The most memorable aspect of last week’s fireworks display was its ability to draw so many people from such different backgrounds. I marveled as I observed rich white men in their 50’s, dressed in a sharp polo, khaki shorts, and leather shoes without socks walking alongside poor urban black men, dressed in low-slung jeans, oversized t-shirts, ball-caps and sneakers. (I couldn’t suppress a broad smile as I observed that both seemed to prefer driving overpriced SUV’s). There are few social events on anyone’s calendar that prove appealing to such a broad spectrum, and I for one, loved mingling with people who live a much different life than I do.
Until their different life started inconveniencing me.
First, it was the group of people in their 30’s who spoke too loudly, lacing every sentence with profanity–I quickened my step, worried that my two young children might pick up a few new words. Later, it was the weird Indian music being played too loudly from a nearby car’s speakers. I found myself grinning as an overweight man in his 50’s walked by; apparently buttoning even just one of his shirt buttons wasn’t worth the effort. I also couldn’t help noticing several young women who were likely from well-to do neighborhoods, and wondered why their doctor/lawyer father’s couldn’t afford to buy them clothes that actually covered their bodies. I assumed their workaholic parents probably didn’t care.
Diversity comes at a cost. We purchase it with our comfort zone, or our sense of security, or by relinquishing our judgments. Embracing diversity costs us our first impressions, our preferences, and even some of our priorities. Of even more significance, the final bill of diversity requires us to take out a mortgage on our loved ones’ comfort zones and sense of security. True unity within diversity is a wager that is often won only by betting our children’s futures.
This explains why we don’t do diversity very well. It doesn’t cost us anything to call someone a brother or sister, but it costs us dearly to treat them like one.
My life tells me that I don’t actually like too many people who are drastically different than me.
And that makes me sad.