Pacific Magazine - Volume 24, Number 1

Living for Christ in the city

A different kind of integration

When I was in fourth grade my society integrated: five black students were bussed to my school to blend seamlessly with 500 white kids.

To make our new classmates comfortable, the whole school gathered outside to welcome them. Our principal made a speech. Shy by nature, I remember thinking that if I were one of those kids I’d get back on the bus.

Of course society had integrated before and would again, from Irish to Southeast Asian and beyond. Newcomers tend to travel the rocky road to acceptance at about the rate they come to resemble those already here—and vice versa. The newly enfranchised act more like the already-integrated as the established order spices itself with influences of the newcomers, until at last the ethnic group’s cuisine is picked up by a fast-food chain.

Economics may then replace race and ethnicity as the great divide, as those who can leave the old neighborhood, and those who can’t stay behind.

In some places integration gives way to gentrification. A younger generation of the well off, with no ties to local heritage, renovates the houses and replaces the residents.

An alternative is cooking in Fresno. People with a choice have, without fanfare, moved to poor neighborhoods, not to displace, but to embrace in Christ’s love. City government, churches and nonprofits are present, not as experts, but as resources.

The results are amazing.

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