Have you been the person who looked different than or was perceived differently from everyone else? I have, multiple times. I have been the only Latina in a predominantly white high school class. I have been one of only two non-black students in a predominantly black elementary school classroom. I have been the only bilingual student in a Spanish-language elementary school classroom in Puerto Rico who, surrounded by kids who looked like me, ate lunch by herself, uninvited to join them because they thought I sounded different or was simply the new kid. I have been the only American and foreigner in a workplace abroad. I have been the only woman on a work team of all men.
Have you been the person who thought differently than everyone else? That’s harder to answer. How do we really know? We only know what people say. I have been the adult in a room hearing people assume I must think a certain way because I’m a woman, or Latina, or American. And I’ve thought, just as our individual experiences cannot be taken as representative of an entire gender, culture or race, neither can we attribute a single or correct way of thinking to an entire group of people. There are so many factors that contribute to our views and our thoughts. Yes, our outsides are definitely factors, but so too are our individual experiences.
Diversity is not just our outsides.
I recently heard Ellen DeGeneres say:
“I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different . . . Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
This is another aspect of inclusion.
Nowadays, most of us would agree that we should strive to be kind to everyone, not just those that look like us, but everyone, at least from a diversity perspective. There doesn’t seem to be such agreement when it comes to those that think differently from us. What I’m talking about isn’t changing your views, endorsing someone else’s views or opinions that differ from yours or even acknowledging their points as valid. I’m talking about basic kindness. I’m talking about sharing company with those that hold different views, even having friendships with them but at the very least, understanding that we only see the surface, and we only hear what’s spoken.
Let’s not be so quick to judge why someone else might think differently.
Looking back on my childhood experiences, I appreciate those who showed me kindness when I was the new kid or the different one. I am sad for those who didn’t or weren’t taught how to be kind to someone who seemed different. As an adult, I urge us all to try harder.
- I will be posting a survey on this topic very soon. Please follow me here or on social media to stay up-to-date on surveys and results!