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November 21, 2008

Diversity!

Multiracialchildren_2

When I hear the word diversity, I automatically think of racial and cultural diversity.  I didn't grow up in a very diverse environment.  In fact, the population in my hometown in southern Virginia when I was growing up was probably about 98% white.  I cannot remember an Asian student in my class.  I recall one Indian and a handful of African Americans.  My friends all looked like me and talked like me and dressed like me.  Or I dressed like them.  That's probably the more accurate assessment.

When I left home to go to college in New England, nothing much changed.  I would describe the student body of my small Christian college as very similar to my public high school in southern Virginia.  Except the pickup-to-Saab ratio changed dramatically when I ventured north of the Mason Dixon line.

I haven't even travelled outside the continental United States unless you count the day we crossed over into Tijuana while we were visiting California.  Okay, and there was that cruise to the Bahamas when I graduated high school.  Suffice it to say, I believe I missed out on the richness of having a diverse environment.  My world was rather flat.

Since getting married and moving to Philadelphia, I have developed close friends of different races and cultures.  Even in our very small church, there is a variety of cultures represented.  This has opened all sorts of interesting conversations.  I have gained insight into what it is like to live in America as a Korean-American, African-American, Indian, Filipino, and others.  I knew that African Americans suffer discrimination, but I was unaware how much people of other nationalities find themselves the objects of discrimination as well.  I realize how much I take for granted my privileged existence. 

I am pleased that my children have the benefit of growing up in a more diverse environment than I did.  My kids have friends with dark skin and light skin and medium skin.  Sometimes they ask why so-and-so has brown skin, and we take that opportunity to explain that God made all different colors and they are all beautiful. 

We are friends with several families who have combined two different cultures through marriage and/or adoption.  Growing up, I would have been scandalized.  I am so glad my children are growing up knowing these families, and that it never occurs to them to be scandalized.  In fact, they don't even notice.  It's not unusual to them at all.

I am pleased to say that my older children have expressed surprise that their darker-skinned friends would be treated any differently than they.  It doesn't occur to them that the color of a person's skin should dictate how they are treated. 

I know I can't shelter them from all the ugliness in the world.  I know it's too much to hope that they won't ever know prejudice.  But I will do my best to raise my children in a world where prejudice is strange and distasteful.  I hope that by being exposed to diversity, they will see the beauty in our differences and the remarkable similarities we share.

This is an original post to Philly Moms Blog.

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