Celebrating Global Diversity Awareness Month
Last updated: October 15, 2021, at 11:35 a.m. PT
Originally published: October 15, 2021, at 9:23 a.m. PT
By. David L. Humphrey Jr., Ph.D
Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, once stated that, “Unity is only vigorous in an atmosphere that is unafraid of difference and diversity – an atmosphere that does not view difference as a barrier, but rather as the proverbial stew whose aroma is richer and whose substance provides greater sustenance for the work of justice.”
This quote has always stuck with me. Her words provide me with a constant reminder of the urgency of our work, the urgency for making diversity normative in our culture and ethos – in everything we do, everywhere we do it.
From the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to Schoolhouse Rock, many Americans grew up learning about a grand utopian melting pot that fulfills the promise of America, as a land of opportunity for all, regardless of their background, sex, religion, or creed. Others, namely Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) have found it difficult to reconcile these promises with constant reminders that our country was founded with only a privileged few in mind.
America has become a more diverse nation with more non-whites becoming citizens than whites since 2010, according to the US Census. However, resistance to change, both the makeup of our nation and a critical and democratic engagement with the promises of equal opportunity, continues to be strong.
With resistance, it is often difficult to see that there is a bigger world out there. However, a failure to see outside of the American “box” results in missing a tremendous opportunity – an invitation – to learn that struggles for justice and self-determination are occurring around the globe. It is only through acknowledging out realities and accepting that there is work ahead to be done, that we can begin to come together, celebrate our richness, and build something better.
As Dr. Townes said, a heightened awareness to these global cries for justice and opportunity results in a deeper aroma and sustenance for the global work of justice.
Global Diversity Awareness Month reminds us of the potential of diversity, and celebrates everyone that makes up our communities. But it is more than that. This month is also a call to recognize the interconnectivity of it all. What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the, “inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
During this month, we celebrate the rich tapestries of our world and the unique histories, cultures and customs that shape our world. At the Y, we invite you to make it a practice to open your mind to new views and ideas, appreciate cultural differences, and enjoy a fresh perspective you may have been missing. This is the aroma we need to realize equity and just for all.
David L. Humphrey Jr., Ph.D. is a Senior Vice President and Equity and Justice Officer with the Y's Equity & Justice Center of Excellence. Learn more about his work.