CRAMER: Unsettled by the evil of segregation

Over the three years I have been serving as a pastor in the Tri-Cities area, an area in which I spent much of my upbringing, I’ve become increasingly unsettled by a difficult reality: We are a segregated community.
May 8, 2013

Growing up in Grand Haven, I never thought of us as segregated. We just didn’t happen to have many people of other races in our area, or so I thought.

However, after 10 years living in various areas of the U.S., I returned to our community with a different set of lenses.         

Federal data indicates that we live in the 20th-most segregated area in the nation. Not the state. Not our region. In the nation.

People of color live in Northwest Ottawa County, far more than many white residents of Grand Haven realize. They just usually live in different areas, often not far from the city limits, than the white majority of Grand Haven citizens.

Take the local Latino population. According to the most recent Census, almost 9 percent of Ottawa County’s population is Latino — twice the percentage of the rest of Michigan. In Grand Haven, however, only 2.4 percent of the population is Latino. Head just a bit south into West Olive and the percentage jumps up to 8.6 percent. Move a bit to the east and south into Allendale and it is 4.5 percent.

The Latino population in our area is growing. Between 2000 and 2010, though the overall population of Grand Haven decreased by 6 percent, the population of Hispanics increased a full percentage point.

However, we have a long way to go as a community before we succeed in welcoming and inviting Latino persons to be full and equal participants in our community.

One of the key reasons I find all of this unsettling is because of the Good News of God.      In Ephesians, chapter one, the Apostle Paul writes about the mystery of God’s plan of salvation, a mystery that has finally been revealed in Jesus Christ. The church has been redeemed and our trespasses forgiven, according to the “riches of His grace that He lavished on us” (1:7-8). It is to this Church, with wisdom and insight, that God has revealed the mystery of God’s will for creation.

What is that will? “A plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10).

For Paul, indeed, throughout much of the New Testament, this gathering up of all humanity in the New Creation is primarily about destroying the barriers that have been erected between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

In our day, we have our own barriers that have been erected around us. Make no mistake, though, God’s plan to destroy those barriers and gather us all together is not just diversity for the sake of diversity; it is because the gathering up of all things reveals “the wisdom of God in its rich variety” (3:10).

That is, a homogenous church, drawing only from one people group, will never reveal the richness of the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom.

To wit, I along with all the white residents of Grand Haven are deeply damaged by the segregation in which we live. We are diminished, unable to see the richness of God through different ethnic groups and cultures — some not very far from us, and some right here in our city — small, but growing. And this damage is being passed along to our children, as the disturbing reality of racial slurs in our schools cast shame upon all of us in this community.

It is time for us, as residents of the Tri-Cities, to do something about the embarrassing stain of segregation and discrimination in our area. But we must approach this with a healthy sense of contrition and humility. Because the system of white privilege so present in our society — in our very community — can blind us to the ways in which we fail to be welcoming, we fail to see the gifts of other cultures.

Unless we are ready to look carefully at the ways in which we are complicit in segregation, we will fail in genuine dialogue and authentic transformation.

Furthermore, I believe the church must lead the way on this issue. After all, Sunday morning is the most segregated time in the United States.

Let’s say we defined a racially mixed congregation as one in which no one group comprised more than 80 percent of the whole. By that definition, only 5.5 percent of the Christian congregations in our country are racially diverse.

The church must lead the way by being willing to repent, by being willing to change, by being willing to let go of the illusion that we know what’s best and by receiving the rich gifts of grace present in God’s diverse creation.

— The Rev. Jared C. Cramer serves as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven and as dean of the Lakeshore Deanery of the Diocese of Western Michigan. His reflections on life and ministry can be found at carewiththecure.blogspot.com.

Comments

pike84

What a bunch of crap. If you miss it so badly then move back to where you liked living!!

sirhansalot

covert racism

WalmartWolverine

Jared, I think you are walking on quick sand here.

Vladtheimp

There are many communities in urban areas of the United States generally and Michigan specifically that are virtually 100% African-American or Hispanic, yet the white diversity pioneers eschew transforming those communities by moving there, or urging their constituents/congregants/neighbors to move there and thus improve their diversity - it's always Grand Haven that has to change. Well, diversity works both ways. If Reverend Cramer feels "deeply damaged by the segregation in which we live" and "diminished, unable to see the richness of God through different ethnic groups and cultures" maybe he and the other Doyans of Diversity should relocate their families to Detroit, or South Chicago, or Muskegon Heights, since such a move would improve the diversity of these communities and thus magically improve them. As an aside, I deeply resent Rev. Cramer thinking he can speak on my behalf simply because we are both white; he can't and doesn't!

