10 Jul RACE RELATIONS: A MODEL OF UNITY IN A DIVIDED WORLD
*This article was originally written a couple of years ago. Recent events have brought me to think that it might have value to our current situation.
Disclaimer: I use the words white and black, which I ultimately believe to be very limited, short-sighted words. Nevertheless, they appear to be the cultural standard.
The past few months have debatably been the most racially confrontational and divided months that the United States has seen since the Civil Rights Movement. Amidst the storm of racial debates, outcries, and violence, one city sits high upon a hill as a beacon of light to a nation clamoring out of darkness. In the roughly 45,000 person city of Cedar Hill, TX, a south Dallas suburb, race relations are an opportunity to understand the unique aspects of diverse cultures, not a point of relentless contention.
Whatever personal issues may exist in the lives of local citizens, the city is represented and governed by an array of races and faces, from countless different places, and it all is done with excellence. The Mayor is white. The City Manger, black. The Chamber Chairman, black. The Chamber President, white. The Chamber Business Development Manager, Hispanic. The Young Professionals of Cedar Hill was originally founded in 2012 with 8 individuals: two hispanic, two white, one black, one Asian, one Middle-Easterner (Qatari), and one Indian (from India). This was not some ploy to fill quotas or look appealing to different groups of people. As one of those founding members, I can say with all honesty that we didn’t even realize our diversity until weeks or months into our formation. It was a natural progression of calling upon the future leaders of our city. We all just happened to have different heritage.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that we are color blind. We are well aware of our variegated presence. We have discussions, even healthy debates about race relations in our country. No, we are not color blind. However, whether from ancient or new traditions, whatever cultural nuances may differentiate us, we have something far more important that brings us together (and the same can be said for the chamber, the city, and the local churches). That something is service.
What separates a racially diverse city like Cedar Hill from some of the more volatile environments around the country? Service – to God, Country, County, and City. Forget about I am second – I am last. By putting the well-being of others above the desires of the individual, sacrificial service unites this city. Government participation from every background, every walk of life, perhaps even every continent on Earth, is the natural norm and not some quota-filling exception. It comes in ebbs and flows. There is not pressure to maintain positions based on race. Positions are filled by the most qualified individual for that time. In fact, the African American city manager is retiring and will be replaced by the current Deputy City Manager, who happens to be white, but guess what, it doesn’t matter. One year a given position may be filled by someone a little darker or lighter than the year before, and the next, the opposite. All that matters is that the best man or woman fills the position, and that there are constantly people of different backgrounds rising to meet the present need.
Like a light tower, Cedar Hill is truly the proverbial city set on a hill, with a bright light shining out to those lost at sea, guiding them home. While the opportunity to seek justice is a blessed right made available to those in this country, another right rises above the rest – the right, the privilege, to serve, the right, the privilege, to sacrifice for the sake of others. So, as you go forth into your day, your week, month, and as you enter the new year, ask yourself daily – “Are my actions bringing healing or division?” Whatever the case may be, engage your community through service – not to get your way, but to be a voice, to be a leader, and to bring wholeness to a land that is crying out for healing.
Work with others. Listen to their pain. Mourn with them, but don’t stop there. Help to seek justice through change. Help to fix what is broken. We are blessed to have a system that allows for us to serve freely – honor that system. Honor those who have fallen to injustice. Honor those who have fought to bring us as far as we have come, and be grateful for all the change that has already happened. Then with thankfulness in your heart, take the hand of someone near you, and walk, not in protest of defeat, but in confidence of victory, because when we work together to serve those around us, God is glorified and mankind is redeemed.
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