This I Believe

Leo - Chaska, Minnesota
Entered on July 3, 2006

We can convert Prejudice into Love and Acceptance

Teaching cultural diversity everyday has become an instrument of social change for me. Diversity has a great impact on many lives as we strive to be a multicultural society. My greatest challenge is when I encounter some students who have been raised with prejudice in their families. They do not recognize their negative feelings as prejudice until they encounter some sort of mandatory education.

One day a student of mine, without any reservation, confessed, “It’s hard not to be a racist!” He stressed that his father is a racist, his mother is a racist, and so in turn, is he! He continued: “I grew up in a prejudiced family with no association with diversity. In my neighborhood there weren’t any people different from us. Hatred is a kind of family value. Obviously, my ancestors were bigots too! With this lifestyle do you really expect me to be open-minded and tolerant?”

Another student changed his negative attitude to a positive experience. He showed anger, animosity, and resentment on almost every subject we discussed. In the middle of the course, he could not resist any longer and made a rude comment that was not appropriate for the class. I asked him to leave; he refused. So, I had him removed from the class by security. He was suspended for a few sessions. He met with the dean, our department director, and his counselor. After a week of behavioral maintenance he promised the dean to behave himself for the remaining period of the course. I allowed him to come back to class. He came to me and apologized with tears in his eyes for what he did. At the end of the course he wrote an excellent final project, explaining how difficult it was not to be a racist living in a household where all were prejudiced. He admitted that the cultural diversity course changed his life. He wants to be open-minded, respect people from other cultures, and teach his children the essence of embracing diversity. At the end of the course he shook hands with me and thanked me for this positive experience.

I firmly believe that teachers around the world have a huge responsibility to make a difference. A difference that brings love, respect, and human dignity to millions of students. In my mind and heart I believe that our existence in this world is for a reason—to be an example by our behavior, our thinking, and our words. In this diverse world we need to emphasize brotherhood, honesty, and love—Rumi, the 12th century mystic poet once said “Come out of the circle of time and enter into the circle of love.”

We will eventually learn to live and work together and respect each other for who we are in this unique nation with a multi-ethnic population from all over the world. This, I believe!