What living in the sticks taught me about diversity

Posted on January 15, 2009. Filed under: American culture, diversity |

When people find out where I live, they always ask, “Do you have any clients up there? It doesn’t seem like a very diverse area.” Well, it’s not, and the overwhelming majority of my clients are out of area. Like many parents, we moved to the country for our kids–better schools, safer neighborhoods. After spending most of my adult life in Brooklyn, NY, country living was a huge culture shock. Which I should have been prepared for, right? After all, I’m an intercultural trainer.

My community is mostly Christian/Republican and I am neither. For the first few years, it really annoyed me–I was constantly reminded of my outsider status. When my kindergartener came home from a friend’s birthday party with a What Would Jesus Do party favor mug, I started to rethink the whole move.

Then something unexpected happened. I started to get to know the people as individuals, and not as a category. And what did I learn? That in any group there are all kinds of people. There are people whom I disagree with on a fundamental level, who are still great parents, kind, generous and helpful to their community. I learned that Jesus had a great message, and offers a powerful way to lead your life.

Mostly what I learned, is that embracing diversity includes not just appreciating different ethnicities but different ideologies as well. Moreover, diversity includes not only the exotic and unique, but the mainstream and homogenous as well. These too, are parts of the diversity spectrum.

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One Response to “What living in the sticks taught me about diversity”

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I agree totally, Lauren.

To me, embracing diversity really means embracing individuals, warts and all (just like mine). Growing up in the south, and living abroad, I have found a few (only a relative few, really) folks whose attitudes about certain people and politics was repulsive to me. However, those same people also were often very likable, and very knowledgeable, in other ways, once I got to know them.

It is unfortunate that they were quick to judge other groups of people in the same way that, well, that I was ready to judge them.

Group categorization is probably an evolutionary survival mechanism of some sort, but it can be damned destructive in the modern world.

This really is, in my opinion, one of the fundamental challenges for intercultural understanding.


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