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Conversations About Diversity

Talking about diversity is important, even though it is not always easy

In a time in our world when there is a lot of sadness, struggle, and uncertainty, I noticed a stream of particularly intriguing and inspiring stories as I scrolled through my Instagram and Facebook feeds. These stories brought up topics around race, gender, sexual orientation, inequalities, and social justice issues that could help us move forward and grow as a society.  I noticed more representation of people of color and diverse groups.  However, in my experience, people stay away from these topics due to fear of offending someone or saying the wrong thing.  Instead, many deeper meaningful conversations could be had from these posts that are prevalent for our youth today. 

Historically, people of color have discussed the aforementioned topics with their young loved ones as a means for safety and protection.  It is reality in that not all families have to have these conversations.  But what would our world look like if all youth were given the opportunity to engage in these conversations?

For instance, John Legend won an Emmy and became the first African American man to win an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). Typical conversations would revolve around John Legend’s talent and skills.  Instead, what does this mean for other youth of color? What could this mean for the future of our society?

Diversity discussions are how we move forward as a society and how we expand our world views. Just because you may live in a place without much diversity does not mean you cannot open your mind or think critically about the struggles of marginalized populations and appreciate the little and big moments we are experiencing today.

Dr. Michelle Nanji

In addition, video clips of Serena Williams standing up for herself at the U.S. Open was everywhere on social media. For me, it was so fascinating to see how she balanced respecting her opponent, but also fighting for what she felt was fair for her. What were some of the sexist pieces she was referring to later and how is it different or more challenging for a woman of color to be treated in that way?  

Furthermore, at New York Fashion Week, the brand Marco Marco exclusively hired all transgender and non-binary models to emphasize their message that “trans is beautiful”. Why is it so important in the fashion world to have more representation on the runway? What could it mean for transgender youth to hear about such a bold statement made by this brand to promote inclusivity. These stories can be inspiring, exciting, bold, controversial, and bring about deeper conversations about important topics. 

The topics that can arise from these stories include representation, sexism, advocating for one’s self, equality, LGBTQI+ concerns, and going against the status quo. It can be challenging to have conversations about these topics randomly or in reaction to negative social events, but in these instances,  they offer an engaging avenue to explore and be curious about these topics.  These are great avenues to having meaningful thought provoking conversations about diverse topics for parents/guardians to talk about with their youth or for any age group to  talk about with one another. 

Some ways to prepare yourself for these conversations

Inform yourselves about diversity

Keeping up with current events via social media is so simple these days with the many different platforms we have on the internet. Pick one or two from Instagram, twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, reddit, snapchat, or google it. If you find something intriguing find out more about it, find the backstory, and begin to explore the value of the story for the people you want to share it with.

Share the story about diversity

Share the story with youth during the ride home or at the dinner table. Share the story with co-workers, peers, friends, or partners when spending time together. Interesting topics of discussion can be very connective and challenging to help support one another’s growth.

Be Curious about Diversity

Why do we think it is important to have representation in creative arts and the many forms of art we are exposed to on social media? What would we do if we felt we were treated unfairly? How can we begin to understand, and can we put ourselves in their shoes? What must that experience have felt like?

RESPECT Everyone’s Diversity

Respecting everyone’s individually lived experience.  You may never truly understand someone’s experience or their reactions, but we can respect, give value, and provide space for that experience.

Progress doesn’t just come from digesting information from what we see or read, but it happens through expanding our minds about a topic. Helping a friend think about something differently and open their minds about a controversial topic. Supporting a child to begin to understand the complexities of topics like representation, self-advocacy, and the injustices in the world. These are the first steps to how we move forward as a society and expand our world views. Just because you may live in a place without much diversity does not mean you cannot open your mind or think critically about the struggles of marginalized populations and appreciate the little and big moments we are experiencing today.

Be curious. Be vulnerable. Take a risk. Challenge what you know. 

Respect everyone’s individually lived experience. You may never truly understand someone’s experience or their reactions, but we can respect, give value, and provide space for that experience.

Dr. Michelle Nanji
Michelle Nanji

Author: Michelle Nanji

Dr. Nanji is a Post-doctoral Psychologist in the State of Iowa. She works with clients across the lifespan with all presenting concerns. She respects the multiple identities clients may hold across gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and others. She believes in building a strong therapeutic relationship for clients to feel safe and supported during challenging times in their lives.

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