Diversity. What’s the first thing you think of? A group of people of different ethnicities and colors, of all different sizes and varying types of hair? But what do you really know about their backgrounds?
When people say something is “diverse”, they think of everything mentioned above, but do they actually think about what’s behind all those different faces? Is diversity defined by people’s physical attributes or by something more? To me, diversity is background. Diversity is in the roots, the celebrations.
Take, for example, Diwali. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights that prefaces the Indian New Year; it is a celebration that triumphs good over evil. During this time, Hindus will light “deepaks” or lamps and line the pathway with them to bathe their home in light and ward off any darkness. Diwali has five days, each of which represents a different event and comes with its own set of rituals.
As a broke college student, I don’t have much to celebrate Diwali with, so I improvised. Outside my door, you’ll find two plastic, flameless candles in makeshift miniature clay pots as my deepaks.
Yet, as people walk by my room, they stare at the lights as if they are Halloween decorations; not realizing the significance of the deepak is to illuminate the path to a good New Year and welcome people into my home. Likewise, when people put up lights around their house in an effort to commemorate this festival, people assume they are early Christmas decorations rather than celebration of their own festivities.
With that being said, it’s not necessary to know each and every detail about other cultures. However, diversity should not be limited to just the outside appearance. It should also include a general understanding of their culture and what they believe in.
Nowadays people have made diversity seem like something ordinary, part of which could also be attributed to places like college campuses constantly stating “We’re diverse!” and “Check out all our diversity.”
Diversity isn’t ordinary, and it isn’t even extraordinary. Diversity is something you experience, not just what you see. It’s what you eat, what you hear, what you breathe. Diversity is deep, so don’t just dip your toes in; dive. Dive into the stories of people’s historical pasts, their ancestry. Even your own.