Embracing Diversity

Jackson - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on March 3, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in the importance of diversity. Not only does it expand a person’s knowledge about life in general, it also allows a person to keep an open mind while embracing their own culture.

My belief unwittingly began as a young child as I heard my grandfather blurt out the ‘N’ word more than he said “hello.” For some reason, even as an oblivious five year old, I had a deep feeling that his racism and other demeaning remarks contained no purpose or meaning and did nothing good. Now I know that it was actually the middle twentieth-century American culture speaking through my grandpa. Like so many of us, he was so caught up in the beliefs and values of the world around him that he forgot to examine the truth behind the words. This problem may never be completely solved, but with our cultures’ new embrace of diversity, children like me have more of an opportunity to realize that life isn’t at all about skin color.

After I completed the first grade at a nearby elementary school, my brother and I were required to ride the bus to one of the primarily African American neighborhoods to create “more diversity” among the classmates. By the time my fifth grade year ended, I was full of Mueller “Mustang” pride and I had two of the best friends in the world. It didn’t matter that our group contained one Middle Eastern, one black, and one white person. We all recognized each others differences and embraced them. Now, I am extremely thankful for my elementary years and the fact that they taught me so much about life from the get go.

However, not everyone gets the opportunity to experience or embrace this type of diversity from such an early age. The first article I read in the Saturday morning paper this week was one about the battle between the Christian and Muslim faiths. The author described the fact that some churches often display marquees declaring “Islam is a lie” and bulletins about “why a Muslim can’t be a good American.” What these people often don’t realize is the boundary they’re placing on both their social and spiritual lives when they separate themselves from different beliefs. Often times an examination of faith from opposite perspectives allows a person to grow most in their beliefs. It is diversity and the embrace of other cultures that allows a person to appreciate their own lifestyle.

This necessity of difference is what drives my current passion for travel and experience. This summer, I will travel across the world to Spain in order to study at a program in Barcelona. I cannot wait because I know that the people and I will have so many differences. Although attractive, it’s not the tanner skin I’m looking for; it’s the experience of sharing cultures and embracing diversity that will truly teach me lessons in life.