Tonight I was at a meeting where diversity was at the forefront of the conversation.
We ran through the Buzzfeed Privilege Exercise first (check it out if you don’t know it). After everyone was a bit more cognizant of their privilege, we had a really frank and fascinating conversation about our experiences. An American white woman pointed out the difference between privilege & diversity (citing her experience in Africa where she was the only white-woman for miles dealing with interesting situations), a White Italian shared his thoughts growing up in Milan and how they look at race & relate to it, and a Sikh-Indian-American shared his thoughts on confronting bigotry by humanizing it. He shared a particular experience where he hopped into a cab in Alabama where the driver had a picture of Osama Bin Laden with a red X through him & a bunch of guns pointed at him. Instead of sit silent or cause a fuss, he spent 45 minutes talking to this guy about the Dallas Cowboys–that’s the sticker he had on his car.
One of the questions that popped up was “How do you define diversity?”
The answers were honest and relatable: workforce, hiring, different people, being able to pick two things & have them have a high probability of being different. Someone even brought up the notion of “melting pot” vs “tossed salad,” citing that sometimes being a part of the American melting pot means being forced to leave who you are at home.
When I think of diversity I think of celebrating differences.
For example: disability is different. Different doesn’t mean worse, it’s just different. Instead of being afraid to talk about it as being different, be excited about it being different. Get people excited about how their different…help them celebrate their diversity. We’re all different from each other–yes, even white people play a role in our diversity.
Now, racism is the institutional idea that some people are overwhelmingly oppressed by the system. And so, humanizing the other isn’t really as much of an option. As such, I think the role of an ally is to excite people whom you share privilege with towards specific differences, while humanizing the people at the nexus of these differences.
What does diversity mean to you?