Valuing Diversity: The Path to Inclusiveness.

Via on Nov 2, 2010

I can remember distinctly in graduate school, driving from Happy Valley to Pittsburgh, on my way to interview for Teach for America.  At the time, I wasn’t knowledgeable about the invention of navigation systems, and even if they were available, I couldn’t have afforded it on my salary.  Anyhow, it would have probably cost more than the Kia Sephia that my Granddad selected for me at a Cincinnati car auction.  After learning how to drive stick shift, I claimed thee as my own and endearingly named her, “Snowflake.”

The twists and turns of the mountainous highway, and fear or hitting an Amish family’s buggy, caused Snowflake and me to nearly swerve off the road.  I quickly grew impatient with my crinkled paper map and pulled the car over at a small store to ask for directions. While waiting in line to talk with the cashier, a young white girl no older than 5 years old, stood directly in front of me.  Out of curiosity, she kept turning her head around to look at me.  Then, she turned around and began starring at me.  I acknowledged her curiosity and smiled back at her.  Finally, she touched my hand with her pointer finger, rubbed her fingers, and peered down at her fingertips.  She was amazed that my blackness did not rub off.

I quickly checked myself before showing that I was alarmed by her reaction, and continued to smile.  I imagined that I was the first black person that she had ever seen, and wanted my encounter with her to be a positive one.

My family had lived in many different states, prior to settling at the foot of the flatirons in Boulder.  I felt the harshness of racism as an adolescent, having my locker vandalized and being called out of my name in middle and high schools.  In the mid-90’s at my high school, there were only two openly gay students, both of whom I admired and supported for being out.

As a society, we are slowly progressing in valuing diversity.  I’ve lived in the South now collectively for over 10 years.  My most recent encounter of being uncomfortable came just a week ago, when I greeted a woman with a handshake and she opted not to shake my hand.  My experience years ago in the Pennsylvania store came back to me, and like then, I smiled and acknowledged her being uncomfortable.  Inside I was perturbed.

I’d like to hope that the more diverse our society becomes, the more inclusive people will be.  I think we should have a “Step Out of Your Comfort Zone Day” in America, where people become more open minded to other cultures, ethnicities, and sexual orientation.  Let’s rally in the spirit of Adams Morgan, a place where all people accept one another and party in unison.

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About Sojourner Marable Grimmett

Sojourner Marable Grimmett has a BA in communications from Clark Atlanta University and an MA in media studies from Pennsylvania State University. She is a stay-at-work mom and her experience in higher education spans over 10 years working in student services and enrollment management. Sojourner previously worked at CNN, Georgia Public Television, and as an AmeriCorp member at Harvard University’s Martin Luther King Jr. after-school program. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Roland and two young sons, Roland Jay and Joshua. Visit her blog sojournermarablegrimmett.blogspot.com and follow her on twitter.

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2 Responses to “Valuing Diversity: The Path to Inclusiveness.”

  1. Bonnie says:

    Great article. One one hand, I find it very sad that we, as a people, are still in need of a day such as "Step Out of Your Comfort Zone". On the other hand I really wish we had one, even though I know there would still be those who would not participate and protest against it out of ignorance and fear. And ignorance is the keyword here. I've always believed it to be the main cause behind racism and bigotry. Thank you for smiling. Thank you for bring the bigger person when you could have reacted otherwise. One thing to keep in mind though about the handshake thing: Some people with OCD, Asperger's Syndrome, etc. do not like to shake hands and it has nothing to with racism and everything to do with their condition. I'm not suggesting that was the case in your experience, because I'd imagine you could pick up what her problem was. I'm just saying it's an option for anyone who feels put out when another person acts like they are uncomfortable with touching them. Sorry that I digressed. Thank you for writing this. :)

  2. Bonnie says:

    On* Sorry about any typos. I was in a car accident a few days ago, and thanks to medicine I am a sloppier typist than normal.lol

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