Sunday, March 29, 2009

Demographic Diversity in UU Churches I

Kim left this perceptive comment buried in a past post that I thought I'd bring forward here. Thanks, Kim!

I am working on an idea I have about "diversity". My idea is that, having gotten beyond the most obvious outer layers of racism and other prejudices, we are working on the more subtle parts. And, of course,the subtle parts are difficult to pin down because of their subtlety. My impression is that where we are stuck is that the real things that keep people of different back grounds from being comfortable with each other are the unconscious cultural differences in how we speak to each other and our world view. Those unthinking things like how far apart we stand when we talk to each other, how long we pause when we want to communicate that the other person can speak now, Whether we communicate directly or indirectly, whether we negotiate from specific to general or vice versa, how often we touch the other person while speaking. All these things are unconscious, "self-evident", and really annoying when someone does them differently because we interpret difference in custom as intended rudeness, or just strangeness. We get along with people who are more like us, we have communication problems with people who are less like us.
I think this level is where a lot of UU problems with diversity resides now. when I talk to people about this, many of them say things like, "I thought we were all the same." Or they don't say that and just imply it, if they are more indirect. It seems it's a hard concept to "get". That would seem to validate it being a problem.
I think we could work on this level of "diversity" to our advantage. Maybe it would help us achieve some more diversity in our congregations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is some truth to Kim's observations, I think. As I look back on some of my congregational life, some of the people who had trouble "fitting in" were often people not visibly different from others, but who none the less had a very different cultural background --- New York Jewish in a WASPy congregation, working class West Virginian in a young urban east coast professionals group. These folks weren't precisely rejected, but not embraced and cultural differences tended to be pegged as personality traits.