Giving Thanks for Diversity
“God did not burden the United States with a diversity of backgrounds, ideas and religions, He blessed America with them.”
–Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (b. 1944)
This post was written at Thanksgiving 2016. Since then, I have continued to update it. I find the message to be timeless and increasingly important to America and the world.
My “Thanksgiving” wish is that all citizens of the United States will see diversity as a blessing. Recent years have been tumultuous for ethnic groups across America and the world. Tolerance seems to have taken a backseat to misunderstanding, irrational fear, emotional outbursts and occasional violence.
Among the many nonprofit organizations for which I have worked, those focusing on the environment have taught me that human beings are no different from other animals in the sense that they have developed physically in unique and interesting ways over tens of thousands of years.
Yet oddly enough, while we are endlessly fascinated by the physical diversity found in birds, mammals, fish and the like, when it comes to our own human species some of us are intolerant of those who look and behave differently from our own group. We sometimes fear those who hold religious beliefs dissimilar from our own, and those who maintain cultural traditions we do not understand.
“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”
-Socrates (469 to 399 B.C.)
During SXSW a few years ago, I attended a series of sessions on Tech Inclusion. Hosted by Galvanize and the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings Initiative, panel discussions began early on a Sunday morning in downtown Austin at the then-new offices of Atlassian, and continued all day long. I learned about the challenges LGBTQIA citizens have securing and holding “regular” corporate jobs, about common issues military veterans re-entering the workforce face, how underrepresented minorities struggle in the workplace with the simplest accommodations and general perceptions, as do older generations and women in the workplace.
After listening for several hours of well-considered discussion and dialogue, I felt these Tech Inclusion presentations should be televised and made available to a much broader audience. Not only the tech industry but every industry – and the general populace – would benefit. They were outstanding.
While I revel in diversity and was raised in my youth to appreciate and respect it, many suffer at the hands of others as a result of being “different” and then often misunderstood. But I give thanks for a diverse and fascinating world of human beings! “It’s a small world after all,” as the Disneyland ride I used to enjoy when a child proclaimed. “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears; There’s so much that we share; That it’s time we’re aware; It’s a small world after all.”
I hope you will join me in promoting tolerance and understanding as we move forward toward 2017 and beyond. I believe the survival of our species depends upon it.
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
–Maya Angelou, American poet (1928-2014)
Sharing below a few potential resources for further information:
- Institute for Religious Tolerance, Peace and Justice
- No Labels
- Teaching Tolerance
- Resources to Combat Hate Speech | I learned about global nonprofit efforts to fight against hateful speech and behavior in 2019 while working as a volunteer with TechSoup. Follow the link to a blog post I created following an inspiring webinar.
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
- Zoo Portraits: Are There Gay Animals in Nature?