One of the best things that happened to me was when I switched school districts going from Elementary to Jr. High School. I was now in a more diverse environment with kids from many different backgrounds. This gave me the opportunity to hang around and be with other students who did not look, act, or think like me. This helped to shape and mold me into the person that I am today. For the most part, I can have a conversation with just about any and every one. You see, I understand that there are differences between all of us. But at the end of the day, we are all people. We all share the same basic needs and for the most part, desire the same things. It is a beautiful thing when we can just come together and enjoy each other’s company. We help to make each other better. I have a very diverse group of friends and acquaintances from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. I absolutely love it. Unfortunately, everyone does not share the same experiences that I do. I’m about to let you in on a very harsh truth.
Diversity is a choice. If all of your friends look like you, that’s a choice you made. If the only people you spend time or come in contact with only look like you, that’s on you. You may not realize it, but you’re living your life in a bubble. You are staying within that bubble which is also known as your comfort zone. The solution is very simple. If you want different results, do something different. It is foolish to think that you’re going to get authentic Mexican food at an Italian restaurant. If you want Mexican food, then go to a Mexican restaurant. If you truly want friends with different ethnic background and nationalities, then you must make the change and start going to different places. You must get involved in activities that include different groups of people. Partner with organizations and people you haven’t partnered with before. Diversity takes effort. I understand that there are people who only want to be around people who look, think, act, and believe like them. I live in America and they have the right to be ignorant. If you say that you want to be around a more diverse group of people but yet you are not willing to make any changes or put forth the effort to make it happen, then what makes you different from them? At least they are honest with themselves.
To make friends, you must be a friend. There is a time to speak and a time to listen. Remember, having different backgrounds mean having different experiences. There are things that happen in other cultures that have not happened to me. We can watch the same movie, have two completely different experiences, and both would be correct. You may have grown up and experienced life a certain way while others have experienced things differently. One of the absolute worse things that you can do is brush their experience aside. Learn to listen and empathize. Different cultures have different experiences and will have to do things differently. Let me give you an example. My daughter is biracial (my wife, Amy is white). She absolutely loves spending time and playing with her cousins here. I know that I am going to have a different conversation with my daughter than her cousin’s parents will have with them in regards of what to do if/when she is stopped by law enforcement. And also, that conversation will happen at a much younger age. Should it be this way, nope. That’s just the reality of how things are. I’m going to say this once more; different cultures have different experiences. If you truly want to have friends from various backgrounds, then you must learn to listen and empathize. If you cannot do those two things, then you are basically wasting your time.
Amy is an amazing woman (hence why I married her) and has been phenomenal in this area. We have had a lot of conversations over the years about events that have happened between now and 2013. She understands why I do certain things or why I will not even put myself in certain situations or environments. Even though she will never know what it’s like to be me, she has made the choice to listen and empathize with me. She has made the adjustments and I am very grateful for that. Amy can now see things in a way that a lot of her friends and family cannot. This does not make them bad people. They just don’t have to look at things through the same lens that she does. Amy now has the ability to help them see things from a different perspective when it comes to certain issues if they will choose to listen.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, diversity is a choice. You make the choice to either have a diverse group of friends or to only be around people who look like you. The true reflection of who you want to be around is shown through your children, but that’s another conversation for a different day. This world is too big to stay inside your small bubble. Get out and make new friends. There is so much that we can learn from each other. Be willing to put forth the effort and make it happen. And remember, the only reason you do not have friends and acquaintances from different ethnic backgrounds is because you have made the choice not to. The power is in your hands. The next move is on you.