Apart from there being no unbiased study delineating the alleged benefits of "diversity" it is instructive that Native Americans were singularly insular and non-diverse until the Europeans improved their diversity numbers - how did it work out for them? I have lived in communities in New York and Maryland that elected liberal/progressive representatives who did everything in their power to "improve" the diversity of their communities through such things as establishing "Sanctuary Cities", requiring developers to set aside low cost housing for minorities, zoning changes, and the like. Want to know the results of those efforts and their impact on the area's schools, crime, vagrancy, taxes, housing? Everything deteriorated, to the point that my wife and I escaped to Grand Haven as soon as we could. Others escaped to similar areas around the country.

So please save the sanctimonious lectures on how Grand Haven must change - if you believe in the gospel you are preaching, then walk the walk instead of just talking the talk and hie yourselves off to Brooklyn, the Bronx, or South LA and only return after you can advise all of us how your experiment with YOUR family worked out and how the communities became Brigadoon thanks to your improving their diversity. When I was single I was the only white person in the school where I taught in Washington, D.C. and I moved to live in the area where my students lived - being the only white resident in a number of blocks. The Black Panthers had their headquarters a block from my apartment. I will gladly listen to criticism of my opinion from those who have had similar experiences, not from those whose opinion on the matter is formed from college classes, liberal books, a sense of "fairness," white guilt, or http://youtu.be/4fSCYcSYb4Q

Peter56

This is the same garbage that idema spews. Democrat with church speak. All your high speech goes out the window when you find out you are pro killing the unborn. Talk to the hand because your cuz the ears aint listening.

Wingmaster

"After all, Sunday morning is the most segregated time in the United States." The article ended right here for me. Because of his guilt he wants all of us to drink from his goblet of diversity.

I agree Vlad, if diversity is so important in gods plan and we are to join hands and sing kumbaya, move your family to the all black neighborhoods mentioned and diversify those communities with your family and report back on how that goes.

Why does diversity and racism only work one way for those that preach about it. I welcome anyone to our GH community that wants a better life no matter their ethnicity. I shun those that want to come here and bring their lack of civility, community, and family values. These are the things that make GH and other cities like it desirable places to live. It has nothing to do with the color of the skin and everything to do with the content of their character.

I find it fricken amazing how those the preach about diversity ALWAYS talk about color and not about the content of the character.

"Make no mistake, though, God’s plan to destroy those barriers and gather us all together is not just diversity for the sake of diversity; it is because the gathering up of all things reveals “the wisdom of God in its rich variety” Hey Rev, want don't you really follow god's plan and try to encourage all things like age, background, citizenship, disability, education, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience in our community for the richness that brings. Your lopsided focus only on color shows you are falling far short of god's grace.

How did the word "diversity" get hijacked to only mean color of your skin anyway.....Amen!

reliant192

Wingmaster, when you say:
"Hey Rev, want don't you really follow god's plan and try to encourage all things like age, background, citizenship, disability, education, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience in our community for the richness that brings."

You may want to do a little research about the Denomination and background that "The Rev" belongs to. The Episcopal church, and St. John's in Grand Haven in particular already has a very rich patronage with many people of all walks of life. I have attended this church for the past 12 years, and almost every characteristic you've described I can find at my church. Can you say the same about yours, and if not what does that say about YOUR church community and how YOU are following the teachings of Christ.

I believe Rev. Cramer is focusing on Race and Color in particular because this area is known for being (for lack of anything nicer) "Primarily white and proud of it" and since our country has come quite far in desegregating itself in the past several decades i think its high time our community reaches out and welcomes everyone.

I really love this community and my neighbors, but i really hope i dont have to wait for the next generation to stop the hatred. I applaud Fr. Cramer for his courage to ruffle your feathers and make you think about how you view the world, because without feather ruffling and quick sand, i dont see how we are ever going to change.

Wingmaster

When has this community refused to welcome someone to live here? Is there some sign out there that says white only? That's a pretty broad statement? Do you have examples of someone denied the purchase of a home? Renting of a home? That is illegal an I would encourage them to take that up with the law.

Why are you accusing white people of desegregation only?

Your "primarily white and proud of it" statement is disgusting! It shows you have racism in your heart to think that way. You see color in your neighbors not content of their character. A good neighbor has nothing to do with the color of their skin. You and the reverend need to stop throwing stones at the community over race and focus on what and why we have a great community and invite people who share those community values regardless of the color of their skin.

