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. I have continued to update it as new information becomes available. I find the message to be timeless and increasingly important to America and the world.
My hope 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.
“If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”Ronald Reagan, American president (1911-2004)
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.
I was raised to be tolerant. Figuratively speaking, we were urged as children to, “step into the shoes” of others and try to see the world from their point of view before speaking and acting on often misleading initial impressions. That was a powerful learning experience and one more people need to experience at an early age. From Psychology Today, “It is often easier to have empathy for someone who is like us but it is possible to learn empathy for those who are different from us. This kind of understanding, according to Reiss, can cross bridges and promote positive social behavior. Maybe we could use a little more empathy in our world.”
“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community – and this nation.”Cesar Chavez, American activist (1927-1993)