What might we do to make our UU Congregations more multi-cultural?
1. It is crucial to remove dissatisfaction factors as much as possible. I believe we have two major areas of dissatisfaction in the multi-cultural area. The first is the irritation to persons of color of clueless white privilege. That's an ongoing issue. The good news about it is that the school, corporate and governmental world has huge resources that are deployed here, and many of our folks get much better multi-cultural training at work and school than we will ever be able to provide.
2. Because of this, all attempts to be a multi-cultural congregation should be matched by attempts to be a younger congregation. With all due respect to the over 60 generation who got us started with integration in this nation, the future in this matter, as in so many, is with the young who have lived their lives in a multi-cultural world. My own experience in churches is that a concerted focus on bringing in young people will go a long way, all by itself, to bringing in persons of diverse ethnicity and race.
3. If there are incidents and issues, they need to be addressed, of course. People being people, there will always be issues and incidents. Discussion is necessary. Does the congregation want to put on "South Pacific?" Are there parts of that lovely show which are racist? Is there a difficult person whose conversation about social subjects like population or imigration boarders on racisit? How will we address that? Etc.
4. The second issue of baseline social comfort for those persons whose presence would signify multi-culturalism is that they need to see others like them. This is the critical mass problem, and it's a real catch 22. The only way for a church to be attractive to diverse persons is to already be a diverse congregation. But how to start? You start with signals. The UUA has done this part of multi-cultural development much better, in my opinion, than it has done the anti-racism training, but, oddly, it's never talked about. Still, go to the website of this denomination which sports a population of persons of color in the range of 5%, and you'll see a vastly disproportinate set of photos of persons of color. That's one way to help new persons of color feel legitimized and welcomed. The respectful, inclusive use of multi-cultural music and authors sends that same welcome message. Leadership of color is even more powerful. We have to give ourselves considerable credit here.
All of these strategies can be overdone, can even be a form of false advertising. But subtle use helps us to substitute for our critical mass of multi-culturalism, until we have it.
All that work, remember, only creates a baseline of lack of dissatisfaction. Now, on to Satisfaction. There enlies the transformative work.