Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Pronoun Problems

Written by: on October 9, 2015

oneHow do we define a noun? A noun is a person, place or thing. Well, what is a pronoun? Traditionally, a pronoun modifies a noun but according to MerriamWebster’s dictionary, a pronoun is used as a “substitute” for a noun. In reading Valentine’s book, there is a complex issue universal idealism of social geography. Social geography has to do with the study of people and their environment with an emphasis on the social factors. This tells us that each person belongs to a community (or culture) that shares certain values or belief that makes him or her unique. However, instead of studying and embracing the community, Valentine wants a “fully realized community” (pg. 111) because it embraces historicity, identity, mutuality, pluralism, autonomy and integration. Like Merriam-Webster, Valentine is substituting community for a “fully realized community.”

I get it…we all want inclusion because we think people want it so we try to suggest modes of equality. Do we really desire equality? Or, do we covet that which we deemed more significant than us? Everything is based on perception. Can a noun stand on its own or does it need modification by a pronoun or even a description by an adjective? If I wanted to stay within the context of my community, I would never have left Jamaica. However, there are those in Jamaica, like my mother who has no desire to leave her community. In fact, my brother refused to migrate to America because he felt like what he had was superior to what I thought would be a greater opportunity. Do we say rich California and poor New Hampshire? No, we call them states of America regardless of the social factors.

Valentine states that after the Second World War, “the emphasis on the description of uniqueness was replaced by a concern with similarity” because positivist wanted to uncover universal spatial laws. They were using quantitative methods to predict human patterns of behavior and this is always the challenge. We have a flawed belief that integration solves everything. The prison systems understand isolation so while we could say, “they’re all prisoners,” sometimes there has to be a separation based on personal choices made (cause and effect).

Look, I go to a large church and it is sometimes challenging to find volunteer musicians. We launched a new campus that is much smaller (about 300 people). In three weeks, some of our former musicians that wanted to worship at a smaller church returned and now I have too many musicians at the new campus. Notice how I said 300 people? Over 1,000 members live within five minutes of this new campus and yet 700 of them chose to drive an extra thirty minutes to be in a larger setting. According to Valentine, this would be the ultimate sin for those people to leave their community and go somewhere else. I spent 17 years planting small churches and some of them never grew beyond 100 people. The reality is that people like their freedom to choose, regardless of our perception. This is simply people exercising freewill.

To force or suggest universalism is to revoke freedom of choice. Valentine presents a great theory that capsules all humans in eight scales (body, home, community, institutions, the street, the city, rural, and nation). We can choose to use social factors to define a person in each stage or each person can choose to use the eight stages to form a perception of how they want others to view them. “It takes a village to raise a child” and here I am. I’ve walked through each of those stages to define the person you see because I had a different perception than my family. We are both happy.

The very thing that seems obvious might not be a social reality. I am black (duh) and a Jamaican native so according to Valentine, I should be at a disadvantage based on scientific research. I never feel intimidated when I step into a room because I am a noun (Garfield) and refused to be replaced by a pronoun (him or he). Science is a process and like my life, it is flawed with challenges.

About the Author

Garfield Harvey

Garfield O. Harvey devotes himself to studies in cultural intelligence (CQ), global leadership and cultural anthropology. During his doctoral studies at George Fox University, he developed CQ Worship to help ministry leaders manage the tension of leading corporate worship with cultural intelligence. His research on worship brings a fresh perspective that suggests corporate worship begins the moment a church engages a community.

14 responses to “Pronoun Problems”

  1. Wow Gar….that is great. Really thoughtful. What you state at the end about being from Jamaica and disadvantage was one of the points that I was trying to make. While we are products of our own surroundings, we do not have to stay there. For instance, a person in my life (confidential) was abused in every way and so was their siblings. One did not allow her upbringing to form her, mainly due to her faith in Christ. The others did not and have struggled. According to Valentine, it seems she does not think people can be transformed. However, our worldview believe that people can change. History is littered with this ideal. One thing I was struck with is that her ideas seem like a western form of the India cast system (you born in a certain situation therefore you stay in a certain situation). Would you agree with this?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      When we think about the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a choice. Everything depends on our willingness to choose what we deemed is valuable. I have a brother-in-law who worked at the same company for over 15 yrs and never tried to speak proper English to his co-workers. He spoke the Jamaican dialect (patois) and insist that they should learn his language.

      To this day, I refuse to attend Jamaican churches or events in America because I feel like I live in America and a citizen of the country so I should do American things. When I’m in Jamaica or if we’re having an international event in America that embraces all cultures, then I’ll act like a Jamaican (to an extent). If people want to be treated equally, then they should present themselves equal.

      America embraces all nationality but at the end of the day…you live in America. Since we migrated to America, we should conform. Conforming doesn’t mean you lose your identity. It simply means you respect the culture you choose to be indentified with by embracing and representing it well. We can all change…if we choose to change. It was easy for me and I haven’t lost my heritage.

