Whites have a choice
For me it was an educational experience in crossing cultures. I showed up and did not know the 'rules'. I came too early. I didn't know where to stand or sit. I said some of the wrong things during my message (In nervousness "Thanks for inviting me to Selwyn Baptist Church...). Later, everybody stood up for the scripture reading. This was fine, but I did not know the right phrase to end and have them sit. So I just tried a random one that works in some churches "This is the Word of the Lord." To which presbyterians and others would know to respond "Thanks be to God." Unfortunately, when I looked up, it was the only time Salem was silent the whole day. Gulp....so I resorted to "You may be seated." I looked over at the other pastor and asked "Did I do it right?" Laughter erupted.
Now I tell all of this because I was treated with lots of love and respect - even when I was messing up. People laughed and rolled with the punches. I had a GREAT cross-cultural experience.
But I chose to be there. I decided to go to North O and do a church service. I choose to go to North O frequently. Sometimes to have meetings, to take my kids roller skating, to serve people in the community. But I always choose to go. If I wanted to avoid it, I could live my whole life in Southwest Omaha and never interact with people different from me.
Selwyn taught me something in one of our meetings. He, and other minorities, don't have the ability to choose whether to interact with majority culutre. They have to walk into uncomfortable situations and learn to navigate uncharted waters. This is partly why so many blacks, Hispanics, Asians etc. have great cross-cultural skills. They live in two worlds because they HAVE TO. It is necessary for survival.
Here are a couple of encouragements for my white friends out there. 1) Get into a place where you are the minority. Mess up, be uncomfortable, learn how it feels. It will increase your level of compassion and grace. 2) When people of other cultures - be it from the other side of Omaha or the other side of the world - come across your path...at work...at social events, at church... be the first to extend a hand. Build a friendship. Give a wide margin for grace. Be quick to include and quick to laugh. Remember we have a choice. Choose to engage.