During a two week stretch in Summer 2017, I was privileged, and honored, to teach a Christian worldview/ethics class for Cru in Fort Collins, CO. I was told a few weeks prior that I would have a deaf couple in my class. I was asked to make some accommodations for them. For example, I was asked to send my lecture notes for each day, a day prior to this couple. That was a challenge for me because I tend to tweak my talks until the moment I deliver them. However, I did my best to accommodate this sweet couple. (I say sweet on purpose here. One time they noticed that I was struggling with how to refer to them in class—”do I say ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of hearing'”? And they approached me during a class break, and through their interpreter, said to me, “We saw that you were struggling; it’s okay to say, ‘deaf.'”)
Workplaces accommodate the physically disabled by building ramps and elevators. Workplaces like mine, Made to Flourish, have gone to an open office configuration. However, they have accommodated introverts, like me, and built conference rooms (with doors) when I need to disengage from people (and where I can go to concentrate).
Spaces are wise to accommodate the other; and the other must also assimilate to some degree, however. Spaces have rules and protocols; those that occupy such spaces must adhere or assimilate to these rules and protocols or social norms. Otherwise, chaos would ensue.
All this has got me thinking about African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and those who govern their lives by different religions in predominantly white church and non-church spaces. To be sure, non-whites must assimilate to some degree; and whites most accommodate non-whites too. For example, those in the majority, in workplaces, should allow a Muslim to honor Ramadan and a Jew, yom kippur (Day of Atonement). A church that is predominantly white, for example, should sing songs that accommodate non-whites in their congregation. Similarly, a predominantly African American church should sing songs that accommodate whites and other non-African Americans in their congregation. A company that is predominantly Hispanic should require some degree of assimilation of non-Hispanic employees but also the same company must accommodate the needs of non-Hispanic employees too. Real inclusion requires spaces to accommodate others who are not in the majority. Such accommodating can help mitigate the isolation many minorities experience in majority spaces.
It is not assimilation or accommodation; it is both.