THE concept of diversity means different things to different people. This statement in itself exemplifies the diversity that exists between each and every one of us.
As unique individuals, we all have our individual differences. We think, speak, work, and do things differently. As everyone has a unique understanding of things.
We need to recognise and embrace the differences that exist and the diversity that surrounds us. Without diversity the world would be a boring place and our workplaces would be monotonous.
Many people are of the opinion that diversity refers to culture or difference based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies.
Many people believe that we need to understand these differences and approach them in a positive way. We need to identify with and accept the variety of difference that exists and what they see as the causes of these differences.
This is where many of the problems that exist in our society stem from. We look at other people and think they are not of my religion, therefore they are different. They are not the same colour as me, so they are different. Their sexual orientation is different to mine, so they are different.
What are we doing when we do this? We are judging others based on race, colour and sexual orientation rather than just accepting others simply as people. We are, in fact, stereotyping people based on our personal beliefs and ideology. We need to embrace and celebrate the differences that exist and we need to see people simply as people.
Much emphasis is placed on cultural diversity that we are forced to look at others in terms of culture. Much emphasis is placed on discrimination in the workplace that we draw attention to diversity based on issues we should not such as sexual orientation, colour of skin, religion, gender and political beliefs.
When we speak about workplace diversity we immediately think in terms of, white employees, black, coloured and indian employees, male and female employees and so on.
Once again diversity based on predetermined issues and placed in categories.
We need to just accept the fact that the world is one great place filled with people who possess a wide variety of differences. Our workplaces are made up of people who are different in many ways. We need to stop stereotyping groups of people because various pieces of legislation, including our constitution, cause us to do so.
People are people – full stop. People are different – this is a fact. Let us us all try to just accept people for who they are and respect their individuality as people and not based on colour, religion, sexual orientation and so on. Take away the category and look at the person.
As people we need each other. We learn from each other. We support each other in times of trouble. We rely on each other as friends, and as friends we identify with each other as people and nothing more.
When we stop looking at people as black or white, as Catholic or Protestant, as Christian or Muslim, as male or female and simply accept each other for who and what we are – people – we will create a society where we can all live together as one.
When we accept the diversity and difference that surrounds us and, most importantly, accept that individuals are permitted to have their own beliefs, to think for themselves, to have their own opinions, although these may differ from ours, we can all live together as one.
Because we think differently to others does not give us the right to judge according to our standards or beliefs. It does not give us the right to tell others that they are wrong.
They may have different opinions and beliefs, but that does not make them wrong.
We believe what we choose to believe for whatever reason we may have for doing so. That is our right, but that is also the right of others. We have a right to share our opinions with others, but we do not have the right to tell others their opinions are wrong. We need to listen to others. We need to let others share their opinions, their ideas and their beliefs. We need to discuss our differences.
Differences exist. Accept and embrace them because this is what makes the world such a wonderful place.
Des Squire is a managing member at AMSI and Associates. You can contact him at [email protected]