If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years it’s that the notion of diversity and cultural understanding is overwhelmingly one-sided. Meaning, the dominant culture does very little to accommodate that of sub-dominant cultures, even though we all more or less occupy the same spaces.
I was blessed to grow up in a very integrative environment. While my family all identifies as the same race, I went to school and participated in extra curricular activities with children of all sorts of racial and ethnic backgrounds, a majority, however, being white Christians.
So for me, and for most minorities, we’ve grown up here in America adept at assuming multiple identities, including: how we’ve viewed a home, and how we’re viewed by White America. Interpretation of the latter is its entire own discussion, but for Black males in particular, it’s exceedingly important that we be made aware at young ages exactly how we’re perceived by the dominant class. It’s for own safety we’re taught how to dress, talk, and carry ourselves in order to best assimilate into the greater society beyond our immediate family members.
Now, to what degree folks actually choose to assimilate is up to each individual, and there are obviously wide variations in how everyone chooses to express themselves. The point being, that the onus falls on us as minorities to at least be aware of how we present ourselves to the dominate class and the repercussions that may follow.
This is a pretty one-way street.
White Americans have occupied the same public spaces as most other races/ethnicities, at least nominally, since the Civil Rights Movement. But comparatively, how much assimilation has overall taken place? In 2017, most White Americans refrain from publically shouting “The N-Word” and most fight accusations of being called “a Racist”, yet coded language and microaggressions run rampantly unchecked as can be attested by pretty much anyone who identifies with a sub-dominant group.
The falsehood of diversity is that the cure to prejudice and discrimination is as simple as representation. Finding yourself in a room full of faces different from your own is certainly a step in the right direction, but requires active participation in order to actually become effective.
There’s a whole lot of talk about “Coming Together” in these times of current heightened racial strife. From our perspective, it’s been entirely too much us learning how to fit in with you, without much of you hearing from us. Folks are getting tired of the one-way street that is diversity, because as it’s currently constituted, valid concerns are being discarded or met with cries that “America is getting too soft!” Or “Too PC!” And instead of dissipating, the tensions and frustrations are reaching a critical boiling point resulting in the environment we see around us today.
We’re fighting a long-standing battle every day for equal rights and representation, one that will likely not end in true equality for decades to come. But in the meantime, I challenge each and every one of you to experience real, life, true diversity past the surface level. For my fellow minorities out there, it’s time to speak our minds. Just like any healthy relationship, communication is key. It’s no longer safe to assume that the people around us fully understand the major and minor injustices that affect us daily. So if we hope to affect the immediate world around us, people have to know what the problems are to start. For my White readers, listen to your minority friends, sans judgment. We’re nearing the end of “I wasn’t aware” or “How was I supposed to know?” being a valid excuse. We can all help each other by actually listening and learning.