Heal yourself of prejudices before you accuse and attempt to heal the rest of us! I wish you success as you search for the healing of your whiteness. Stop the seeing color and start embracing good people of all walks of life. You are not helping any of us with your reverse racism.

Grand Haven Happy

I can't believe what I just read in this ignorant attemp of puesdo journalism. Beyond shameful!

Please leave and go back to where you thought diversity is so great and was to your liking! You are so blind and stupid that you couldn't even see reverse racism when it smacks you right in the choppers.

Cramer, you did NOT make any inroads with the garbage you spoke of. Just the opposite as you have angered so many local people and driven diversity acceptance back decades! This community has done just fine when you where gone and will do even better when you leave again for good. Diversity has become a like an infectious cancer in our nation. Turning once wonderful neighborhoods, cities, regions, etc into rundown, dangerous, drug and violence wastelands. Is that what you are seeking for our community and area? Look to the north and notice what diversity has done to the comunity and the schools. BTW, one of my family was a teacher there for 36 years and watched it go from nearly a 100% single race school system to a roughly 85% different race when he retired and NOW the school system doesn't even exist. About the same scenario in parts of Grand Rapids, nearly all of Detroit, Flint, and shall I mention Benton Harbor? AND, thats just a few places in Michigan it's been repeated in most of the other 49 states.

Wonderful and amazing progress in reverse thanks to this thing called DIVERSITY! Golly, sure makes one wonder why our area isn't HOT on leaping on that same diversity trolley to proven distruction???

Dude! I'm an over 70 year resident of this area, born and raised here, and spent many business days of my life in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and SE Michigan and also seen the wonders of DIVERSITY! NO THANK YOU! I want our area to remain the fabulous place it's always been for my kids, grandkids, and great grandkds and all those that follow along with the other fine residents here! It ain't broke so why do you want to fix it? Now I'm also angry! Get lost and don't return!

sirhansalot

Covert racism

Zeppy

As we're out and about, we've all experienced hearing those ridiculous songs or nitwit jingles. You know what I'm referring to. Those dreadfully catchy yet completely vacuous lyrics and melodies that seem expert at slipping past our best sensory defenses and somehow embed deeply in our thoughts. Once the torture commences, this uninvited and unrelenting tripe seems to hijack our consciousness, sometimes for hours, days at a time. Paradoxically, the more inane and uninspired the message, the longer it remains on board. Sir, until your uninvited sermon reminded me that I am caucasion living among a commnity of like pigmented persons, I had completely forgotten that these divisive, tribal, childish, and ultimately unhelpful distinctions existed. And I must tell you; it was blissful. Instead, your blather has awakened unwelcome ideas that my better self has worked long and hard to jettison. Your message has reminded me of my "whiteness". I can't seem to stop thinking about my "whiteness." Your morbid hand wringing now continues its rattling around inside my brain. This may continue for days like a bad headache. I hope not. Damn, I was just having such a nice time relating to community folk as...well...human.

Lisa413

Rev. Cramer, I am thrilled to see more diversity in the Grand Haven area. I find it sad that others feel differently. I was raised with morals and values and I respect everyone. I have lived in large cities and had no issue with crime. Actually, I have been a victim of crime in Grand Haven...and it was not a person of color. I am a strong,educated white woman that is thrilled to see diversity. I understand the importance of diversity in education as well as business. The world is changing and I see nothing wrong with living in a diverse community.

pocodot

Hi Pastor Jared,

I read your community column in the Grand Haven Tribune on-line edition entitled, "Unsettled by the evil of segregation". And I was pleasantly surprised by your comments.

Although I am no longer a resident of the tri-cities area, I did grow up and devote a large portion of my adult life living and working in Grand Haven and Ottawa County, and I too realized that we were living a fortunate life because of where we were born.

History evolves, and time passes according to Gods plan. And I believe that God has Love and forgiveness, and faith (faith is not an ethereal word that people can’t see, it means confidence and trust) that we will see and learn and grow from our sins.

Our forefathers immigrated to this new land, for a number of reasons, religious persecution, poverty, famine, etc. and they settled, first in Canada, Ohio, and then in Michigan. They were all white Europeans, and most were devote Christians. They built towns, and churches, and businesses and they developed their community, and they prospered. Black people and Mexican people were not even here at that time. (see Dr. Siebold for a more accurate and concise local history.)

