Monday, May 24, 2010

Living Together; the world of diversity

Last night I watched the end of the series "Lost." In the 2 hours before the real show, during the look-back, comments were made about how the show had different cultures within it, and how part of the show was on how these different cultures could live together.

Then today I was on a seemingly eternal drive home from the doctor, listening to "Talk of the Nation" on National Public Radio. They were talking about new legislation in Arizona concerning ethnic studies. As I continued to drive, I grew more and more irritated with what seemed a lack of knowledge surrounding diversity. There are history classes and ethnic studies classes and many feel the 2 should somehow be combined. I think we have come so far and now seem to be going back.

One argument either for or against ethnic studies is focus on discrimination. It's the opinion of some that to end discrimination, we should include different ethnicities in general history. Some feel that white Europpeans don't get represented in ethnic studies.

Stop. I'm the daughter of 2 history professors. Europpean history falls within history departments. Others were arguing we don't talk about Italians or other Europpeans, and those within the US. My mom was an immigration historian. She taught about Latin American history, but did a ton of research on Italian immigrants, specifically those living in Denver. I remember trips we would take to Denver where she would interview immigrants, most of whom were elderly. That's just my mom. There's a ton of work on Europpeans - everyone missed out on the dinner parties my parents had when we were kids! And they also missed out on visiting battlefields within the US. Note: my parents' kids all dodged history and went into math and science!

Back to ethnicity - if there had not been discrimination, I suppose we wouldn't need ethnic studies. But we still have discrimination, and we have disparities. I work in healthcare and know the disparities are there. We have developed a series of award-winning videos to address disparities of different groups. Through studies, we know certain ethnicities are at higher risk for different diseases, that their outcomes are worse once they get these diseases. Efforts to reach different populations must differ, and of course, you can't assume everyone falls into the same bucket.

From ethnicity, we get to other groups - of course, people with disabilities. Outreach to this culture is generally different. People with various disabilities are at greater risk for certain diseases. Similar scenerio to different ethnicities.

If we go back to legislation getting rid of efforts which strive for inclusion, we go back to exclusion. We close the door to other groups. I heard an interview on NPR with a guy who seemed against elevators. People with wheelchairs are fine on the first level. Discrimination exists. Disparities exist. We can't throw them with everything else and assume they will be addressed, because they won't.

What I find interesting is to consider who was in the Bible - did it focus on the majority groups, those who were just fine? No - much focus is on the marginalized. Jesus focused on the marginalized, or those who weren't exactly the same as others. We are supposed to learn from that. Have we? Did we? Are we going backward? Can we start moving forward again?

Where I work - a place where diversity is highly valued. If times change, will this change, not just where I work, but where other companies place so much effort?

Inclusion. So important. We must learn to live together.


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