Reflections on Diversity
Thanks to all of the CRMers and everyone that turned out at Sunday's Diversity Dialogues. We had a great crowd and generated some lively discussion of issues that really matter to Arlingtonians.
Kojo kicked things off and his pointed questions and willingness to bring up potentially divisive issues really helped the dialogue get to a deeper level. This last dialogue was much better than the first one in my opinion.
Here's an example - at the first one everyone wanted to talk about the importance of diversity, the efforts they made to be diverse and pat everyone else on the back. At this one, a white woman in my group started out that way. She explained that she had moved her children to a more diverse school, had made significant efforts to meet people from different cultures and was basically trying real hard to be open minded and inclusive.
... But then she opened up and admitted to us that when she was bike commuting once, she was locking up her bike and a black man approached her and asked if he could ask her a question. She was startled and afraid and told him to back off and that she was going to call security. He explained that he was security, he was just in between shifts (in casual clothes).
She of course apologized profusely and talked to him for awhile after that. He was not very fazed, saying that it had happened before.
That's the truth of the situation. Even with the best laid plans and intentions we still have underlying prejudices and sometimes crippling stereotypes.
I spent the rest of the dialogue asking people from all ethnicities how we can undo these prejudices since it is clear that our superficial efforts are not working.
Here are two observations / suggestions that were shared with me:
1. Tolerance is not acceptance. Tolerance is not enough because you are just allowing someone else to live their life even though you disagree with them or even hate them. We need to work to move beyond mere tolerance.
2. Prejudice thrives in ignorance. We will not be an inclusive community unless neighbors get to know neighbors. Introduce yourself, smile, invite someone over for a meal.
Not able to attend? Go to the Diversity Dialogues website for more information about the Task Force and ways to contribute your ideas.