The first people our forefathers alienated were the Indians; and to this day, to a large measure we are still living separately from the Indians. Yes, they are our neighbors, and in some small ways within the Indian community they too have prospered, but only within the confines of the jurisdiction of the white people.

Why did the white European people of west Michigan (and perhaps the world) prosper and ultimately subjugate their hosts, black people and finally the Mexican people? I suggest it was not because our ideals, values and faith were superior to those peoples of other cultures. It was because those other peoples had the greater humanity and out of their compassion and respect for other peoples and other cultures, they allowed our forefathers to flourish and prosper until we ultimately overwhelmed the very people who allowed us freedom and sanctuary.

Why do we still persist today? Ha, that is worthy of philosophical debate; unfortunately that debate is being waged on battlefields, in the streets, with gangs, with drugs (don’t think drugs weren’t politically motivated). History is a fascinating subject to me. But I digress…

You state, “It is time for us, as residents of the Tri-Cities, to do something about the embarrassing stain of segregation and discrimination in our area.” Pastor Jared, I say it is time we erase the embarrassing stain of our righteous indignation that is resulting in war, poverty, hunger, degradation, segregation, and discrimination all over the world! And since all things come from God and change begins with ourselves perhaps you and I are saying the same thing. If I change myself I change the world.

Further you state, “It is to the Church, with wisdom and insight, that God has revealed the mystery of God’s will for creation.” What is that will? “A plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10).

Pastor Jared, to that end I would like to introduce you to one of your brethren. His name is Father Pedro Opeka [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ped..., and he lives in Madagascar along with his 9,000 children. Here is a man who has embraced cultural diversity and thrives. He has been nominated for the Noble Peace Prize. And I for one endorse him.

Pastor Jared, you are not alone. I wish you strength, love, and happiness. Teach your children well.
God Bless you,
pocodot

ReadingNews

Let's get straight to the point. I like it here. This is too much for me to read and understand. Am I suppose to move somewhere?

Terribleted

I am missing something here..Would someone define the diversity all you progressives think we need..You all say the word but none of you give any examples in cludung the Rev..

pike84

I'm still not getting some of the dribble over this article. First off is GH telling people where they can live and can't live? Am I missing something? If you can afford a house in my neighborhood and take care of it I don't care if your green or purple. It's not about race it's about money, some people have it and others don't.

AtomicRooster

If you're talking cultural diversity here, why don't you ask the people of Muskegon where I came from how well cultural diversity works? Or better yet spend a week or two in the Jackson Hill/Marquette area or even worse Muskegon Heights and come back and tell me how much you like cultural diversity when you get back. You'll be singing a different tune. That was the biggest reason why I left Muskegon because of cultural diversity. It simply does not work. It's nice for me to not have to call the Police on the average of once a week anymore or have to worry about home invasions in the middle of the night. That gets old real quick. The Tri-City has it's faults like any area does but at least it has a lot less crime. Cultural Diversity is the last thing the Tri-Cities need. I am sure most of you will call me a racist for my remarks here. I really don't care what anyone thinks to be honest here. You don't know what it's all about until you've lived it. Be careful for what you wish for.

Lisa413

Atomic Rooster it sounds like you had a bad experience. I am sure culture and Race played very little in your experience. It sounds like the morals and values of the people you were living near or associated with? I personally have worked with many different races and cultures. The majority of the people I work with are educated and decent. Why wouldn't you welcome anyone into the community if they are good, honest and respectful? Race and culture really does not play into the character of a person...it only enhances it. If you are in business it is very important to tap into a global market. Grand Haven needs cultural diversity to enhance the beauty of the area and bring in a lot of talented people to live in this area. Our children need to be exposed to different cultures and races...the real world is not all white. We hope our children will grow and prosper is every area. Many of our GH grads will leave the area and be exposed to different races...why wouldn't you welcome that experience for your children? I am so thrilled that my educated parents have raised educated children with morals and values that includes and respects everyone. Good Luck.

AtomicRooster

You don't have a clue as to what you are talking about here and seriously need to take off your rose colored glasses. I will say it again as I see you had your selective hearing on. The last thing the Tri-Cities area needs is Cultural Diversity. WE don't need that enhancement you speak of here. It is self-enhanced. And I am sure the vast majority of this area will agree with me. I have always loved this Mayberry RFD town and it still is by far one of the safest communities around compared to Muskegon, Benton Harbor, Flint, etc. etc. Cultural Diversity will turn it into a mirror of Muskegon, Benton Harbor, Flint, etc. etc. Be ever so careful for what you wish for as you could be headed for a rude awakening that you may not like. And once you open that bad can of worms you will NEVER be able to close it. Mark my words. Ever feed a stray cat? What usually happens?

