When we tell a person that they should not focus on the things that make them different or unique we are subconsciously telling them that these things are wrong. More so, we are also denying the person the right to their own personal identities in the name of solidarity. Requesting that people deny the many different attributes that make them who they are is not the ONLY way in which we as people will be able to come together. Furthermore, this idea is mostly perpetrated by individuals who would like to cover up racism and discrimination by claiming that “we are all the same”. These individuals tend to experience some form of privilege within society enabling them to impose their world-view in an arrogant and discriminatory way. When a person’s different attributes affect the ways in which they are treated in society everyday it is unacceptable for others who cannot relate to this experience to then dictate the ways in which they should look at and treat these differences. People should not have to keep silent or deny their reality because it may cause hostility or cause others to become uncomfortable; it forms part of who they are. If we TRULY desire betterment and change then these conversations must be had on a large scale wherever necessary despite the many emotions that may arise from them.
Countries in the west such as the UK like to constantly throw around the word ‘diversity’- but what does it really mean? Educator and activist Jane Elliott once said, “We live in different realities. When you deny what a person is going through you’re denying their reality. We are as different on the inside as we are on the outside and we have the RIGHT to be so. People, don’t deny differences. Accept them, appreciate them, recognize them and cherish them. They are extremely important”. Her statement shows the essence of what true diversity is. It is not acting as if you don’t see colour (which is a very intelligent way to ignore race issues by the way) or gender or culture but it is actually acknowledging that we as human beings are different in many ways and this is perfectly ok. We do not have to change our differences to promote harmony, we must change the way we LOOK at differences to promote harmony. Many a time, people who do not fit ‘the standard’ are accused of challenging societal norms and are consequently seen as a threat to a system founded upon all forms of discrimination. People are told to shave their beards, tame their unruly afros, take off their headscarves and speak in a certain way all of which reinforce the idea that we cannot be who we are if we want to be a part of a well functioning society. A society that truly values diversity will benefit from richness in terms of cultures, ideas, opinions and can teach the individuals of that society to be more tolerant of lifestyles that are different from our own. We learn to co-exist with others which can help to reduce mistrust, stereotypes as well as racism and discrimination. A truly diverse society also promotes education, and we know that by educating people we are actively removing them from ignorance.
At the JAN Trust we value the concept of diversity and encourage all of our service users to be proud of all the things that make them different and unique. In our centre, we provide an environment in which women are able to express themselves freely and speak about the issues and barriers they face when trying to integrate into British society. We believe that people should be seen as who THEY are and not in the ways we might feel is best. We do not have to be a monolith to get along.
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