A friend once asked me why we liberals talk so much about diversity. As a conservative, she prefers to focus on unity.
I’ve seen this attitude in cyberspace conversations as well. Sometimes commenters scold: Making a big deal out of our differences is a kind of reverse racism. We should be color blind and see only the ways we are alike.
I once posted this meme on social media once and got several of these “reverse racism” comments. Just by naming the various groups, some people see this meme as divisive. Here’s one comment: This type of message only reinforces a divisive identity policy instead of emphasizing what is our common human identity. The teacher should emphasize our individual human rights as opposed to group identities.
This makes sense in some ways as it speaks to the worthy ideal of being together in community without letting our differences divide us. I applaud this goal; but I disagree that only “emphasizing our common humanity” will stop the divisions. I disagree that “color blindness” will accomplish the goal.
I think we should all see all the color: the splashy and the subtle colors, the soft and the loud colors with which our humanity is painted. For me, color blindness sounds like a sadness, a handicap.
Our diversity is one of the gifts our Creator has given us so why wouldn’t we celebrate it?
Our diversity reminds us that our Creator is a multifaceted, many-sided Reality so of course humanity “created in the image and likeness of God” will reflect this infinite beauty.
Diversity is our inevitable human reality.
It is unity that that requires our serious efforts.
Differences are not our problem. Division is the problem. Letting differences of color, creed or custom detour us away from a unified purpose. Allowing differences of language, labels or who we love to drive wedges between us.
Diversity is an opportunity to appreciate and appropriate the full wisdom and power of our shared humanity. It’s an opportunity to realize that our unity is not based on uniformity but instead is grounded in the harmony we create together. It’s an opportunity to glimpse the Fullness of the One who created every distinctive one of us each in the Divine Image.
If all of us – in our infinite diversity – reflect the image of God, then surely we also can reach toward the Unity that is inherent within the One True God.
Of course unity is important – crucial even – for the health of every society. But pretending we are not male and female, old and young, gay and straight, black and white and brown and red and blue and purple doesn’t make those distinctions go away. And ignoring the differences doesn’t make the unique problems disappear that some people, some groups encounter (as pointed out in the meme above).
Ignoring diversity doesn’t automatically create unity.
Even our American flag tells this story of America: the Stars and Stripes spotlight our wide national diversity but we still pledge allegiance to “… one nation under God; indivisible …” Both diversity and unity have always been highly valued in America and we will never achieve true unity unless we truly value our diversity.
Thus we discover our unity by finding commonality within our one humanity, our shared yearnings and our collaborative efforts to accomplish the tasks that are set before us.
Yes, our goal is unity. And our path to unity comes by way of our inherent diversity.
So that’s why I like to talk about our differences: because I think our diversity is Creator’s gift and plan and purpose. Just as I believe unity is God’s gift and plan and purpose for us humans.
We will always have multitudes of differences without even trying. But we will never accomplish true unity without abundant grace and infinite good will.