Such a catchword these days. Embrace diversity. Love it. Accept it. Well, I’ve had enough of acknowledging diversity.
I’d prefer celebrating similarity rather than diversity. The earth is vast and varied, yet so small these days with the rise of the internet, global markets, travel, immigration and visa worker programs. Even though it’s hard to us to identify with people in some areas of the world, our human needs are much the same. Generally we want to have a home and family, live in peace, earn a living, have friends, and enjoy freedom of thought and religion.
In my career in a large metropolitan area, I can’t think of a school I’ve been in as a teacher (or substitute teacher) where there hasn’t been diversity. But generally, kids are kids. Once, in a very small school taught at, I had a fourth grade girl from Belgium, who spoke no English, just French. No special accommodations — the school was private and too small. She had English down by the end of the year because she wanted to play, have friends, and just be one of the class. I gave her as much special help as I could without knowing French. She was bright and eager and learned much from her classmates, and succeeded as well in her studies as she did in her friendships.
As a teacher I know that some, perhaps many, children have different learning styles, or need special accommodations and teaching, but despite how much extra attention they receive, when they’re out on the playground it is a level field.
Though born in 1948 before the Civil Rights movement became well-organized and irrepressible, my parents weren’t racially prejudiced, so I didn’t grow up thinking black people were inferior. As I grew older, I began to realize that there was discrimination; I went to an all-white high school (with few people from other countries except for our foreign exchange student), and no one in our suburban town were of other races or ethnicities. Finally it hit me with full force when I first drove with my grandparents through the “south” to Florida in the fifties. Black and white bathrooms, drinking fountains, even some stores and restaurants segregated. It was a shock for a girl from Ohio, and it bothered me. Fortunately Martin Luther King burst on the scene bringing with him the quiet determination, disavowal of violence, and ability to voice with honesty and conviction the injustice of discrimination. He is one of my heroes, as are many who marched and rallied with him — the people who made it impossible for their cause to be ignored, both by the people themselves and the government.
What I want is what Dr. Martin Luther King expressed: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That’s what I believe and what I want. We will always notice if someone is black, Asian, Indian, etc., but that need not have any effect on our respect for them, or acknowledgment that we have more in common than we do differences. We are just people, inhabiting the same planet, with the same basic needs and desires.
We’re spending so much time dividing people up into groups, over-identifying and labeling people. There will always be people who need special treatment, help, understanding, but this doesn’t have to be a diversity that divides.
I want unity; I want people to identify as part of the struggling human race, each with his or her own problems, and a common purpose to be able to solve them harmoniously.
I, too, have a dream. I’m sorry that it seems to be just that, a dream not founded in reality in today’s world.