We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion. ~Max de Per
A couple of months ago I was asked a really good question about my thoughts on diversity. I didn’t answer it nearly as clearly as I would have liked. I gave an answer that touched on three points: 1) it’s hard, 2) none of us are mistakes, and 3) I have learned a lot from people who are different from me. Now, that’s not a bad answer, but it doesn’t reflect my real thoughts. It doesn’t reflect the true value I see in diversity. So, once again I have learned a lot from something I didn’t do correctly. I’ve reflected a lot on this question since and the picture above, various glasses of wine, gets at the heart.
Now some would say that as a white male I have no place in the conversation. I’ve been in diversity-related meetings where that has been said. But I see it from a different perspective. I think I have the most learn from diversity and can be in a unique position to promote the conversation. I would take it one more step. I have the most to gain from diversity. Because so much of my time is spent with people a lot like me, intentionally seeking out people who provide a different perspective makes my life significantly richer.
For me, diversity is not something to be “tolerated” but something to be “appreciated.” A few weeks ago Christine and I attended a wine tasting at the Plum Tree Bistro with our friends. It was a blind tasting of 4 wines that ranged in price from $25 to $95 (restaurant price). We tasted them, compared notes, and then had to write in a form which one was which. Several of us compared notes before coming to our conclusions. We only got two right. The funny thing is it was the middle two. We switched the $25 wine with the $95 wine!
Now, it’s not like I am a wine connoisseur, so I didn’t think about it too much. But then I started thinking about how I enjoyed each of the glasses I experienced that day. Each was made different, they aged differently, and they each had their unique character. I was in a good position to appreciate each wine, but I was not in a position to judge them.
Another similar example came to mind which is much more intentional. Buffalo Trace has a Single Oak Project. They started with 96 American oak trees. Cut them in half top and bottom. Marked them all carefully and created barrels. Then the changed up how they charred the casks, what recipe of whiskey they used, and even how they were stored. Each was tracked carefully, and when bottled the tracking continued. Customers are asked to provide feedback/tasting notes. Their goal is to improve their product, but it also provides customers with a unique experience. You open each bottle with anticipation knowing that it is unique.
So, what does all this have to do with diversity? Admittedly, it is very superficial. Diversity, when truly appreciated, is so much richer and complex than any wine or whiskey could ever be. To see it simply as the Single Oak Project limits it to 1,396 possibilities. But we are all unique. Our genetics are all different. We have all aged differently. Even twins are different.
We can sit back and appreciate a fine wine, or discuss the nuances of a nice whiskey. If we look at people in a similar manner and with the same anticipation the world will come alive. We will have a better understanding of each other. In the end, if we can truly appreciate each other, our lives will all be richer in ways well beyond a fine wine or whiskey.
All the best!