As we continue our discussion on racism in the military community, Planting Roots staff members share their suggestions for how to encourage diversity in the military community.
Question #3: How do we encourage diversity within our community of Christian military women?
Voice #1 – Nicole Williams
I think we have to be accepting and understanding of each other’s differences, learning what makes other races comfortable and uncomfortable and seeking to become allies. We can’t just stand next to each other and smile. We need to know each other and be a true servant to each other.
Voice #2 – Kelli Baker
Encouraging diversity means stepping outside of your comfort zone and showing genuine interest in others who don’t look like you. When we create relationships with each other, we are building bridges. Jesus commanded us to love your neighbor as yourself. If you don’t know your neighbor it becomes more difficult to love them.
Voice #3 – Claudia Duff
I have been in leadership roles where warring factions of black women and white women battled one another. Unable to unify around the cross of Jesus, I would ask them to yield to one another equally in order to keep the ministry balanced. I will confess that such seasons left me very bruised and I struggle today with the feelings of “not enough.”
I had a meeting with a senior chaplain and we were discussing women’s ministry within the chapel community. He pulled up a picture of our leadership and said, “This picture bothers me greatly. They are all white, except you. Where are the other black women?” I didn’t really have an answer at that moment.
I believe now, that at some level, black women are marginalized because of the fear that they will always play the race card when they feel threatened. Unfortunately, sometimes the race card is well played and necessary. I have had to defend myself because I am black. Privately calling others out for how their hurtful actions and words made me feel later improved our working relationship even if their minds weren’t changed.
To encourage diversity is to continually invite women of color into places of leadership, not just to be seen. Invite them into places of ministry where their voices can be heard. Trust us with the narrative. Ask the hard questions and be willing to work to solutions even if it is only that we will agree to disagree.
I am often silent because I have heard too many times that talking about racism is just about opening wounds better left alone. But they are not new wounds; they are festering wounds that have never healed and that have the potential to erupt.
Voice #4 – April Dingle
My first experience with Planting Roots was at a one-day event. My group of predominantly black women from urban areas, plus the one Caucasian friend who joined us, were so gratified.. Never once did I feel like we showed up to the wrong event, or that we stuck out like sore thumbs. Instead we were genuinely greeted at the door and made to feel included from start to finish.
Within the Planting Roots organization, I appreciate that suggestions concerning inclusion are considered as a priority. For example, a few months back, I politely asked about including diverse women in the graphics. My suggestion was not only considered but honored. The next day, our social media reflected the changes, which have continued.. I didn’t feel as if it was being done to shut me up for the time, but that my concern was truly noticed and the correction made.
Voice #5 – Lisa Redford
I believe it starts with stepping out of our own comfort pews and building relationships and opportunities for cross-cultural worship, Bible study, and teaching. We have the most important aspect in life in common: the love for Jesus and that is all that should matter. We need to see each other as Jesus sees and build on our common belief that Jesus is our Savior.
The Way Ahead
Planting Roots would like to thank each staff member for sharing about, praying for, and engaging in messy, difficult conversations about race and more. In the coming weeks you will have the opportunity to see these women’s answers to the following tough questions about racism in the military community.
The U.S. military is viewed as being rather integrated racially today. What has been your experience pertaining to racial integration in the U.S. military?
Many of us have applied the idea of “not seeing color” while living this military life. What recommendations do you have in response?
Share a story that breaks your heart.
Share a story that gives you hope and/or points to Jesus.