Diversity brings success
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and moved to Jonesborough about 10 years ago. Growing up in Miami, diversity was never really a question or an issue, it was literally a melting pot of different cultures and races. We never really looked at others as different, we were all the same but unique in our own ways.
The vast assortment of people and cultures was truly the best part of growing up in Miami. Being white (a minority) in town, I got to experience so many different forms of art, music, food and ways of life that I actually could have been considered bland when compared to others.
I never really saw or witnessed discrimination or racism growing up, everyone just accepted each other and learned from their story. To be honest moving to Jonesborough was the biggest culture shock I’ve ever experienced; however, rather than closing my mind, I did as I have done all my life and embraced the cultures and customs I was exposed to and learned. I truly believe that the more diverse the community the better and more successful it can be. Look at Miami, you have just about every race, creed, religion and nation represented and yet the city is bustling and successful. Until we all learn to live in harmony with and understand others we will never truly grow as a community.
Learning from new experiences
For the first 40 percent of my life, I lived in a non-diverse bubble, without any knowledge that there was a lack of diversity. Being a Caucasian was normal. Being a professing Christian was normal. Being middle class was normal. Being a man was empowering. I considered homosexuality a sin.
I became aware of racism and its results in the second half of life. After the Charleston murders, I intensified my study. One book said that racism can only be dismantled by getting out of our comfort zone and getting into deep dialogue. This resulted in forming Black/White Dialogue. The effect was to connect with many blacks and realize there was no difference between us. I heard their stories of being affected by racism and the strong values and moral strength they have because of their heritage. I have experienced a deepening of my faith, a greater understanding of the creator, and a richer life experience.
As part of United Religions Initiative (URI), I became connected with people of the Islamic faith. URI initiated storytelling with Muslims and Christians. I have witnessed the Islamic worship service. I have deep respect and understanding for the dedication to their faith and their relationship with Allah.
In 1991, a friend of mine quoted his 4-year-old son: “He had a little girl inside of him.” There were a couple of gay classmates in seminary. In the year 2000, I led a congregation with several gay couples, including those with children. I heard their stories, their faith journey, and the difficulties in their lives. Again, I am awed at the power of the creator. I have come to embrace the deeper and broader meaning of love.
Due to the #MeToo movement, I have heard so many stories that are deepening my understanding of sexual equality.
In all, I have much more to experience. I do know that diversity brings strength to unity.
REV. ED WOLFF
I’m glad you’re my neighbor
I appreciate your articles about our melting pot. They add an important perspective.
I teach at Science Hill and I have students representing 11 different countries. Several of these are immigrants and the others are first-generation Americans. China, Korea and India each have several students representing them. Approximately one-third of my students are immigrants or first-generation Americans.
My classes are much better because these students are here. They bring an enthusiasm for learning and they make the class better. The school benefits from the perspective that they bring. That is why I have a sign in my room that says in English, Spanish and Arabic, “No matter where you are from, I’m glad you are my neighbor.”
Thank you for celebrating our diversity.