“The Beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.” ~Unknown
I have a neighbor who has surprised me. On the surface, I assumed she was a lot like me: a white, American woman of similar age with two little boys. Since becoming her friend, however, I have learned a great deal about her rich family heritage and she has educated me and opened my mind more than I ever expected. She grew up back East in Boston and comes from a very Italian family–from the cooking of tried-and-true family recipes down to their stubborn Sicilian mafia-like personalities. Learning about her heritage and familial identity has led us to a deeper, more authentic relationship, as well as expanding my appreciation of our diversity. The differences we offer makes for a rich friendship!
During the month of February, opportunities to learn more about our black brothers and sisters are abundant. This community has done a wonderful job of deepening our understanding of and appreciation for diversity, and it does not have to stop there. One takeaway message for me has been that learning about our own heritage and that of others enables us to build stronger communities and to be examples for the rising generation.
Parents and individuals can teach their children to appreciate diversity in the following ways:
- Model unity. It is easy to associate with people who are the same as us. But let’s not segregate ourselves from people based on gender, age, disability, race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Parents can provide their children with living examples of equality when interacting in a kind way with people who appear different.
- Use kind language. Be careful to not use language that categorizes or denigrates people based on any classification, or stereotype. As parents, it is beneficial to be neutral or affirming of different groups in our speech as well as our actions. Let’s always talk kindly about those who are different from us!
- Get out there. As a family, get involved in multicultural experiences. I know many communities offer Latin American week where attendees can eat pupusas or arepas and drink horchata while watching a mariachi band or listening to reggetón and learning all about the different Latin American countries. We can also take our families to ethnic restaurants or pop into a market or grocery store featuring goods from another country; watch a movie in a foreign language; attend a soccer game; look up a religious holiday or attend a religious service other than what our family subscribes to, etc. Being exposed to diverse experiences can lead to fewer stereotypes. The whole family will discover new things about themselves and others through participation in new cultural experiences.
- Address intolerance. If at any time we witness an individual or group of people being judgemental, intolerant, or unkind–where appropriate–let’s address the issue. At a minimum, let’s speak with and educate our own children on the type of language that is appropriate. When we stand up for tolerance, kindness and inclusion, we model that to our children and others. Let’s not be complicit by ignoring it.
Lastly, I encourage everyone reading this blog post to dive into their own heritage and family history. Let’s understand who and where we come from– the traditions, language, culture, and whatnot from our past that has shaped us in the present. And then let’s share that knowledge! My neighbor who is so proud of her Italian heritage is a great example of this; she has taught me a great deal and I deeply value the appreciation of diversity she’s helped me develop.
We are all one-of-a-kind. We all have a past that is worth knowing about and something beautiful to offer the world. Each of our uniqueness is what creates diversity that is worthy of love. So let’s celebrate and embrace diversity by celebrating and embracing each other and where we have come from.
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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- Psychology Today: Can We Teach Diversity Without an Agenda?
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- Psychology Today: Teaching and Writing About Diversity