I will say honestly that I squirm a little when I come across the term ‘diversity’. To me, it’s a buzz word or code. There are few people–even within families, apart from twins or higher multiples–who are really similar. So mentioning diversity is like saying that things are going to involve other people. I know broadly what it means in the US: it’s one of the words to mean ‘people of colour’ (itself another code term), or ‘people from (other) ethnic backgrounds’ (meaning, usually, non-European in origin). But, I will go along with the notion that in a country that has lots of very visible and vocal minorities, and is made up mainly from several generations of immigrants from many places, that the banding together of some of these under some big tent may make sense. It may not, of course, because who is to say what will be the common thread of any group?
So, it was, last night that my wife and I went to meet and greet and dine with others who were under the diversity big tent at our little daughter’s school. Now, the school has a history of an international flavour in its educational outlook and make up, being very inclusive, and seeing itself now as a place that embraces different cultures, interests, perspectives, and talents. When I entered the big tent I saw initially what I expected: a large number of people who looked like me–ie, non-white. That’s the irony of diversity, I thought. But, I also saw plenty of non-non-white faces. Then, choosing a table at random, I found myself sitting with a Bahamian man who was married to a Jamaican wife. Along came my Bahamian wife to make us the mirror of the other couple. Within minutes, the two Bahamians were checking on family and friend connections. Diverse, eh?
But, really, those who had found themselves under this big tent were a mixture: families, whose members hailed from overseas within their generation–Cuba, France, Mauritius, Jamaica (not me), Bahamas (not her), Poland, Argentina, Barbados, Austria, The Philippines, and more), but also those who hailed from America from many generations past. Some of that latter group had done what is often difficult–marrying outside their race and nationality. We played a few games to try to tease out the various aspects of diversity, so it was interesting to meet some native Washingtonians who were distinctly not European or African in origin. It was meant to be an ice-breaker, and it worked. It also gave a chance to make some acquaintances: one set that emerged was a set of only children, who just happened to make up four of five people at a table; another was to find persons who had grown up in England, but were born elsewhere.
One of those England-raised people invited me to join another diverse group–stay-home fathers and retired men–and we had a great meeting and discussion over coffee and croissants in one of the local coffee houses this morning. That group was interestingly different: it had a Germanic strain, which gave me a chance to explain something about Jamaica’s little German community. One man thought I looked Polynesian, which prompted a discussion about ethnic movements over the ages. The group also had one man who hailed from Africa, but was not black or Arabic. It had a Caucasian twist: one man who was an expert on studies of that area, plus myself (who had worked in one of the Caucasus countries, Azerbaijan): we could network as he needed to find out more about current economic conditions, so I pointed him to my former employer. It had one black man in a group that had four other white men, and I would not call myself the diverse element.
All of which goes to show what? There are differences everywhere and in every one.