Black Lives Matter. Does that mean only black lives matter or that black lives matter too? Depending on your political bent you might answer either way. I would say it is that black lives matter too like in addition to us privileged white folks who have never had to worry about being “profiled”, never had to worry if people wondered if we were qualified or just got the job because of a desire for diversity. We’ve never had to worry about being in the “wrong” neighborhood, or looking suspicious when we were just out for a walk – or locked ourselves out of our car or house.
People get rankled when privilege is brought up. They bring up tales of hardship and deprivation. And those tales are probably true. But as someone put it “privilege doesn’t mean you won’t have hard times, it just means that your skin color isn’t the cause of it”. I don’t use it as a guilt trip, but as a reality check. And diversity recruitment efforts usually aren’t a “politically correct” publicity ploy (I hate that PC phrase) but rather an effort to more fully represent society in general.
Remember your history, really. When my great grandfather was fighting in the Civil War for the Union at Gettysburg, other people’s great grandfathers were slaves. And that has consequences down through the ages. When my grandparents were welcomed at state colleges, other people’s grandparents faced “whites only” signs and couldn’t imagine having the money or the opportunity to go to college. And I didn’t have to have law enforcement escort me to high school as nine African American teenagers did in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Like women who were dragged to jail for the temerity to try to vote, African Americans who were dragged from lunch counters, and gays who fought with police at Stonewall to get respect, many minority communities have struggled to be accepted as equals. It is good to remember Seneca Falls, Stonewall, and Selma and what those historical events mean to the cause of equality. It is important to review our history and not leave it to be whitewashed as it was while I was growing up. Other people unlike us have made great contributions to our history.
It is important for the children of today to be able to see people in positions of influence – like teachers, political leaders, sports stars, and even people in commercials or films – and see people who look like them. Role models are important some communities have not had that opportunity until recently. And it is important for those of us in the mainstream to bring in those on the margins and appreciate the difference – in culture, language, history – that can enrich us all. We do not gain by pretending to be “color-blind”
Are you afraid of embracing diversity for fear of losing influence? As someone said, recognizing the rights of others and offering them a place at the table doesn’t mean less for you. This isn’t a pie we are dividing up. There is plenty of room at the table and the world for all of us.