The “D” word.
In our society, it seems to have become more repugnant than classic four-letter words or at least just as disquieting. And a lot of people think that it has nothing to do with them, that it is somebody else’s problem to wrestle with. It isn’t. It’s everybody’s, whether you are white, black, Asian, Asian American, Latino, Latino American, etc.
I am talking about Diversity (with a capital “D”), the “D” word that often causes people to look away. Don’t. Don’t mumble that it doesn’t have anything to do with you or with the ethnic group to which you think you belong. Don’t panic and think it means fewer toys for you. Don’t check out mentally, especially when the United States is poised to become a majority people-of-color nation in about thirty years. We cannot turn the other cheek or we may end up with a very bruised (at least psychologically) “cheek.” The wisest thing to do is to think about how you personally can create greater inclusivity in your lives – not just of people of different ethnic groups, genders, or sexualities, but any area of growth that leads you to a more non-judgmental, free-thinking, accepting frame of mind.
Since the “D” word is at its most detestable when it refers to ethnic equity and inclusion, let’s go right there.
When most people think of the D word, they think it is something that only white European Americans must sort out. As a person of several ethnicities of color, I can tell you that that is far from the challenging truth, especially in the United States where the U.S. government periodically constructs what the races are. While many are aware that these races are governmental constructions, they also lean on these constructions to frame themselves as monoracial groups such as Hispanic Whites or Asian Americans. These groups, perhaps more than others, need to sort out the big D – indeed, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, African Americans, and Native American Indians have a whole lot of sorting out to do. Putting aside the fact that race is a construction, I will discuss it here in the perspective of governmentally defined races of the U.S. federal government. Because no matter how or where you walk in the U.S., you hit that curb.
No race is monolithic. Nothing is simply black or white. Yuji Ichioka created the term Asian American and today often the term is expanded to Asian Pacific American as that identity embraces the Pacific Asian Diasporas. What shall the term become as South Asian, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern Asian, Central Asian, and West Asian Diasporas are integrated into that embrace? Then there is Whiteness to consider. And Blackness. And Latino ethnicities. And Native American Indians. Someone recently told me that the U.S. federal government has decided that Turkish people are now white and not Asian. It seems inappropriate for a governmental body to decide on construction and/or identification of race. Nonetheless, no race is monolithic and it would behoove the races to consider this reality when they start to eschew the same racial stereotypes as the white majority.
Each of these U.S.-government perceived racial groups seems to think that they are not monolithic, but that other groups are. For example, some Asian Americans uphold the ethnic variety of Asian American identity, but perceive Blackness to be monolithic. Some African Americans have the same view of Asian Americans and some white European Americans have this view of various groups of color in general.
As a person of blended heritages, I find this narrow perspective to be repulsive. Asian ethnicity can be Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Filipino, mixed heritage, Thai, and many other ethnicities, each of which is completely distinct from the other. Blackness can be of the U.S., Ethiopian, Nigerian, mixed heritage, Jamaican, and many other distinct ethnicities. What one thinks of as Latino can be Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, mixed heritage, and other distinct ethnicities. Whiteness, too, can be English, Irish, or what Benjamin Franklin used to call “black,” such as Serbians and Germans (see how the government can construct race). Too often we paint what we perceive to be a certain kind of human being with a broad brush — just fill in the blanks: Black people are_______. White people are_______. Asian people are_______. And it is not confined to race: Old people are_______. Teenagers are _______. Gay people are_______. Christians are_______. And so on and so forth. These blanks are usually filled with some kind of stereotypical view of the group in question.
The concept of human diversity is a challenge for everybody. When it comes to race and ethnicity, it is an issue for everybody — the three R’s and the one D. For example, self-perceived monoracial people of color who perceive themselves to be monoethnic need to come to terms with the fact that mixed ethnic people – and numerous other ethnicities – are a part of their Diasporas. For Japanese Americans — who are poised to become the first Asian American group that is majority mixed race – the need to sort out diversity is even more critical.
Diversity is the reality; being equitable and inclusive is the pathway to coming to terms with diversity before irrelevancy erases one’s imprint in society and perhaps erases it even with regard to people you care about, like your children.
Recently, I spoke with an African American woman whose sons have married non-Blacks; one married a white female and one married a Mexican American female. A white family that is friends with my husband discovered that their daughter has a new boyfriend who is African American. I know several individuals who have one white parent and one Latino American parent. At a Japanese grocery store today, I saw two couples that consisted of an African American man and a Japanese woman, and another couple that consisted of a Japanese man and an Iranian woman. Communities of color are changing. We must educate ourselves toward the future. Hopefully, self-perceived monoracial communities will evolve, embracing the understanding that their own ranks are becoming diversified via interracial unions that bear mixed heritage children and also via transracial adoptions.
It is uncomfortable for many to talk about Diversity. It seems, as a topic, to linger in such categories as the bathroom, dirty dishes in the sink, or dog feces in the backyard. But it is there. More than the elephant in the room. It will not go away regardless of who sits in the U.S. oval office.
1 – Lapowsky, Issie. “On Equal Pay Day, Let’s Discuss How Equity Would Help Everybody.” Web. www.wired.com. April 12, 2016, Retrieved on September 18, 2017 @ https://www.wired.com/2016/04/equal-pay-day-lets-discuss-equity-help-everybody/
2 – Martin, Florian. “Report: Houston Lags Behind Nation In Corporate Leadership Diversity: Hispanics are especially underrepresented.” Web. www.houstonpublicmedia.org. September 21, 2016, Retrieved on September 18, 2017 @ https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2016/09/21/169118/report-houston-lags-behind-nation-in-corporate-leadership-diversity/
3 – “VOICE OF REASON: The Mark Weber Report: Why Diversity Is Not A `Strength,’ And Why Some Countries Are Better Off Than Others.” Retrieved on June 20, 2012 @ http://reasonradionetwork.com/20120620/the-mark-weber-report-why-diversity-is-not-a-strength-and-why-some-countries-are-better-off-than-others
4 – Hudson, Dale, “Why Diversity Should Matter in Your Children’s Ministry.” Relevant Children’s Ministry, February 2015. Web. www.relevantchildrensministry.com. Retrieved on September 19, 2017 @ http://www.relevantchildrensministry.com/2015/02/why-diversity-should-matter-in-your.html.