May 21 is the World Day for Cultural Diversity Dialogue & Development, established by the United Nations to support the 2001 Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity. The day gives an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better. The U.N. Alliance of Civilizations' Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion campaign offers concrete ways to pursue the day's goals; on the web page, scroll down to "Ten simple things YOU can do.
In 2012, the campaign held a video contest. The video by Chiara Scarselli is my favorite. It is composed of close-ups of the eyes of people as they make various statements about themselves. It reminds me how much harder it is to hate people when you look into their eyes. Harder, still, once you build a relationship with them.
Last year, I attended a five-day training led by Lee Mun Wah, a Buddhist educator and founder of StirFry Seminars and Consulting, a diversity training organziation. On each day, we were asked to create a name tag and to include on it another word. One day, late in the week, we were asked to include the name of a group of people we “had trouble with.”
Over lunch, we discussed our name tags with one, two, or three other participants. Under other circumstances, inclusion-loving me would have found admitting my own stereotypes embarrassing. Thankfully, our group of 14 had already shared so much and so deeply about race, ethnicity, and multiculturalism that it actually felt liberating to say, “Yes, I have some bias against this group of people.” Using information we had learned earlier in the week, we were able to draw each other further: “Is your bias based on an incident involving one or a few people belonging to this group?” “Are you carrying around societal stereotypes?” and lastly, but mostly importantly, “What do you need to do to work through the trouble you are having with this group? Educate yourself on their culture? Experience their culture? Build relationships with people from this culture?”
My challenge to you on May 21 is to ask yourself, “What group of people do I have trouble with?” From there, ask yourself what your “trouble” stems from. Think about your interactions with people of this group. You are holding stories in your head about those interactions. Is it possible to look at the interactions in a different way—to change the story? What do you need to do to work through your troubles and develop compassion and love, in the generous sense of agape, for people in this group?
Visit Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion on Facebook to join the conversation.
For more resources on inclusion and multiculturalism visit the UUA’s Racial Justice and Multicultural Ministries home page. The UUA’s International office promotes social justice around the globe.
The Fall 2010 UU World Family pages includes a story and activities for all ages on diversity.
Children’s books are great places to find diversity celebrated. Try And Tango Makes Three, The Golden Dreydl by Ellen Kushner, or Harmony: A Treasury of Chinese Wisdom for Children and Parents, or any story book by Sarah Conover. The National Education Association has compiled a list of 50 multicultural books every child should read.
Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age introduces the reader to leadership qualities found in communities of color and explores how to incorporate them into your leadership style.
Specific to religious diversity:
A Chorus of Faiths is an eight-workshop, Tapestry of Faith program for high school on interfaith leadership. The UUA developed this curriculum in partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core, the organization founded by Eboo Patel, the Ware speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly 2013 and author of books on religious pluralism including Acts of Faith and Sacred Ground.
In the UU World, Summer 2011 Family pages, read the story "Building Bridges, Breaking Down Walls," about interfaith work of the First UU Church of Columbus (Ohio). The insert includes activities for interfaith and intercultural awareness and exchange.
Faith Shared, a joint project of the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, offers has many resources for building interfaith community.