Our Greatest Strength - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1740117

Our Greatest Strength

We hear that the election of Kamala Harris as vice president is a great victory for diversity, but what does that really mean?

“Diversity” has become a buzzword. The problem with buzzwords is that they are too often repeated by people just to sound like they are doing the right thing, repeated without understanding — let alone believing in — the true concept behind the word. So I’d like to restore real meaning to the word “diversity.”

True diversity is not about numbers, nor about race, gender or creed. True diversity is a frame of mind.

Diversity is, fundamentally, the openness of mind to accept all people as fellow human beings, without regard to their appearance or background or beliefs, and to value their abilities, perspectives and unique contributions to the whole of humanity. This is a cornerstone of most religions, yet somehow is not applied as it should be.

The opposite of diversity is not discrimination, but discrimination is the inevitable result of failure to embrace diversity. The true opposite of diversity is a narrow, closed mind.

I was blessed to be raised (by family, teachers, preachers, mentors and role models) to accept diverse people without prejudice. Not that I led a sheltered life — quite the contrary, I have seen firsthand, from young childhood to today, far too many instances of discrimination: overt, covert, unintentional and systemic. But I have always fought against such injustices and once lost my job for standing up for a victim of discrimination.

Despite all the gains in our country in the past two centuries, there is still much more to do.

The challenge in realizing true diversity is that it must be inspired, not imposed. Forcing diversity on people invokes natural defense mechanisms and often has the opposite of the intended result, and, ironically, creates its own form of counter-diversity.

But it is very encouraging that recent peaceful protests for racial justice have shown such youth and diversity themselves. The greatest positive societal changes have taken place on the generational timescale, and this young generation gives us all hope.

As we close out 2020 and move toward, hopefully, better times, let us remember that, starting with the Declaration of Independence, diversity has always been our nation’s greatest strength. We must all work together now to harness that strength, to rise up and overcome our challenges, and to save us from evil forces that would divide us.

Paul Northrup

Eastport

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