Tracey McKee • October 10, 2023
The concept of diversity, or appreciating the things that make us different and unique, emerged from the Civil Rights Movement. Our country is a nation of both indigenous people and immigrants from all over the world. According to the last Census, it is estimated that more than 45 million people, or 13% of our total population, are immigrants, making the US home to the largest number of immigrants in the world (Schoichet 2023). When you consider the number of immigrants who have arrived on our shores since the founding of our country, and you consider all the places from which they have come, it is no wonder that we find ourselves obliged to embrace diversity.
What exactly does diversity mean, though? Here at Brownicity, we use the following definition:
The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. Diversity is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
Over the past several years, social movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and Pride marches have caused us to reconsider how we value diverse communities within our population. We have had to ask ourselves hard questions about our efforts to create an inclusive, respectful environment and how we can do better. Appreciating diversity and engaging with people who are different than ourselves is vital to our intentions to reduce social injustice. In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown suggests that it is “hard to hate close up.” Engaging with a variety of people unlike ourselves not only makes it harder to hate others, it also breaks down the walls between us.
Diversity practices produce tangible, positive results. As mentioned, embracing diversity helps us to connect to people who introduce us to new ideas, perspectives, and experiences. As a result, we diminish our tendency to view the world in Us vs. Them terms (Brown 2019: 33), and we feel ourselves become part of a larger team. Bringing together a group of diverse people fosters creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. In their May 2020 report on diversity and inclusion, McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, found that organizations with a diverse workforce outperformed their counterparts who were not as diverse. Furthermore, companies that have been slow to incorporate diversity are more likely to underperform their industry’s national median profitability by about 40% (4-5).
I can attest that getting to know people who are different than me has helped me to grow. I have learned so many new things about how others see and live in the world, and these learnings have shaped my world for the better. I have a greater knowledge of the accomplishments of different groups of people than myself, and I have a greater understanding of their plights as well. This insight has increased my capacity to see myself as part of the human tapestry: I am able to recognize where there is mending to be done, and I can see possibilities of how we might create stronger and more beautiful additions to that tapestry if we value our diversity.
Brown, Brené. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Random House, 2019.
“Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters.” Career Development Office | MIT Sloan School of Management, 13 Sept. 2021, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters | MIT Sloan School of Management Career Development Office | September 2021.
Schoichet, Catherine E. “Where Immigrants Come from and Where They Go after Reaching the US” | CNN | 15 Apr 2023
If you’re interested in delving deeper, explore this related article:
Tracey is a blog contributor for Brownicity. Her background includes training and organizational development, employee relations, and corporate recruiting in Charlotte’s banking industry. A wife and mother of two daughters, Tracey began her racial healing journey when she participated in What Lies Between Us in 2018. She was moved to participate in the workshop as her concern grew about the number of police shootings where unarmed black men were killed. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the singing of the national anthem solidified her desire to learn and do more about ending racism.