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Yesterday, 18th January was Martin Luther King Day. He has famously said, that each man is what he is not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. A thoughtful post by a 17 year old.
My love for diversity and the awe I have for its magnificent power comes from a very personal place. You see, I was born in Tamil-speaking India, moved to Hindi speaking India, lived for a while in Germany and then in Malaysia, completed school in Dubai, before moving to the United States. I have been showered in the fragrance of diversity, and I have been shocked by its extraordinary ability to make peace or war, just by the virtue of how its dynamics plays out- whether the people are united in understanding or divided in prejudice.
Embracing diversity truly is a groundbreaking, sometimes even a shocking experience. It often requires us to let go of all that we’ve ever believed in, a shift of paradigm, and to look at our world from someone else’s perspective. All of us tend to be stuck in the inertia of what we have already been, and we all like to find comfort in the things we already know, but the new and the unknown is the ultimate adventure that life is; so if we learn to cherish and thrive in this difference merely by appreciating its presence, we can enjoy our lives in an exciting and refreshing way, every new day. Simply put, this is what being leaders of diversity is about, it’s about accepting the unknown and trying to understand it and then spreading the love.
I’m not writing this to BS you with the ‘Let’s make a peaceful world’ thing , but this is a small world after all! All of our hatred and prejudice, no matter how well-reasoned they may seem inside our heads, are detrimental only to us, and ultimately inconsequential.
Our implicit prejudices and biases are often formed on the basis of an untrue expectation that what one set of people have done holds true for all of the people that belong to that group; ethnically, religiously or physically. But it is unfair that one bad example should imply hatred for a whole community. Being true leaders of diversity means that we are strong enough to make our own objective judgements and to stand our ground and support the right ideas and humane values for everyone, regardless of their identity.
So what if we began to embrace eccentricity instead of shunning it? What if we started challenging ourselves to be with people who are very different from us rather than similar to us? Embracing differences expands our horizons and makes us understand, as Martin Luther King said, that each man is what he is not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.
Recently, I held a leadership campaign in my Indian hometown for students in a local orphanage. This was a very diverse group of about 40 kids, from newborns to teenagers all living in a single large room with no beds, no parents, but with lots of love and warmth. The moment I entered the orphanage, was struck by how the place overflowed with fun and frolic, loud laughter and games of a happy bunch of kids, girls and boys, of different races and origins-from inside and outside India- all of whom were one family bonded by love. This experience taught me that it was possible to live in harmony despite differences. We don’t have to look the same or like the same things to have each other’s back, and when we have each other’s back as a global family, we will thrive and flourish as one.
Look at the people around you, or think of the people in your lives.
Realize the power in they have. They hide within their seemingly simple self a lifetime of unimaginable experiences and generations of stories of their families, stories you may not be able to fully fathom.
We have got in our small world the incredible contrasts of black and white, and all the colors in between, of Assamese, Tamil, English, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and a thousand other languages, we’ve got engineers and economists, scientists and artists, we’ve got wisdom of 100-year-old marathoners and the innocence of 2-year-old children who laugh and cry with the beauty of simplicity. All around you is the most wholesome potpourri of differences you could ever find, whether you can see it yet or not.
We are wildly dissimilar people, and yet each of us is tremendously talented in a very, very important way. That’s why together, we represent not additive, but exponential potential. Imagine what we could achieve, if with the understanding and appreciation, we start cultivating ecosystems of love and harmony on the barren bridges that connect our differences.
I have a dream for us today: that we will deconstruct the walls of our past and build bridges of eccentricity instead of homogeneity. I have a dream that we will love open-mindedly and break free of the bars of prejudice that throttles us. I have a dream that we will work to fulfil the great dreams that Martin Luther king had for us that day, because today, in our very own hands we have all the power in the world and all the right opportunities to make each of these dreams come true, so I ask you, let’s be those leaders of diversity. Let’s accept what’s different, try to understand it, and then spread that love. Because when we truly let ourselves experience and appreciate diversity, we will realize that it is as powerful as it is beautiful.
As the African proverb goes:
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”
I hope we all go together, as Indians, and as earthlings.
Image source: global community by Shutterstock.
Hi! I'm an often overly-excited, frequently fun-loving, and sometimes deeply-sunk-in-
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