Diversity: Not Right or Wrong, Just Different

Life is always interesting, but especially during the holidays. By most accounts, my wife and I grew up in very similar surroundings - white, middle class, Baptists, republicans and both with two parent households in South Carolina. Smooth sailing, right? Yep, for the most part.

Even with all these similarities, I still see some differences and even possible tension around those differences. I have been happily, even blissfully, married for more than 15 years. I don't plan on messing that up by delving into any touchy subjects, but I do have an example. Just to keep me happily married, let’s look at a very benign example.

My mother is very informal and my mother-in-law loves pageantry and formality. I don't think my mother has or has ever owned any fine china. My Mother-n-law, on the other hand has several sets... not right or wrong, just different. Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house has been eaten in front of the TV watching a football game, while Thanksgiving dinner at my wife's home is an experience.

At my house we may have eaten in sweat pants and a tee shirt and my wife's home everyone was dressed in nice attire with nice crystal, china and the good silver. Not right or wrong, just different.

As one would imagine, two very different settings, and my wife and I have very different expectations of what Thanksgiving dinner will be. Needless to say, it took me several years to adjust to this alternate interpretation, but I have learned to enjoy it. It’s still different, but I appreciate the variation. Not right or wrong, just different.

I'll get to my point now. If this small, nuanced difference alters my view of what Thanksgiving is or could be, how much greater would that difference be if I were black or a democrat or mega-rich or Jewish or heaven forbid, from somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line...

We are all different. We all have different layers that make every single one of us different than the next. No two white people are exactly alike and no two black people are alike. Every variable and every life experience adds a layer of diversity. We are all truly unique. Not right or wrong, just different.

The right or wrong only factors in on how we judge another’s differences or how we react or the assumptions you make about our differences. Assuming that every white person is the same or every black person or every jewish person or every (you fill in the blank) is where we go wrong. We are different.

Had I stomped my foot and demanded that my wife conduct Thanksgiving like my mom, I would not be happily married and likely not married at all. My wife and I are different, and because of that we make a great team. We choose to be complementary and not competitive. I learn from her and she learns from me. That’s life. If we would all admit that we're different and look for ways to appreciate those differences and use our differences to build and not tear down.

I understand that this is a gross oversimplification. I am not attempting to diminish the tragic consequences of discrimination rather based on race or religion. I am simply saying, I understand enough to say I don’t understand. But I want to, and the only way to truly understand is to talk through our differences, and to learn from one another and live life together. I don’t want to ignore the real history of racism in our country and I fully acknowledge that racism still exists. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

Its not always right or wrong, sometimes its just different.


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