When you look up diversity it is explained as ‘variety’ or my personal favorite, “very different”. That sounds about right but I honestly prefer the word ‘unique’. When you look up unique, you will find something along the lines of ‘one of a kind’, and that sounds so much better.
People from all over the world and from all walks of life who speak different languages, practice different cultures, are from different ethnic communities and races all brought together to make up the human race. His Holiness the Dalai Lama sees the human race as a global community. That even though we may portray all kinds of differences on the surface, we are all basically the same human beings. Sadly, some of us got it wrong. They saw these differences as a reason to discriminate against others, hate on others, and even go to the extremes of killing those with who they feel they have nothing in common.
Looking at other people and having no room for differences is what leads to such undignified crimes against humanity. Racism, tribalism, percussion, apartheid, xenophobia, terrorism, genocides, to name but a few, stem from people looking at each other and seeing ‘different’ when they should have seen ‘unique’.
If you have been fortunate enough to have seen a famous painting like the Mona Lisa, you will notice how wonderstruck it makes you. I am not well-traveled so I cannot speak from experience, but I can imagine how amazed I would be regardless of whether or not I understood what made the painting so wonderful. In my opinion, the fact that there is only one Mona Lisa is one of the many reasons why it is held in such high regard. Some of us don’t even understand the concept of such art but we would still feel the excitement coursing through our bodies.
In his book, Dynamics of World History, Christopher Dawson says that the most difficult thing for the natural man to understand is a culture or a tradition different from his own. He goes on to explain that this is because it involves an almost superhuman detachment from inherited ways of thought and education and the unconscious influence of his social environment. So we could choose to look at our fellow countrymen as of a different tribe, or different race, a different religion, different social class or we could see them as a work of art. The only one of its kind. If people saw each other as unique, because in fact, they are as there is no one fingerprint or DNA that is a 100% match to somebody else’s, the world would no longer feel like one big fight.
Personally, I have fallen short and looked at people and only saw their gender or tribe or religion and forgot that the blood in their veins was just as red as mine. That they were full of value and worth and dignity and deserved every ounce of respect I had to give. Now every time I meet someone, I try to look at them intentionally and truly see them. Because like the Mona Lisa, they are the only one of their kind. You do not need to understand them or relate to them but you need not forget that there is more to them than meets the eye. It would be a shame to miss it in the name of ‘different’.
Published: June 19, 2021
Written by Jackline Wambugu, a Batch 2 2021 intern at the World Youth Alliance Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya.