Living with Diversity – Part II of II

No Longer a Matter of Choice

By Jorge D. H. Prosperi 2019

Diversity is no longer a matter of choice or hiding in the shadows. It is mainstream USA. It is ever present whether we know it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not, vote for it or not.

Perhaps the questions that our grandchildren have already answered are left only for us to ponder.

  • How do we become comfortable with Diversity?
  • How do we deal with the depth and breadth of differences and otherness that does not reflect our image and identity?
  • How do we work through the imprinted hesitation, angst and discomfort when Diversity approaches or surrounds our personal constructed identity and marketed fears?

Such questions are easy to pose, extremely difficult to answer. But perhaps we can approach some possibilities:

– Maybe the first step is to watch/observe difference and otherness without judging – easy to say – tough to do.
– Take a respite from watching MSNBC, FOX NEWS, CNN, NPR. Change the dial on Howard and/or Rush for a few days. Agree to stop Breaking News from breaking us into little pieces. Dial down the ‘marketed’ social anxiety and stress that hovers over us.
– Take a brief vacation (a Friday through Monday) from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I triple dare you! Let your mind, heart and spirit speak directly to you without interference. Hear your voice resonate in surround sound. Let your family and friends know that you are going cold-turkey. Not to worry – you will receive a call in case of an emergency.
– Reexamine objectively your family tree regarding family attitudes, biases, language on race, gender, people of color, sexual orientations, immigrants, political persuasions. What role – what influence did your family play in establishing your current socio-cultural- political beliefs, views and ideology?
– What part did school, locality, region, colleagues, job, affiliations play in creating beliefs and dispositions about others? Keep in mind that -isms and phobias have psychological pathologies. They are learned, can be diagnosed and cured.
– Who was/is stoking fear, doubt and anxieties about Diversity currently and then ask why?
– Make a point of avoiding toxic negativity. Learn to identify the language of negativity, cynicism and pessimism. It is wise to be an astute benevolent skeptic, but toxic negativity and cynicism differs. Negativity does not replenish but drains mind, heart and spirit. Negativity and divisiveness are vortexes that consume resulting in paranoia, feelings of persecution, anxiety, stress, bitterness and depression.
– Become aware when human beings, not only notice each other, but validate each other in positive ways.
– Don’t take random acts of kindness for granted. The randomness can become a positive infectious habit. Initiate and return a smile. It’s amazing what one smile does . . . and upon smiling – don’t just show teeth – mean it with authenticity!
– Consider giving, contributing, donating with no strings attached without self-serving or self-absorbed agendas.
– Explore defining Citizenship beyond dogmatic labels of Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Independent, Egalitarian, Rural, Suburban, Urban. Rather associate the term Citizenship with selflessness and collaborations with others to enhance the “Quality of Life” and “Greater Good” for all people and the planet without exceptions.
– Watch and hear children interact and play. They tend to reach out to each other. Learn from the children. Listen to them. What do you hear while watching – noise or music?
–Lean into the discomfort of clarifying initial thoughts, words and reactions that surface upon seeing diversity, noticing a family dressed differently, speaking a language other than English. What do you feel when diversity is up close and personal? What are the actual words that surface? What are the feelings behind the words?
– When listening to politicians, ask whether their language, actions, policies and behavior profess and promote collaboration or obstructionism – inclusivity or exclusivity. Are they asking us to divide or unite? Do they acknowledge the rule of law? Are they transparent and honest? What is their view of America – a positive or a negative perspective of the future? Do they leave you with hope or despair for you and the children?
– Prioritize personal health in all ways and means. Exercise, monitor nutrition, enhance life style habits, take/make time to release our natural endorphins.
– Enrich life through the arts – movies, plays, musicals, concerts, art galleries, travel, books, writing, painting . . . find your passion and keep it in balance while enhancing the quality of life. Find the time, – make the time to exhale from daily chores and nourish the spirit.

Dealing – living with Diversity can be excruciatingly difficult, frustrating and a daily challenge.

Racism, sexism and all of other social pathologies have been normalized – on a personal and institutional basis. Our best efforts and intentions are not helped by those preaching divisiveness based on constructed – isms and phobias that were socially and culturally imprinted long ago. The objective is to create and maintain power and control. Hundreds of years of imprinting and re-imprinting via a socially constructed curriculum has taken its toll on the human condition.

What is the cost of divisiveness? History teaches us that it causes social chaos, isolation, obstruction, trauma, anxiety, stress to name a few. More serious is when fear and hate result in growing numbers of “hate crimes via domestic terrorism” leaving innocent victims with only “thoughts and prayers.” The horror of fear and hate shake the very foundations of our core as human beings.

We know the drill quite well by now – we hear the BREAKING NEWS, we shockingly pause and ask, “Again?! Oh no, not again!” . . . we learn of hateful motivations, we identify the common AR-15, AK- 47 military war-weapons and unlimited rounds of destruction, victims are identified by names and ages, we are left empty hearing that some victims are infants, first responders are thanked, some flags get lowered – not all, politicians do a photo-op-fly-by making right-left wing political speeches, mental health rather than “guns” is said to be the villain, a new anti-violence organization is formed by loved ones, 93% of American families scream “enough is enough”, night vigils surround make-shift memorials with teddy bears- candles-flowers, the NRA scares-threatens-greases campaign pockets, legislation is buried along with the bodies, local gun shows and the internet advertise the next round of unlimited gun sales, brown, black and yellow skinned citizens are AGAIN put on notice as to their tentative equal but separate presence . . . America moves on . . . except for the families of victims that are traumatized for generations . . . needlessly.

Not a healthy civil picture for a society that considers itself to be exceptionally
Righteous, Exemplary, Exceptional – the ‘Light of the world’ worthy of respect. A nation that often asks . . .
“What would Jesus do?”

We need to try much harder beyond political and/or religious slogans.
We must respond to what the 21st Century is requiring
of all children and grandchildren around the world . . .

PRO-ACTIVE CHANGE, IMAGINATION, CREATIVITY,
COLLABORATION, CRITICAL THINKING,
A FOCUS ON THE QUALITY OF LIFE
OF ALL PEOPLE AND EARTH

So is there hope? Absolutely! The answers have always – ALWAYS been there – observably ever present. It is called Citizenship requiring courage with ongoing nurturing and mentoring. Requiring our undivided daily attention and an appreciation for its presence – the same way  we feel about the venerated presence of our children and grandchildren.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16 years old, spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, September 23, 2019. The world was watching and listening.

“People are suffering. People are dying and dying ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” she said Monday, as she fought back tears. “How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

America has entered the 21st Century. Yes, it seems at times as if at a snail’s pace. But we are moving forward with our children in hand and on our shoulders. They are pointing the way, and perhaps for once . . . with hope, love and courage . . . we need to follow.