March 31, 2011
I remember going to what was then the downtown Mall in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1984 to hear Geraldine Ferraro on the stump as a candidate for Vice President on the ticket of Walter Mondale. It was standard political stuff as I remember except for one thing and that was the candidate herself. She was the first Italian-American and the first woman to be a candidate for a major party in the U.S. It has not yet been thirty years since then, but a great deal has changed for women and many others in that time. On the political scene we have seen serious women candidates for high office and an African American in the White House. (I was pleased when President Obama did finally attend the Gridiron Dinner, he reportedly asked that ‘Hail to the Chief’ be replaced by Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ as there cannot be too many reminders of that.)
But the changes are not only about women in high office. It seems to me that they are about a work far from finished but well underway of recognizing, understanding and appreciating difference in which people who do not look like, think like, or act like ‘us’ in some ways nonetheless have as much to offer the world as do ‘we’ and are not people to be feared as though ‘they’ somehow diminish our ‘power’. Such is part of the consequence of the Communion Table. It is neither obvious, nor easy.
From time to time I have heard it said that America should be thought of less as a ‘melting pot’ and more as a ‘salad bowl’ in which each ingredient keeps its own taste and texture but make a wonderful meal. Even recognizing the limitations of any analogy, I really do buy why the salad bowl is better. I still however want to know if the green pepper or the onion is in charge because either will dominate the lettuce. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but when others claim their power (in whatever way that happens) it reflects the Communion Table only when that power does not diminish mine. Diversity is a strength when we neither diminish the reality of difference nor the political significance of difference. Diversity is a strength when ‘I’ can celebrate ‘your’ strengths and vice versa. You can read more about these ideas in a paper by Valerie Batts available here.