Diversity is a fact of life. We will find it in people that we believe ‘resemble' us and in people we believe are ‘different' from us. We are all unique and are different in some aspect – it can be in thoughts and perceptions, physical looks, cultures, or beliefs.
Our perceptions play a great role in differentiating people with whom we associate. From the great pool of diversity, we select groups of people with whom we would rather associate. We consider these people to be ‘similar' to us and consider all the rest to be ‘different'. And how we communicate with these people is greatly affected by how we interpret what we know, see, hear, and believe about them, their culture, physical ability, sexual orientation, and beliefs. We seldom test our perceptions to determine if they are true. And in most cases, we don't even try because we don't see why we should.
I would like to tell you there are more reasons why we should embrace diversity than why we shouldn't.
Examples abound within our nation, as well as abroad, of people who haven't recognized the value of diversity among their people and who have internal conflict and war. If we are to learn from these examples, we should learn that failing to accept and value our diversity is a threat to our society.
We are interconnected across the globe through a global environment that is growing closer each day, where different cultures and backgrounds are mixing. Thus, we can no longer afford a segregated view of the world. Today, more than ever, we find cultures intermixing, countries doing business with one another, and people living and working in nations different than their own. Businesses today represent environments where diversified ways of looking at the world are essential to success and regarded as sources of competitive advantage.
Diversity offers us numerous opportunities to grow and expand our perspectives. You may want to go to school in Canada, take a trip to Africa, do business in Japan, or perhaps live in South America. Or you may want to learn about different cultures in the United States, understand why people think and believe the way they do, and see our nation and world through different prisms. In the process, you will learn a great deal not only about the world but also about yourself.
In the end, the perceptions we have about others being different from us might prove to be just that – perceptions. The reality might be that those we label as ‘different’ are very much like us, but we'll never know unless we try. Take the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds in a quest to discover more about yourself – and the world around you.
When we focus on our differences, we build walls. When we focus on our similarities, we build bridges of communication and understanding. And as we progress, we will find the bridges we built were excellent investments in our lives. The Division of Institutional Diversity at Central Michigan University offers many opportunities for increasing awareness, gaining understanding and building bridges. I encourage you to LIKE our Facebook pages, join our social networks, and visit us online to learn about our academic programs, events, best practices, challenges, and points of pride.
Through events such as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. CommUnity Brunch, the annual Celebrating Life Pow Wow, Soup and Substance series, and Pride Week, as well as other events, we build bridges, make connections, and share our enthusiasm for diversity. We hope by launching this blog that we can educate organizations and higher education professionals on topics pertaining to diversity, inclusion, equity and best practices. Our goal is to provide a platform for the discussion of these and related topics, build bridges, make connections and to encourage all of our readers to Imagine All the Solutions that Diversity could bring!
Let’s ALL work together to build bridges. Let’s Celebrate and Embrace our Diversity!
What is done in your organization to build bridges, make connections, and embrace diversity?