I attended a powerful day of learning and thinking this week at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Social Justice Saturday. Presenters discussed the state of our country (and world) and provided opportunities for conversations about issues of social justice and how we might think about these issues with each other and with our students. During one session, I listened to Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney talk about their books and their response to how we might become a more just society. Andrea shared a letter she had written to Diversity, and challenged us to write our own, so here we go:
I want desperately to embrace you, believe in you and be guided by you. I try every day to be open minded, to celebrate differences, and to work to find common ground whenever and wherever possible. I like difference. Difference and variety are what make our world beautiful and interesting. I dream of the day when people of all faiths and genders and religions and political parties can come to a place where we can have conversations, try to understand different points of view and lifestyles, and help each other grow toward a new understanding of the world. I don’t expect (or want) everyone to believe the same thing or live the same way or try to be like everyone else. Diversity is beautiful and healthy and necessary.
But, Diversity, I have to admit, you are complicated. I’m not always sure what terms to use when I’m talking about you. Is it acceptable to use the word queer (when you are straight), or is gay a more appropriate term? Is it OK to refer to an Asian person as Oriental, or does that term refer to a rug? Can I ask a person of a race different from my own how they feel about certain comments or situations, or is that already regarding that person as different? Is it racist to refer to someone in a crowd as, “that Asian woman over there.” when I almost never refer to someone as “that white man on the other side of the room” Can I have hard conversations with people about race and gender and politics without it becoming charged? Am I doing enough to change the world for the better in terms of diversity? What else might I do? How might I do it?
Diversity, you are appealing. I definitely love you. I suppose though, like in any relationship, I still have a lot of work to do. I hope we can continue to be together, to understand each other, and to work together to make the world a just place for everyone.