In my last article for American Diversity Report, “Embrace Diversity, Embrace the Future”, I used the example of Zanzibar and how the people there appeared to deal with diversity by accepting differences of other cultures including religion without co-mingling or requiring others to bend to the will of any one group. However, since my visit there and writing that article, I have discovered that more recently, Muslim youth riding on motorcycles threw acid on the faces and bodies of three American young females who were walking through the streets of Zanzibar on their last evening in the city. The girls were at the end of their mission to help out in the area and were going to celebrate their stay there. They will forever be scarred both emotionally and physically by this experience. This example simply shows how fragile our cultural stability is as mobility of the world’s people increases at a rapid pace and the introduction of new ideas, ways and cultures are seen as a threat to the old established ways.
They came in colorful garb, full of energy and engaged in lively and loud conversations in their native language. During recess they played their rhythmic music with the salsa beat occasionally swirling their hips and did the cha cha cha. They clung to their own, sensing the disdain that the “owners” of this great institution had for them. They were the unwelcomed intruders; they reeked of happiness and gleefully shared their joy with each other. They were the Cubans who came to America by the boatloads and were perceived as different from the earlier arrivals who had “fit in” better and were more like the owners of their new homeland meaning they were more “white”, wealthy, at least educated and of the professional and middle class. These earlier forbearers were more likely to fit into the existing order.
When the issue of diversity is raised, most think of race and ethnicity. Although these topics are very important, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The lens through which we see the world is significantly influenced by the whole of our life experiences. Factors such as socioeconomic status, gender, religion, occupation, language, where we live, cultural background and a host of other factors are all critical components of the concept of diversity.