I went back to my undergraduate alma mater this past week, in order to serve on a panel focused on workplace diversity. I certainly understood why I was asked to participate, since diversity was actually in my previous job title. And, I certainly believe that diversity within the workplace is beneficial.
Yet, I just finished reading Kathleen Parker's op-ed in the Washington Post a bit ago, and I have to say that my initial reaction was to be bothered by her comments. Terms like "social engineering" usually come across to me like excuses white folks can make for not wanting to interact with "others." And, I will admit that I will render judgment as quickly as Judge Judy.
That is not useful.
I have come to the conclusion that I simply want to have diversity in my world. It is a lifestyle choice I made a long time ago. I feel like my life has been enriched, because my network really is a rainbow coalition of folks. I am interested in learning about things beyond what I know. I am curious about other cultures (though I need to be a better traveler, because my adult intercultural experiences have all been here in the United States, and that is not enough).
I love the fact that my neighborhood here in Washington, Logan Circle, is indeed diverse. People of all sorts of backgrounds do indeed interact (in good ways and bad) with one another. It feels like a place where I can be myself without judgment or criticism.
However, I have to remember that there are others who have no desire for that level of diversity, particularly outside of the workplace. People often talk about whites wanting to live in homogeneous communities, but that ignores the large number of blacks, for example, who seek homogeneity as well. Prince George's County, MD is where many black folk with money elect to reside. There are people with pre-conceived images of blacks who would be gobsmacked to see the wealthy black enclaves of Mitchellville and Tantallon. Just like whites in Northern Virginia who are in solidly white wealthy communities, so too are these black folks.
Perhaps there needs to be a recognition of diversity within this context as well. Some people really do want to live among people who look just like them. And as long as there is not a concerted effort to prevent anyone, regardless of who he/she is, from moving into that community, then there is no reason necessarily to judge. I want to live among a wide variety of people. I want to see the world as I walk around my neighborhood, and I do. I love it. I would be miserable in a homogeneous community. And it's that perspective that I have to remember when it comes to the way others choose to live.
To truly believe in diversity means accepting difference. Kathleen Parker helped me to see that a little more clearly today.