Defining comfortable diversity
How do you define diversity? The term “diversity” often carries with it additional concepts and concerns such as inclusion. This means we talk about diversity & inclusion. It is quite common to link social justice with diversity in a discussion. If you will allow me, I wish to focus most of our learning together on diversity and what internal and developmental processes lead a person to being inclusive.
For me, the simplest definition of diversity is difference. We have diversity in the world and in our lives because of differences. This course is not about social justice and society’s institutional responses to difference. Rather this course addresses the ways we as individuals see differences. This course is about our own individual, internalized process of interpreting differences. What meaning do we make when we encounter differences or diversity? This is a very complicated process.
Because it is complex, I like the Diversity Wheel from Johns Hopkins University. This wheel helps me see the many ways others are different from me. The Diversity Wheel from Johns Hopkins includes the following types of diversities: age, gender identity or expression, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, mental and physical ability, race and ethnicity, education, political beliefs, family, organization role, language and communication skills, income, religion, appearance, and work experience.
This diversity wheel shows me there are some differences I can easily see. Some diversity is visible. I can usually see differences in race. I can see differences in skin color or configuration of the eyes. I can see differences in facial features. An elderly person looks different from a child. A person’s dress may suggest diversity in religion, but not always. Some diversity is not visible. Sometimes religion is not visible. Gender may or may not be easily seen or discerned. Education is not easily seen.
What is it about human beings that we seem very comfortable with other people who are like us? Some of us are naturally more comfortable with diverse others. Some of us learn to be comfortable with diversity. When we encounter a person of difference, what meaning do we subscribe to the difference? How do we interpret a different race, age, gender, religion, income, political belief, or appearance from ourselves? When and how did we develop these interpretations and evaluations of these differences? What do we tell ourselves perhaps with no awareness? When and where did we obtain our meaning-making of differences and diversity?
Your assignment for this step is to study the Diversity Wheel and reflect on a specific type of diversity that is very comfortable for you. List a few reasons why this type of difference is not difficult for you.
After completing this reflection and assignment, please click on the comment button and share your reflection and results of this assignment. After sharing your results, please comment on the reflections of two to three other learners.