Diversity: letting go of ignorance

Malcolm S. Forbes, former publisher of Forbes magazine, described diversity as “the art of thinking independently together.” To some, this notion of corporately seeking independence might be considered an oxymoron, since independence is, by definition, “self-governing; not influenced or affected by others; impartial.” As we navigate this season of emerging adulthood in the context of Point Loma culture, we are expected to seek to be more independent. Spiritually, we are to make our faith our own. Emotionally, we are to find healthy outlets when life gets overwhelming. Mentally, we are to manage our time and responsibilities well. Physically, we are to take care of ourselves, as best we can in the midst of all-nighters, peer pressure, and the rockiness that comes with figuring out who we are. Ultimately, these formative years at Loma provide structured space to solidify the sand that we added to the tank at the Sunrise Service during NSO, while walking alongside those who dropped their handfuls in as well.

In preparation for this writing, I asked several people about their thoughts on the issue of diversity. Director of Spiritual Life, Zac Austin, eloquently shared, “Diversity invites us to become more fully ourselves, because if it weren’t for people from different backgrounds, there are parts of myself that others wouldn’t see.” These authentically unique parts of us are drawn out by differences; it takes a spirit of humility to genuinely embrace the full selves of those around us. And yet asking a majority group, such as white people here at Point Loma, about diversity is like asking a fish, “What’s water?” A very wise man (AKA Jake Gilbertson, RD of Goodwin Hall) shared this insightful analogy with me, and the idea is that privilege surrounds a majority group and becomes such a part of their context that they cannot even see it.

I recently had the pleasure of making a new friend: Yesenia Gomez. For those of you who don’t yet know Yesenia, find her and meet her; she is a beautiful girl with an even more beautiful heart. She came and sat by me in the library computer lab one afternoon; I turned to her, introduced myself officially (up to this point, we had just been “hi” friends; you know what I’m talking about, right?), and asked her what her thoughts were on the topic of diversity. We ended up talking for nearly two hours! Yesenia sincerely expressed her heart to me, and I did the same with her; our conversation was both honest and sensitive. Something she shared that has stuck with me since is the power of “letting go” of our ignorance. Her active verb choice struck me because I have most often thought of ignorance as something one is unaware of, indifference toward something one does not see. To “let go,” however, requires a combination of awareness, humility, and surrender; there’s nothing passive about it.

My hope for our campus is this: May we begin to see diversity as the art of thinking independently together so that we might become more aware of the areas in which we are ignorant, allow these realizations to humble us, and then surrender to the One who purposefully created us so differently – and yet alike “in His image.” May we ask more questions and seek out answers from our brothers and sisters who differ from us in the areas of gender, geography, faith, family, race, wealth, and so on. May our eyes be opened to those around us who feel the need to blend in because they find it easier than standing out, and may our eyes be opened to the ways that we do the same. May we become more confident in the areas in which we stand out, and may we learn to love ourselves, our families, our friends, our peers, and above all else, our Maker. May we let go of our ignorance, “For there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).