1. Growing Acceptance, Diminishing Discrimination
Promoting diversity is the first step to not just “tolerance” but true inclusion and acceptance. Through growing contact with, exposure to, and communication between people who are not like us, we can learn how to relate to difference in a way where difference doesn’t have to be a problem, a barrier, or a threat. And accidentally, we might also see that the people we assumed to be so different to us may actually have a lot more in common than they thought. Increasing familiarity with these differences (and commonalities) can shape and shift our perspectives (see #3), cultivate an acceptance that facilitates belonging, and diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination.
2. Becoming a Global Citizen
If you experience diversity in your everyday life, you will have regular exposure to people, cultures, traditions, and practices that are unlike your own. Hopefully you will learn the skills to communicate and interact with communities, concepts, and belief systems that you are unfamiliar with and therefore gain a more worldly, balanced, and informed perspective. Not only will you enhance your own social development, but you will also increase your true understanding of the world. This will prepare you to be a part of a global society, whether you are traveling to a new country, working with people from diverse backgrounds, or just reading about events in the news that heavily impacts a population different than your own.
Hearing about another’s experience can shed light on a life different than your own and provide you a new perspective. When you contrast your struggles, needs, and values with someone else’s, you can really begin to comprehend where an individual is coming from and empathetically understand their attitudes, behaviours, and beliefs at a deeper level (through which you can more deeply understand your own). Perhaps talking to someone new will change your mind or challenge your values which on a subconscious level can seem scary for our brains, or the pay off for flexible thinking is a life where we get to see through many different lenses and experience the kaleidoscope that diversity of perspective has to offer.
4. Richer Life Experience
Diversity is a natural state of being for the human race. In fact, it’s what our survival depends on. What if everyone who surrounded you was exactly like you, in every way? How easily could a disease wipe you all out? And where is the fun in relating to people who are exactly like you? Groupthink might feel safer and more certain, but it invites cognitive dissonance, one dimensional ideas, and some pretty limited conversation. We need new ideas, views, and practices to stimulate and inspire us, to show us the way others eat, celebrate, and love! And so it’s important to recognise that diversity is absolutely fundamental to our surviving but it’s also absolutely key to our thriving.
Bringing together people of various backgrounds with different life experiences can generate ideas or perspectives that others may not have ever considered or been aware of. Everyone has their own way of viewing a problem, shaped by the individual experiences that they have and the worldview they carry with them. When tackling an issue, a multitude of interpretations and approaches can generate creativity and innovation, instead of everyone contributing the same thoughts and conclusions. In this way, it’s important to recognise the utility of diversity, it is after all what supports nature’s productivity and we can learn a lot from the natural world. But the productivity argument comes with a user warning… Should productivity be more of a priority than people’s basic humanity and the way we choose to show up as a human race? Do we want our legacy to be one which allowed people to be their whole selves because it conveniently served capitalism or do we want to embrace diversity because it is in service of social justice? The productivity or business case of diversity is undeniable and yet it can distract from the real reason we should be living and breathing diversity… because it’s the right thing to do.
So to sum up, together our differences make a strong, beautiful, global community. Even in the face of intolerance, discrimination, and violence, we must not forget to spread the word about the importance of diversity and to respond to that violence with a radical love that unconditionally cherishes people for exactly who they are.
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