill key roles. While often masked as finding people who are the "correct fit" for the organization, wittingly or unwittingly this tendency is nothing more than a cloak for institutional racism.
Draft a confession and create new policy: More church denominations should follow the pattern of those which have drafted a statement of public confession, acknowledging their part in racism and asking forgiveness from minority church members for any exclusion and oppression within their institutions. Churches must acknowledge and confess the white and ethnic privilege that often means minorities are asked to represent other minorities within churches and institutions but are rarely given positions with any real power within the larger white-dominated organization. Part of this statement would be the development of an anti-racism policy in which all their churches and church-related organizations participate so all Christians would know up front whether or not an organization truly endorses biblical principles of equality in hiring and providing services.
Allow public lamentation: We must be willing to hear the stories of pain within the church family in much the same way that we have needed to hear the stories of abused and mistreated women. Story is a way of knowing, of coming to terms with the reality of our lives. For too long, the victims of racism have been made to feel personally responsible for the racism they have experienced. Public story will lead ultimately to public healing for both the victims and the victimizers as they both share their stories. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission exemplifies this kind of healing through public confession.
Cultivate multiculturalism: Leaders of churches and church institutions need to put in place procedures to ensure the advancement of multiculturalism. In his book, Dismantling Racism,Joseph Barndt points out that no church or church institution can be neutral on the issue of racism. "A person or institution acts in a way that will either promote or combat racism," Barndt writes. "As long as there is racism to contend with, a policy or practice of the church will be either racist or anti-racist in its intent and effect."
Leaders of churches and church institutions need to seek heterogeneous rather than homogeneous representation in their positions of power. The mere existence of minorities in congregations and institutions does little or nothing to advance the cause of multiculturalism. The acid test of true integration is a positive response from a minority churchgoer, student or employee to the following question: "Do you feel that you are a vital part of the institution?"
At GC, students are invited to become more multicultural through our Study-Service Term and the types of programs outlined in this issue.
Other practical steps include placing rules for inclusive representation into the church constitution and employee handbook; drawing from the contributions made by people from many races and cultures in educational settings; hosting seminars or workshops that will help white workers identify white privilege; and including competence at working with diverse populations in employee evaluations.
Actively working at a multicultural church and workplace will not always be easy. Yet, in doing so, we are modeling the kingdom of God spoken about in the Book of Revelation. "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. . . . And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'" (Revelation 7:9-10, NIV).
Patricia Lehman McFarlane is assistant professor of communication at GC and will participate in the Overground Railroad course this summer. Art serves as account manager/copywriter at Boger, Martin, Fairchild & Co., Elkhart, Ind. Together they have taught and written about racism.