The other day I was talking with an American of diverse ethnicity in Japan. We were discussing how homogeneous Japan is and how difficult it would be for Japan to foster diversity similar to the United States. In light of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and a host of other such tragedies, one might wonder if fostering diversity American-style is a good thing. As a culture, we have such a long way to go, as the CNN interview with Russell Simmons makes clear.
In Japan, diversity has often been forced on it from the outside, as in the case of U. S. Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry’s imposing show of naval force, which led Japan to open its ports closed to most of the outside world for two hundred years, and as in the case of General George MacArthur’s post-World War II policies in reforming Japan. In the case of the States, diversity of a kind has sometimes been forced from the inside, as in the case of kidnapping Africans as slave and importing them to America and from a very different angle the Civil War.
Certainly leaders like the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have helped foster integration and diversity in outstanding ways; nonetheless, so much more work still needs to be done. According to Spike Lee in his interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, there is a war on black men pertaining to such issues as the educational system, prison system, and many young African American men growing up without hope; the problem does not simply revolve around fatal shootings. The likes of LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and other African American celebrities are the exceptions; in Lee’s estimation, the black underclass is growing on a daily basis.
Regardless of the outcome surrounding the investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, America has such a long way to go, especially if we are going to be able to encourage nations like Japan to open their cultural doors to greater diversity—and not by force. As Richard Simmons makes clear, greater efforts involving diversification and dialogue are needed. May the recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri open all Americans to take action, not by force, but strategically and structurally, from the heart.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, includingConnecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths andConsuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold. More information at Dr. Metzger’s work is available at paullouismetzger.com.