While growing up, I never wanted to have all female friends, and therefore, made it a priority to have an almost equal mix of male and female friends, because I understood that diversity, and by default variety, is what spices up our lives.
After completing college and working for a while, I decided to advance my career by pursuing an advanced degree, and one of my criterion in choosing the schools I applied to, was to attend an institution that embraced diversity and inclusion. Therefore, I ended up attending the Heller school at Brandeis University. My post graduate class had a perfect mix of students from virtually every part of the world. We had students from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America, and even produced a couple from completely different backgrounds-the United States and Asia! That experience taught me so much because, I was able to interact and draw on different perspectives, in addressing global health issues.
Surprisingly however, in the world today, it is disheartening to see that our diversity is being regarded as a threat to the fundamental tenets of human existence. We are quick to regard anyone different from us in any way as a threat, rather than a valuable resource for viewing things from a different perspective.
For instance, in today’s workplace, issues of gender and racial preferences are rife, that it sometimes even diminishes our collective productivity. I have heard of situations whereby certain positions are earmarked for a particular race or gender, and this practice is somewhat disheartening, to say the least.People who engage in things like this lack a basic understanding of the true essence of life. They fail to realize that before anything else, we are all humans, regardless of our gender or where we come from.
In my dealings with other people, I try to see everyone as humans (regardless of any classification), and nothing else. In my opinion, a root cause of this problem may have to do with the way people were raised. If you are brought up to see anyone who doesn’t fit into a particular stereotype as different from you, then you may continue to erroneously feel threatened by that diversity, which is so beautiful that it should be celebrated, rather than relegated.
In order for us to address this societal problem, it would involve a conscious effort on the part of citizens to change their perceptions of others, and that change begins with you.
Here, I provide simple steps which may be employed to begin the process of cozying up to diversity, rather than degrading it:
- Before you become all prejudicial about the next person, try to put yourself in their shoes: If you are a man, you can never understand the pains associated with child birth, if you have never been pregnant, talk more of giving birth. If you are a woman, you can never understand when a man talks about the immense pressure he sometimes feels, to ensure that he supports his family. If you are Black or White, you can never fully understand when each race talks about the peculiar challenges encountered for being born into that particular race. Remember that we weren’t given the choice to choose our race or gender at birth. It was divinely arranged. Therefore, try to see through the lenses of others, and ask yourself how you would like to be treated, if you had to wear that other persons shoe for a day.
- When your back is against the wall, and you have no other option: Consider that you needed lifesaving blood transfusion, and the only person that can provide it for you is that person you have labeled “different” in your mind. Would you be willing to accept that blood transfusion, if the doctor told you that was all you needed to survive? Remember, whether you are male, female, black, white or yellow, we all have the same red blood flowing through our veins. An A+ blood from a white man, black man, or yellow woman, is the same as an A+ blood from a yellow man, white woman or black woman, and vice versa. Therefore, be wise in your dealings with your fellow sojourners on planet earth.
- When variety becomes sort of a necessity: Can you imagine eating chicken sandwich every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Other than the obvious nutritional liability that would cause, I bet that after a few days you would be tired of that meal plan, and search for other alternatives-diversity here again. It is the flexibility we have in applying diversity to our lives that make it less stale, and very beautiful. I am sure you will not like to keep visiting one vacation spot every year. You really would like to spice it up I guess. So is diversity. It spices up our world, because it celebrates our unique perspectives to life, which makes it less boring, and far more interesting.
In wrapping this up, the next time you find yourself experiencing that unwarranted feeling associated with seeing others as different, turn the tables around and try to see through their lenses. Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine that you will be able to walk in them for only a day. Always remember, regardless of what society or anyone else says, our diversity makes us more beautiful and resilient. We can truly achieve greater things together, if we begin to celebrate what unites us, and let go of what divides us!
To your continued success. Cheers!!!