Over at the Pagan Princesses blog, there was raised an interesting prompt: The Magic of Many Voices – What Does Diversity Mean To You?
Here’s my reply, for those interested:
Diversity means accepting not only the fact that there are people of numerous races, sexes, genders, sexualities, cultures, politics, spiritualities (to include none at all), physical and mental abilities and challenges, economic and educational levels, and other social locations; but also that not everyone has equal standing, here in the U.S., and privilege may be given to some simply by virtue of the accident of their birth. True acceptance of diversity is not just acknowledging the differences, but facing the hard truth that pretending to be racially color blind or culturally neutral does not erase discrimination, oppression, or social injustice.
Here in the States, those of us with privilege are all too keen to pretend that oppression is behind us–that racism no longer exists except in rare freak incidents on the six o’clock news; that Native Americans are no longer suffering from genocide; that women really are equal and that the streets are safe for us; that the ADA has taken away all barriers anyone with any disability may face; that no teenager exploring a spiritual path other than what they were raised with has to worry about being thrown out of the family and home; that America is a grand place of equal opportunity for all immigrants; and so forth. “Why can’t we just move on from it? Isn’t this all in the past?” Well, yes. We want it to all be in the past. But the reality is that it’s still very much a sad and anger-inducing part of the present.
To embrace diversity is not only to say “Yes, there are people different from me”, but also to say “Yes, there are people different from me, and they are beautiful amazing people, and many of them face terribly ugly experiences that I may be a participant in, even without intending to be”. To embrace diversity doesn’t just mean the quick glance at colorful cultures, or the brief peck on a cheek of a different color, but to wrap one’s arms around the realities of diversity, receiving not only the warm caress, but also feel the sharp thorns sink into the flesh.
And when we are fully aware of those realities, without turning inward into the guilt which is just more self-focus–our awareness changes our thoughts, our choices, and our actions, and that is where the larger social change is born.
Thank you for posting this. I completely agree. We need to fully get grounded in the fact that diversity makes us stronger. And that is does not mean ignoring difference, but acknowledge, holding space and trying to understand that difference. Sometimes I think our white-wash tolerance approach to diversity has us more repressed today than in the past when racism was out in the open to a much greater degree. Today, racism feels underlying, insidious and unexamined.
A lot of people feel that since lynchings (almost) never happen (RIP, James Byrd Jr.), therefore racism doesn’t happen. And yet the more subtle forms are more insidious, and it’s even more crucial to call them out.