Although commentary abounds about last week’s T4G (pros and cons, highlights and disappointments, etc), one question I have not seen raised is, “Where were all our black brothers (and sisters)?”
Kim Shay has blogged about what it was like to be one of the small minority of women at the conference. But there was an even smaller minority of African Americans. It looked to me to be about 1-2%, maybe.
In one way I’m very reluctant to raise the question because I’ve discovered to my cost that it’s almost impossible to question or comment about anything race-related in the USA without being accused of being a racist! I’ve waited to see if some of the more culturally sensitive commentators/bloggers would address this “elephant in the room.” So far, silence.
So let me break the silence by saying that I was hugely disappointed by the largely mono-cultural make-up of T4G (the few non-WASPS I did get to speak to were from outside of the USA!). Others, quietly, said the same to me.
It was quite different at The Gospel Coalition conferences I’ve attended in Chicago, where there was a much better representation of different cultures and races (not yet representative of society, but much closer). Coming from a fairly mono-cultural church in Grand Rapids, it was one of the great blessings of attending TGC to get to know and fellowship with people from different backgrounds – challenging, but edifying, and some of these relationships endure. I’d hoped for more of this at T4G.
Given the massive and admirable effort people like John Piper, Mark Dever, and Thabiti Anyabwile, have put into challenging racism and expanding the “New Reformed” movement’s racial and cultural diversity, it must have been so disappointing for them to look out on an almost unbroken sea of white faces.
Why did this happen? What are the reasons? One African American brother I wanted to meet at the conference told me that he would be at the Man up 2012 conference in Atlanta the following week. Maybe that conference clash explained many other absentees. In some ways I hope so, because it would be a real pity if, after all the barrier-breaking, bridge-building work, we all retreated into our ghettos again.
(And if I’ve used any wrong or insensitive language here, I sincerely apologize in advance).
UPDATE FROM COMMENTS:
Well, the racist charge came as expected. Sigh! Where does one begin?
1. I loved T4G. Listen to this week’s podcast with Tim Challies if you’re not convinced. It was a privilege to be there and I look forward to going back. It was superbly organized and the speakers did a great job. Met lots of fantastic people and came back supercharged. I loved T4G.
2. The leaders and organizers T4G are not racist. I did not accuse them of such and I would never dare to do such. As I said in my post, I know these men have done a huge amount to try to build bridges and break down barriers. I’m sure that they were as disappointed as me that we were not as “Together for the Gospel” as we could be.
3. And that’s really my point. And I’m sure it’s the ultimate aim of T4G as well – to be TOGETHER for the Gospel, for such conferences to truly reflect the beautiful diversity of Christ’s kingdom on earth. My post was to highlight the lack of diversity, ask why, and initiate a conversation about how that can be better accomplished in the future. The cause certainly isn’t helped by closing our eyes, shutting down conversation, and throwing accusations of racism around. The lack of “togetherness” was not intentional but we need to be intentional if we want to change it.
4. This is not just about how to get more cultural and racial diversity at “our” conferences. What about ourselves attending conferences where we might be the minority? As well as giving us a sense of what it’s like to be in a minority, that might do more than anything to show to the world the way that the Gospel can unite. I’d love to see it in our churches, but conferences would be a good start. Anyone got any good suggestions?