Why It's Important

(cross posting from Intercultural Happenings www.interculturalaffairs.blogspot.com)

I spend a lot of time trying to get the message out about why it's so important to understand about diversity. There are some folks who totally get it -- they find ways to engage in diversity, take responsibility for learning and discussing with people from diverse backgrounds, and see this type of learning as part of their role in this world. There are others who, well, still don't get it.

One of the parallels I make with the "diversity movement" is with Recycling. All of a sudden, in the past year or so, there has been a HUGE push towards going green. Buildings are green. Lightbulbs are green. People are buying hybrid cars in attempt to either save gas and/or save the environment. For the most part, people recycle their cans --again, whether it's to get their $.05 back or to help save this planet. People aren't wasting water they way they used to, lights are turned off after leaving a room, and the push to reduce-reuse-recycle has even found its way to grocery stores that give you a refund if you bring your bags back. Today,when I went to the grocery store, they even had the "reduce-reuse-recycle" logo on the plastic bags to encourage people to avoid putting the bags into the trash.

Then, of course, there are people who just still don't get it. They still don't recycle.

I have a friend who lives in a town that has not made recycling easy. They don't have any town pick up of recycling (most towns have it along side their trash pick up). Unfortunately, my friend and her family practically live off of cans - sodas, canned food, canned dog food, etc. And, no, they don't recycle. When I asked them why, (and even offered to have them bring their cans to my house to have MY town pick them up), they said "It's just too inconvenient -- it's too much work."

Honestly, I haven't been back to that friend's house in a long time. Something about their absolute disregard for the future of this planet and the future health of our generations to come just doesn't match up with my own beliefs and practices. And, frankly, they all get funny looks from people when they easily throw a can into the garbage. I've even seen a stranger come by and take that can out of the garbage and put it into the recycle bin (which was located just next to the can). My friend, she just never got into the habit of doing it -- even when it's easy.

So, back to DIVERSITY. The diversity movement, if you will, has been around for more than 40 years -- even before the Civil Rights Movement. So, given that I'm in my 30's, the diversity movement has always been around. But, some folks just haven't figured that out.... until now. Whether you credit it to our recent Presidential primaries, or to the diversity on television and movies, or heck, even if you think Diversity = The Cheetah Girls, diversity is here, and if you haven't figured it out, you may be the one who gets the funny looks.

Here's my quick list of why I think it's important to understand diversity (geared towards college students, the population I've been speaking to the past few weeks):

  • Because in today's competitive economy, companies and grad schools are looking to get the most bang for their buck. With an increasing focus on global business (no matter how big or small the business), many companies want to make sure they are hiring someone who understands how to work with different people. Human Resources Offices don't want to have to worry if you are a "diversity liability" or someone who they think they'll have to spend a lot of time with teaching about differences. If they have a candidate who "gets it", guess what? They're going to go with the person who they don't have to teach or train in this area.
  • Especially if you grew up in a "non-diverse place", college will be the time when you meet people from all over the country and all over the world. If you find yourself in a job interview or graduate school interview your senior year, you will definitely be faced with the "what ways did you get involved with diversity at your college" question. Can you answer the question? Can you articulate examples of how and when you problem solved with someone who was totally different than you? If you didn't take the initiative to do it in college, people will assume that you lack initiative and therefore won't be as interested in you.
  • Hate crimes are some of the most severely scrutinized and socially punished actions in our society, and especially at our college. It's not acceptable anymore to say, "Oh, I didn't know that was a hate crime or a hate word." In fact, NOT KNOWING tends to be a more negative aspect of the case. So, it's incredibly important to know what is and what isn't considered a hate crime -- and, you do that by understanding about diversity.

Need more reasons?