What is Diversity?

Simply stated… the word “diversity” speaks to issues of “difference” or the desire for these differences to create “variety”. This can happen amongst race, religion, food… you name it.

Have you ever tried to define the word “diversity”? I have… I had the brilliant idea of simply stating “diversity” means “different”. I was wrong. Not technically wrong but wrong to assume that the word “diversity” can be easily defined. That word cannot be easily defined because there is a lot of thoughts that surround other issues of diversity.

For instance, I pulled this quote on the definition of diversity from Queensborough College in Bayside, New York:

“It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.”

You can read the rest here.

Really? Has the word “diversity” come to mean so much? As a people in the United States we cannot even talk about the issues surrounding diversity due to an intense sensitivity (born out of real pain). The word itself has become entwined with the pain people have experienced in the workplace, at home and at school etc. Therefore the conversation around diversity needs to address pain.

The is the question to ask…

“As a person, part of this diverse world, where have you experienced pain as a result of being different?”

That is the key question. That is the conversation starter. That is the place where you will find breakthrough in your discussion. The reason is simple.

  1. From the onset you are helping people see that you empathize with their experience.
  2. You are validating the fact that this person has had an experience, whether or not you can relate.
  3. You have identified and valued their uniqueness and experience simultaneously as worthy of hearing.
  4. Most important, you have taken the risk and invited someone into a conversation that has substantive value.

Take time to practice the art of inviting diverse people into diverse conversations about our diverse experience in our diverse world. It will enrich your life and give you a new vernacular.

Leave a Comment