  2. Aaron Cole says:

    I love it!!!! I love the way you take the text from your perspective and turn it inside out. Your last paragraph about how you should be the ultimate “stat” according to Valentine, but yet you are the opposite. You could be labeled an “outlier” (exceptional, which you are) in order to prove Valentine’s theory or social experiment. Rather I view that you have shot a significant hole in this theory. You have shined a light to if not disprove, at the very least challenge his theory. Why do you think that Valentine is so pushing his idea of community?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks Aaron,
      I really don’t know why Valentine is pushing personal agenda. However, in January of this year I sat in a class with Alan Hirsch and we went back and forth during his teaching session. He had all kinds of outdated data and I got tired of it so I called him out on it.
      He then stated, “I’m trying to coin new phrases for this emerging generation so I don’t want to use those old phrases.” He then tried to prove a point by stereotyping me with the typical black church because they don’t teach but only preach. When he found out I didn’t attend a black church, it ruined his presentation because everything he thought about me was the opposite. The Dean’s wife apologized on his behalf.

      The point is that I believe “scholars” try to coin new phrases because they believe in their research and they’re supposed to be the expert. Valentine presented data from several studies so it make sense from that perspective. There is an absolute problem with our perception of community and how we relate to it. However, the solution can never be to redefine the word to get a different result. We need to embrace our challenges and find solutions in stages. Every time we redefine, we start over. It’s time to move forward with solutions and emerge with the people.

  3. Claire Appiah says:

    According to Gill Valentine, a study by Iris Young indicates that geographers are veering away from community as a desirable ideal. Young feels the unnatural attempts to create unity and homogeneity in community has been unproductive, unrealistic and has led to other problems (135-136). A better approach has been to “celebrate the distinctive cultures and characteristics of different groups” (137). Real community then, is appreciating and acknowledging the rich cultural heritage you bring to the US from Jamaica.

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks Claire,
      I agree with how you perceive real community in terms of appreciating and acknowledging cultural heritage. My challenge with Valentine is that while we see different studies from community, Valentine is seeking a “fully realized community” according to personal preference and interpretation. When I here of studies and research, I’ve always jokingly said, “no one asked me anything.” I was blown away by what I witnessed in Hong Kong because it was so different from what I was told. Then I reminded myself that I only went to selected areas. Valentine wants integration and that’s fine. I don’t believe as a people that we’ll ever fully appreciate and acknowledge cultural heritage.

  4. Pablo Morales says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights from your reading. It is always insightful to look at the personal experiences of each one of us as we interact and assimilate the books we are reading. You said, “according to Valentine, I should be at a disadvantage based on scientific research.” I was under the impression that Valentine’s book is mainly descriptive rather than prescriptive. In other words, there are many generalizations based on social and historical research, but these generalizations are not rules or scientific laws that are expected to be fulfilled in every person. Do you think that Valentines intent when discussing the issue of race was prescriptive or descriptive?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Valentine wants a “fully realized community” because it embraces everything and everyone. The idea of inclusion and exclusion along with all the data tells me there’s an ultimate prescription. If this was merely about description, Valentine would never suggested another way of viewing community. The traditional definition would’ve been sufficient.

      We could use the informtion from a descriptive perspective but that would debunk the cries of wanting to include everyone. Also, let’s not ignore the how Valentine feels about gender and sexuality. All these facets help create the thought process of how Valentine wants us to think and process based on the information presented. I think we presented information through description in hopes of processing with the description. It’s like saying, here’s all the facts but you don’t have to do anything…I just wanted you to know that’s why I researched and wrote a book. Definitely prescription…My dissertation will be an attempt to solve a problem by being prescriptive. Valentine wants to solve a problem that was realized through research and now wants a “fully realized community.”

  5. Phil Goldsberry says:


    You “nailed it”. The book was disturbing with the broad strokes of evaluations that Valentine made. I am glad that you, Garfield Harvey, are more than a noun. The analogies of male/female or black/white or gender preference were quite disturbing. Sure sinful natures are prevalent but grace is greater.

    In light of your history, family background, and ethnicity do you see a pattern that Valentine was correct on?


    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Valentine is correct in almost every area but it depends on which side of the coin you’re evaluating.

      I grew up poor, my family grew up poor and we valued education but no one went to college. We were never affectionate or knew how to embrace success so we always looked for the negative. I was one of the greatest track star in school but my family never saw a race. I played soccer in college and traveled the country playing, received an award but my family never saw a game. I’m the first person in my family to progress educationally because my family felt it was easier to work two or three jobs. Also, we were used to paying for everything that we couldn’t appreciate the things that were free…such as education. My perseverance helped created a trend for my nieces and nephews because they’re also progressing.

      For the last 2 years, I’ve canceled every Friday night event just so I could have movie night with my family. As a musician, you never turn down paying events but I valued my family more. In those rare moments when I have an event, I shift movie night to another day. Culturally, these are not things that we practiced as a family or Jamaicans. Truth be told, I tried to impress my wife by cancelling an event on a Friday night (I almost cried turning down $600) and it just became a practice.

      This is what I believe…our perception is shaped by the first impression we receive culturally. For instance, your willingness to include me like a little brother formed an impression of how Aaron, Jason and Kevin would treat me. It would also create a comfort level for me walking into your church and ignoring any stereotype, even if one exist. It turned out that Aaron and the guys were great but what if you weren’t a nice guy.

