What do those words mean? In early childhood, it was friendship and fairness. Elementary grades it was fairness and equality. Middle school showed us right and wrong, common sense, and equality. High school and higher was comparative culture and religion; it was discerning prejudices and overcoming them. Now, it is also recognizing privilege, whatever it is: white, male, Christian, straight, non-disabled/abled. It is thinking in a new and different way, but it is also a common sense to think this way.
In the 70s and 80s, it was tolerance.
Now, it is (and should be) acceptance. Acceptance is not approval. Don’t say that to anyone though. It’s condescending. It’s different for a religious pastor to accept, in the case of lgbt+, but not to approve in the context of dogma or doctrine, but it shouldn’t be that much different if we are all the same on the inside.
We divide where we should be bringing together.
We are stronger together.
We fear the unknown.
So get to know some of those things that scare you.
Diversity has to be more than adding a person of color to your favorite television show. Representation is incredibly important, and it matters, but it can’t be the only thing. It has to be more than Black History month in February or Women’s in March; Native American History in November and LGBT+ in October. It should be every day in every classroom. Diversity is inclusion. It’s about American history including these marginalized groups from the outset, not as a sidebar or a footnote.
It’s the food and the fabric and appreciation; the stories and music and taking chances. It’s the phenomenon that is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton on Broadway.
It’s my church music director including an African American spiritual (Wade in the Water) to our Mass of the Lord’s Baptism despite most of the congregation never hearing it before.
It’s David Bowie using his privilege and calling out MTV on its very white lineup in 1983. 1983!
It’s my daughter calling a classmate her brown friend because she has brown hair and not seeing the difference between herself and her two best friends – one Scandinavian blonde and one African American all wearing their own braids, the two friends’ done by their moms in the morning and hers done on her own because I couldn’t do a proper braid without witchcraft involved.
It’s listening to the people who live this everyday and not talking over them. It’s eliminating the word and the thoughts of tolerance from our vocabulary. We, who are the privileged shouldn’t “tolerate” other people. We accept them for who they are and learn from what they can teach us, and stop saying ‘they’ and ‘them’ but instead ‘we’ and ‘us’.
Diversity is inspiration and acknowledgment and looking ahead at better things.