I grew up in Harlem during a time when my community was made up almost totally of African Americans. As a young child, the only people of other races I saw on a regular basis were a few teachers who taught at the elementary and junior high school, the police, firemen, insurance man, and the people who owned the stores and those who worked in the stores along 125th St.; Nonetheless, there were times when we would go on school outings to the dental school in midtown, or to the museums. As a teenager and a young adult I ventured into other communities, Little Italy, Chinatown, East Harlem. As an adult I have traveled widely. I believe I have greatly benefited from learning about other cultures. The foods, music, dance have become part of me and, I believe, have made me a more well- rounded person.
Living in a society or a community where all people are the same gives us a myopic point of view especially when we aren’t even interested in learning other cultures. Someone once said the more you know about others, the more you know about yourself.
I appreciate learning about the rich cultures that help form the U.S. as well as those who live in other parts of the world. I believe we have more in common than differences. Strip away the various beliefs and practices that set us apart, strip away our own prejudices and fears, we find that we all have the same aspirations – to love and be loved, to be safe and secure, to be respected, and to be free to develop to the best of our abilities.
Diversity helps to break down barriers. It allows us to move beyond a “them versus us” mentality. And it enriches our lives. When we recognize the similarities in our basic desires and respect our differences, perhaps this will bring an end to so much suffering in the world; maybe than we can truly celebrate life.