Read on to learn about: How our idea of embracing diversity is an idea that is incorrectly used, incorrectly taught and incorrectly applied.
All my life I’ve been able to see contradictions that drive me crazy. Discussions around diversity are one of those contradictions.
I had one of those discussions this past Saturday at the Getafe Negro literary festival. I was asked to speak in a panel around the idea of diversity, being a refugee and how we can move from stereotyping and compartmentalizing people to really embracing diversity.
And there was one thing I was dying to say but that couldn’t come out in the 15 minute interview, and that is that the idea of embracing diversity is an idea that is incorrectly used, incorrectly taught and incorrectly applied.
The trouble with diversity isn't the idea itself, which I do fully embrace, but with how we use and define the word. When we think of diversity we think of differences, of how we are not like each other because this is how we’ve been taught to see it. When teaching diversity the focus is often on how to have people work better together…
… especially individuals who are different from each other.
… despite their differences.
… due to their differences.
And that is exactly the issue; by wording it in terms of differences we are already preparing those involved to start by seeing differences. The end goal of emphasizing diversity should be about equality on the one hand – about the idea that we are all deserving of the same rights, freedoms and opportunities because we are all the same in fundamental ways – and on the other hand about inclusion and finding similarities across borders and concepts of nationhood.
But, when schools have multicultural or diversity events they focus on the different traditional costumes, the different foods, the different customs. When companies do diversity training they focus on pointing out the differences in communication styles, the differences in leadership styles, etc. Although the purpose is always to teach us to value differences, the issue is that humans in general are taught to be suspicious of differences. And yet we continue to focus on differences.
So where does that leave us, and where should we start when we talk about and work on diversity?
We need to start with what we have in common and start on an individual level. Go beyond the obvious – go beyond differences in behaviors and focus on similarities in values.
In the end the reasons for our different behaviors can be the same, so why not focus on that similarity? By doing so we go beyond the surface colors of diversity and help us move towards inclusion and equality, not differences.
And so this, for me, is the trouble with diversity: the contradictory practice of starting by pointing out our differences in an attempt to bring us together. Why don’t we just make it easier for ourselves and focus on the similarities that bring us together and understanding the different ways we manifest those similarities?
By: Shiva Roofeh
6. 3. 2
That's 6 countries, 3 languages and 2 religions. Expat, immigrant, refugee, TCK, there are lots of things you can call me, but I prefer Shiva.