Be proud of who you are and where you come from as long as you remain welcoming to others and respect everyone’s differences. Sounds like a “golden” rule at one point everyone hears learning about self and building respect for others. Race, culture, and economic status are irrelevant when it comes to a heart of a human and showing your soul to another who may or may not look like you. #facts
Along my journey of learning and loving myself and others, I believed the more I served and focused on living a life that welcomed everyone would give me a “good human being” proverbial pat on the back. At the very minimum, it would bring an outcome showcasing positivity and faith in the greater good of humanity.
Have you ever been so green and naïve that when real life happens it counters any hope of the positive bubble and leaves a feeling of denial? It happened to me even though I was exposed to all the “right” things to ensure my eyes and heart remained receptive to living out loud the dream of diversity. I went to a multicultural school, had friends of different backgrounds, led “United We Walk” as a student co-chair embracing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King within my community.
There are phases we all go through where we consciously or subconsciously make life choices that embrace or reject diversity in our own lives. In grade school, I realized I was different than most of the kids at my predominately one race school. In middle school I focused on the most import thing to a teenager. I just wanted to to be cool and fit in, so I had to find the people who embraced my difference. I searched for and found the cool kids that looked just like me.
At one point in my life I prided myself as a person “who does not see color”. I made a choice to embrace and welcome everyone. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of a human connection. Hearing stories and learning from those that do and do not look just like me.
Somewhere along the way of making sure I was open to others, I suppressed parts of myself. A fear of not wanting to be too suburb to be down, too black to be seen friendly, or too into a particular cause or movement that may offend others. I created an existence of walking a thin line hoping to never step on anyone else’s toes. My intentions were honest, but the walls I built in my self imposed do not go there zones began to feel like a cage. Inadvertently, my life’s focus on diversity and inclusion left my true self behind.
Today, it feels like there is a racial, cultural, religious, and _______ (anything that makes you different than the person next to you) ticking time bomb. I have consciously given myself permission to be more free. Free from worrying so much about being “correct” that I am not being authentic to ALL of what makes me, me. I hold the titles of being a human, a woman, and an African American. I grew up in the suburbs, have conservative southern values, went to a HBCU, love the texture of my natural hair, want to see all communities flourish including the black community, desire a united country, champion for human equality, speak positivity often, and my favorite downtime includes watching HGTV, gangster movies, and practicing yoga. (Say what now? I know, I know.)
Is that not the point? Are we not called to merge experiences and backgrounds to become walking oxymorons through life’s journey to develop our own unique stories. If so, why are we so offended when someone different than us shares values and belief systems that are simply clips from their own life cinema. It is in the process of sitting front row, watching snap shots from another’s life story that we see humanity’s best productions. So, I choose to leave room for objectively watching another’s story line, respecting differences, and still be “pro” who I am and where I come from without the fear of causing offense.
So that’s my lesson to my son: being different is amazing. And respecting others is a blessing we should not take for granted. But, most importantly, embracing who you are while acknowledging all the things about you that do not fit into a neatly kept box is golden. Being thankful for who you are and how you were made is not permission to offend anyone who is different or devalue yourself in the process. Living a lifestyle that consciously chooses diversity and inclusion does not mean you’re required to leave yourself and identity behind. There is room for everyone to have a seat at the table.
Today, I am preparing my household AND heart to welcome difficult conversations centered around offense, race, culture, socioeconomic status, and gender. I believe the more I am in tune with my own quirks, thoughts and feelings centered around “sensitive subject matter”; the more I pray my heart will grow to have an open and listening ear when someone reflects a sense of pride or simply telling their own truth. The key for me is knowing that pride in self does not mean or mandate permission to dim anyone else’s light. Quite the opposite it is a signal in the sky to shine brighter …. together.
Diversity and Inclusion Left My True Self Behind