Cycle Guy

I totally agree with you Jared. I recently moved to Grand Haven after living many years in Muskegon and Flint as well as traveling and living for periods in other parts of the US and other countries. I like the small town atmosphere and walkability of Grand Haven but I am struck by the lack of diversity. It seems odd to me to see only white faces. It is so different from many parts of this country as well as the world. Grand Haven would be so much richer and interesting if we were exposed to other cultures and peoples. I think people who grow up here sometimes don't understand that.

MeanSmith

Give me a break

lazy greyhounds

Cut the property taxes in Grand Haven by 75% and watch the riff raff stampede into town. It costs a substantial amount of money for the privilege of living in Grand Haven, and that money pays for the law enforcement that keeps this community very low in crime. I do not want my garage door spray painted with Latin Kings tags. I do not want the corner down the street from me to be a gathering place for drug deals or prostitution. I do not want religions who preach peace while plotting my death to set roots in my community. I do not need my next door neighbor's property to be a hazmat location due to them cooking meth in the back yard. I consider myself color blind, which is better than how I was originally raised by parents with strong opinions on the place other races had in their lives. Crime statistics do not lie. I played softball in Holland several years ago, and I was forbidden from wearing a bandana on my head while playing as I could be targeted as a gang member wearing my "colors". REALLY?? What 40-something white guy would be in a gang? So, because of diversity, I wasn't allowed to wear an item of clothing that could put my life in danger. Thanks, Jared, but I will keep paying my unfair share of taxes to keep my family safer and keep out those who want to infiltrate ad ruin it.

sirhansalot

so you are saying with diversity you will get crime and gangs.That being said if grand haven is so crime free because we pay such a high tax rate then why have a police force ?I mean we are all white people here who never steal or commit other crimes right?You display another great exsample of Covert racism " less public and obvious form of racism or overt racism. It is hidden in the fabric of society, covertly suppressing the individuals being discriminated against. Covert racially biased decisions are often disguised or rationalized with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously" th

AtomicRooster

Are you delusional or what? It's obvious you've never lived in a Cultural Diverse town much less a Cultural Diverse neighborhood. Try a week or two in Muskegon or Muskegon Heights, Benton Harbor, Flint or Detroit. You'll be wimping back to good old Grand Haven and asking yourself what the H** was I thinking? Be careful for what you wish for. It simply DOES NOT work. Cultural Diversity is the last thing the Tri-Cities area needs. It's like Murphy's Law; if something works don't try to fix it. This has worked for decades here and many who have moved away from Cultural Diverse towns and neighborhoods appreciate the low crime this area has. And yea I am one of them. It's nice not having to call the Police every other day anymore.

michiglen

The Tribune website suggests there are 38 homes for sale and 5 apartments for rent.

Another website suggests there are approx. 230 homes for sale in the Grand Haven area.

I looked at a random number of these offerings.

NONE suggest that African American, Latino, Martian, southerner or hippy cannot view, consider viewing or consider purchasing any of these properties.

I welcome any conversation that might prick my conscience or my way of thinking. Unfortunately this seemingly "emminent" Rev. has started the conversation in such a wild, preconceived, misguided, self serving direction that it is laughable.

Key words - "the embarrassing stain of segregation and discrimination" - seriously??

Get out of the shadow of the cross, stop relying entirely on a 2000 year old history book (it does have some good points but not all are relevant today) which at best is a compilation of thoughts and experiences.

To denigrate all the residents of the Grand Haven area while ignoring the realities of economic circumstance is a very blind folded approach and way off the mark.

sirhansalot

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

pike84

Muskegon could use some diversity, sirhan head on north a little ways.
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskeg...

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskeg...

sirhansalot

Is there no crime in grand haven?

Wingmaster

Hey dude, best check the mirror if you want to see the closest race baiter. You have no idea who I am, how old I am to be throwing your prejudice "old white guy" stuff my way. You are a good example of the problem with race relations in this country. Name calling and blind accusations are what keeps the divide. You don't want to solve shat, just keep stoking the flames of hate and you will get no where with me or others. You want a real discussion on how race relations can be solved I'm game, you want to throw your hate around....get lost.

Wingmaster

..and the Trib should have left Sirhansalot comments up so we can all read where the hate is coming from. I'll take all kinds of stuff like this to expose it.

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