I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to yesterday's post on racism and race relations. I really enjoyed all of the comments and e-conversations and hope some of these new found bloggers will become good friends.
Years ago, when I decided to "follow my bliss" and study religion and society in grad school, I would get a lot of folks asking me why I'd chosen that particular field. My response was, and remains, threefold.
First, I chose to study religion because I am fascinated by the need religion fills in peoples lives and the ways in which it manifests itself.
Second, I wanted to learn the languages of faith. In other words, you say Allah and I say God. You say the Holy Trinity and I say the Godhead. You take communion and I take the sacrament. You have a pastor, I have a bishop. You fast and I fast. Each of those terms have significance and meaning within our specific religious context. I want to understand the words you use to explain ideas and concepts, feelings and experiences that are deeply personal and spiritual, while at the same time recognizing that when it comes down to the nuts and bolts, we're all saying the same thing: we believe in something greater than ourselves.
And third, I wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between defensiveness and proselytizing (two elements that often characterize conversations between the faith of my upbringing and others) and creating meaningful, constructive dialogue. In other words, by understanding your language, I'm able to speak in terms that you can hear and that show my understanding and respect for your faith. It also means stepping outside of what is familiar to me, listening to how it sounds to a total stranger, and reframing it in language that can be heard and understood. It's eliminating the exclusiveness and esoteric language and inviting everyone to the table for a conversation.
Does any of that make sense?
I share that perhaps to clarify why I took up the topic of racism on my blog yesterday. I want to learn the languages of race, culture, diversity. I want to understand what certain things mean and why they're important in groups other than my own subcultures. And, most importantly, I want to find ways to create constructive dialogue that allows all sides, but especially the disenfranchised sides, to be heard and respected. I hope, beginning with Creole in D.C. and The Gunfighter, that we started something meaningful and lasting here.
We're still not any closer to being an inclusive society, but I have hope and I hope those who read yesterday's blog or who commented have hope, too.