As Unity Week comes to a close, I am reflecting on its purpose and what diversity really means. In our modern times, diversity has become a game of counting, where an equal number of different groups of people in a room can simply give that room the label “diverse.” But is this method the most effective way to make progress? Though representation is extremely important and should not be forgotten, I believe that the true essence of a diverse and inclusive America is diversity of thought.
Forbes.com defines diversity of thought as “the idea that people in a group don’t need to look different or identify with an underrepresented group in order to bring varying, diverse viewpoints to the table.” To me, this makes our society even more complex and inclusive as we look past the exterior of what diversity can be. We must allow ourselves to open our minds to all ideas. This will not only make our community more diverse but will also make the individual a more understanding and layered person. We cannot turn away when we hear certain phrases that we disagree with or “trigger” us and then, in turn, do everything we can to shut them out. By doing this, we create an only surface level of diversity based on appearance.
Disagreement and debate are pillars of American culture. When we hear something we disagree with, we must not cover our ears, run away, and label said person with one of the many “-ist” terms, but rather we should listen to them. It is vital that you hear them out, understand their point of view, and then debate them with what you believe. No one can be diverse if we push out some ideas and enforce the belief in others. Civil rights activist Mahatma Gandhi once said, “honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” Furthermore, a community composed of only one accepted set of ideals is not learning or growing. We will be stalled forever if we continue to filter based on what we believe is right. An open mind is the only way to gain a more nuanced and informed understanding of what we thought we already knew. How can you learn from people who have the exact same thoughts as you do? There is nothing to learn and no progress to gain, simply a confirmation that someone else shares the belief. Poet Walt Whitman once said, “Have you not learned the most in your life from those with whom you disagreed – those who saw it differently from you?”
My hope for the future of Unity Week and Horace Mann as a whole is that we continue to progress with not only a representational diversity but a diversity of thought. Together, we must learn, include, and accept the ideas and beliefs of everyone to become a stronger and truly diverse community.