Volume 93, Issue 38

Friday, November 5, 1999


The research of diversity celebration

Charitable deed reaps big rewards

Invitation lost in mail

The research of diversity celebration

To the Editor:

In observing the tables and displays of different groups in the [University Community Centre] this week, I could not help reflecting on the meaning of "celebrating diversity."

Indeed, the posters for Equity Week call for a "celebration" of our "diversity." And the T-shirts read "Diversity... the fabric that weaves us together." I know because I have one. I do not question the strength that we – all of us – can gain by celebrating diversity. As Dante suggested long ago, "diverse voices make sweet harmony."

To be sure, I have advocated acceptance of diversity in my own life. It enables us to learn from one another, to balance each other's weaknesses with new insight. Diversity also sets the stage for exchanges with the potential to achieve mutual respect and understanding.

But indeed, "diversity" only sets the stage. It is our context. How we act in that context is critical. I'll be the first to admit that, for me, the meaning of celebrating our diversity is more than a little ambiguous. We need to clarify and specify in concrete terms what that means. To me, the sequestered groups in the UCC do not appear to be celebrating diversity.

In fact, some groups – or certain representatives of their groups whom I've encountered in other settings – seek to smother diversity. Some are not willing to relinquish aspects of their ideologies for the sake of celebrating diversity. Instead, like wolves in sheep's clothing, they attempt to advance their brand of diversity at the expense of others. How then, can we redefine the meaning of "celebrating diversity?"

Let me begin by suggesting the importance of dialogue. In order to learn from one another, to strengthen each other and to achieve mutual understanding, we need to keep talking. Furthermore, we have to be prepared to relinquish some of our most strongly held convictions – or to at least question them – no matter how dear to our identities they may be.

A willingness to celebrate diversity may even require us to confront our spiritual and religious truths. We may have to discard those truths that seek to silence others. Indeed, we may have to concede that thousands of years of truth may actually work against the celebration of diversity.

All well-intentioned slogans have the potential to boomerang rhetorically. "Celebrate diversity" is no exception. In order to preserve the good intentions behind such slogans and to ensure that all voices are heard, respected and understood – we must remain vigilant.

To ensure sweet harmony, we must beware those truths that seek to establish themselves universally under the mantra of "celebrating diversity."

Richard S. Telfer
MA Sociology II

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Copyright The Gazette 1999