      We live in America and while we love positivity, negativity sells. Valentine did a lot of research so I’m sure both sides of the coin was revealed but that wouldn’t be a great story. Do I talk about the great restaurants we went to in Hong Kong or the last group dinner with the chicken head as garnish?

  6. Hey Roomie!
    First let me say how great it was to be your roommate in HK. Don’t worry, I will never blog anything that took place in Suite 2!
    Dude, you are not just a noun or a pronoun. You, my friend, are also a verb. As in, “At the banquet you G-Harveyed that piano!” And I have a feeling your church is extremely blessed through your gifts. We were in the presence of a true maestro. Thank you again for that.
    I am so glad you have traveled the journey you have. You have a great story.
    Given your experience, how much of your success is owed to your identity in Christ? Your unique gifting?
    I would be curious to know your opinion as to why prisons in America are overwhelmingly filled with black men. I can’t find the exact number, but it is something like one in 7 or 10 black males ends up in prison. Whatever the number, it’s way too high. Why do you think?
    One of my friends just posted this study: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-sounding-names-study_561697a5e4b0dbb8000d687f?utm_hp_ref=black-voices&ir=Black%2BVoices&section=black-voices&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000047
    It says, “Students with stereotypically “black”-sounding names tend to be labeled as troublemakers by teachers.”
    This concerns me as a teacher and a pastor. I think Valentine’s study, although maybe too generalized for you and others in the cohort, comes up with some good explanations as to why this study is true. What do you think?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks Aaron,
      You were a great roommate and friend so I would never request a change for the rest of the program. I’m glad our secrets are safe. Thanks for the kind words and I definitely had fun at banquet with the cohort.

      Valentine like many other people get caught in the numbers game. Unfortunately the numbers game is our worst enemy. Let’s say 20 male caucasians live in America and 5 are in prison, that only represent 25% of that population. However, if we have 10 blacks living in America and 4 are in prison, that represents 40% of that population. As you can see, there would be more caucasians in prison numerically but more blacks by percent. There are two black guys in our cohort so if one drops out, that would be 50%. Possible storyline “50% of The Black Guys Dropped Out Last Year”…very misleading.

      I don’t subject myself to “blaming the white man” but I know the stereotype is real because I’ve traveled around the country as a musician. I’ve been fortunate to have two names that people can’t immediately stereotype…Garfield Harvey. This works great for appointments when my Jamaican accent doesn’t come out. If I were to use my middle name Omoro and state I’m from Kingston Jamaica, that would automatically trigger a red flag ( I’ve done it before when applying for jobs). For months I’ve been calling a school for an adjunct position using my Jamaican background and they told me nothing is available although they have a posting. This past week I emailed the Vice President my resume and she was willing to offer me the Dean of Religion instead if I had my DMin, without ever seeing my transcript. This is the same office I’ve been calling and sending resume. The numbers game, the stereotype or racial profiling will never change.

      However, as a black man, I have to walk in an environment and be comfortable whether or not I’m accepted. I was never around during slavery but someone fought for my freedom. I have to honor those people by believing I’m free. If you check any civil rights data, you’d find out that majority of crimes are not committed by minorities but they’ve had more arrests because of the stereotypes perpetuated by the criminal justice system. One last numbers game.

      20 Caucasians and their arrests
      Human trafficking….3
      Total: 12 arrests and crimes…60%

      20 Blacks and their arrests
      Human Trafficking….2
      Racial Profiling….8
      Total: 16 arrests but 8 crimes…80%

      If EFG church has 50 members and 40 comes to bible study, that’s 80% and they’re doing a great job. However, if ABC church has 1,000 members and 200 attends bible study, that’s 20% but what’s the story line: “EFG church only has 40 members at their bibe study.” They need to close the storefront church.

      We have to teach people to live life to its fullest and embrace its challenges. However, I found my identity in Christ and I walk in the freedom He’s given me. When I stand among Christians, I only see Christ. When I stand among unbelievers, if I sense stereotype, I give you the…”you have issues” so I might strike up a conversation so you know we breathe the same air.

  7. Marc Andresen says:

    Garfield – glad you are a noun in our midst.

    You mentioned on facebook once that you had never had the money to attend a graduation. Along with other stereo types with which you’ve had to deal, has the possession of or lack of money also contributed to people trying to put you in a box?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      The lack of money definitely contributed to being boxed in by people. When I migrated to this country, I was dating a young lady whose negative perception motivated me to be better. I didn’t have a degree but was in the process of attending music school. All her friends had their graduate and post-graduate degrees so there would be days I wouldn’t be invited to places because I wouldn’t fit in educationally or financially. I drove the church bus with the name on it to go on dates or borrowed my sister’s car when it was available. I thought I was making progress because I’d just migrated but the perception of me was the typical culture for the guys (caribbean guys) in my area…poverty. They also thought I was dating an American girl to gain my residency but they didn’t know I was a permanent resident. Being a native Jamaican comes with several stereotypes and I still deal with those in Florida today.

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