Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Case for Segregation
Because of the limited budget of the Bible college, we're not purchasing duplicate copies of all these works for the new "African-American collection." We're pulling them out of the existing reference and general collection. Yes. That's right. We're taking all works pertaining to African-American issues and history, or written by African-American authors, and "segregating" them off to their own set of shelves...away from the rest of the collection. Those helpful, scholarly and pastoral works written by Dr. Tony Evans on theological subjects of Salvation, The Holy Spirit or the Church? Gone...or at least pulled out to be placed in the separate area. His book The Promise: Experiencing God's Gift of the Holy Spirit is no longer shelved with the other works on the same subject. Where it once would have been thought among the works to use in research by students writing papers on the subject, now has been yanked from that place to be shelved when we keep the "African-American collection" over on the side. Apparently, Dr. Evans' works do not belong among the other scholars that have written on similar subjects. He belongs over where we keep those works written by or about those people. This seemed particularly heinous to me because I've been to conferences where I enjoyed Dr. Evans' preaching, have enjoyed reading his books and have referenced his writing for research papers in the past. This practice appears to take away a pastor and scholar that I've found helpful for my own development before.
When I objected to the librarian on the inherent wrongness of this practice, the rationale given to me was that library patrons, for convenience sake, will be able to find all works pertaining to the college's emphasis in one location. I voiced my objections, but ultimately agreed to comply and assist as directed. Without disagreement there is no submission because loyalty is not tested in consensus. The project is underway and I continue to watch cart after cart of books taken out by the librarian from among our general collection that will be shelved in the set apart location. My heart sinks as I observe this symbolic segregation play out with volumes in the library. No....now that you ask...I DON'T believe segregation is made less destructive to society simply by being voluntary.
As the "African-American Collection" grows on the separate shelves, comprised of works pulled from out of the General Collection, I'm forced to consider the rationale for this project applied to a broader context. If "segregating" out African-American books "for convenience sake" makes sense...why stop there?
I'm sure many African-Americans would benefit from having stores dedicated just to meeting the needs identified as distinct to their cultural habits. It could be labeled as such. Wouldn't Walmart just make a load of money creating a store just for African-Americans "for convenience sake?" I imagine this trend would work well for school districts and city planners. Whole neighborhoods could have signage at the entrance that read "an African-American planned community." This could extend to every level of social services. Heck! Even public drinking fountains could sport "convenient" labels "for AA only." Wouldn't that be "convenient" and helpful? Imagine the confusion that could be cleared up by separating out the aspects of life and society used or designed by African-Americans away from the rest of the population. African-Americans would know straight where to go. There wouldn't be the burden of having to sift through things written, designed or used by the rest of humanity to find what was needed. I think this library project makes a good case for segregation on all sorts of other levels.
No...wait...if my history is correct...that's been tried already...and it was TOTAL CRAP!!!!!!!
Segregation is a blight upon history that contributed to the fracturing of humanity and the Church in America. To God be the glory that it's no longer lawful to separate people in that manner! And yet, it seems almost inevitable that we'll return to it because it's our fallen human nature to fracture and divide ourselves. Humans are not prone to balance. On the contrary, we're given over to destructive pendulum swings. "Because a people was marginalized in the past, it must be emphasized now" goes the logic; and with that the fracturing instinct is kept alive and well. The ONENESS of humanity, and particularly the Church, be damned...we need "social justice" by means of placing those on the top that were once on the bottom. It's not even entertained that this whole paradigm wreaks the same havoc as before.
There is ONE library, and ONE collection. We do not qualify our books by quality or by research value. We do not have signs that read "serious research books over here," and "lame non-helpful works bought just to fill over shelves over here." All of it is ONE library, and ONE resource for study, and ONE collection of scholarship and knowledge that the students can use for learning or profs for teaching. There is ONE collection for searching or finding the answers to those curious questions that good education is meant to induce.
At least that's how it should be...
But now books written by or pertaining to African-Americans don't belong in THAT collection. They belong in their own collection. So the obvious question then is, which is the "good" collection? Which is the collection students should browse for serious research? If they're writing a paper on pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) and they go browse the books on that topic, they're not going to find Tony Evans' book on that subject. It's not there anymore. It's been pulled and "segregated" off to the other collection. You see, Dr. Evans isn't merely one of the scholars that has written on that subject; he's African-American, and thus belongs elsewhere. This is so sick!
We no longer have just one collection. Now we have "THE General Collection" and the "African-American collection." The praxi fide of this is that African-Americans have no place among THE collection...they need their own. RUBBISH! I hope all recognized the clear satire. I don't, for a moment, believe there exists a good case for segregation. But I DO believe that practices such as this library project smack eerily reminiscent of it. It's wrong, and I'm having to watch it evolve in front of me.