“A Dialogue on Diversity:” What does it mean?
What does diversity really mean? It’s a question we hope to address in a CCX News series called “A Dialogue on Diversity.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of non-whites is growing in the northwest metro. For instance, in Crystal, the African/black population increased from 6.9 percent in 2010 to 10.5 percent in 2016. Meanwhile, in Maple Grove, the Asian population increased during that same time period from 5.1 percent to 7.6 percent.
What is diversity?
So back to the original question, what is diversity? It depends on whom you ask. For the purpose of this story, we focused on race and ethnicity.
“I think it just means a lot of different people from different walks of life,” said Brooklyn Park resident Cayla Brandt.
“Diversity means having an environment where different people, whether of color, or age or any kind of different kinds of backgrounds get together,” said Pearl Buabeng, a student at Park Center said
The answers varied from city to city.
I think it just means a lot of different people from different walks of life.” – Brooklyn Park resident Cayla Brandt
“I think ideas, core values, first principals, those are the things that really matter when it comes to diversity,” explained Jordan Rowan of Robbinsdale.
“It’s not about skin, it’s about the mind. If the mind is not diverse, we can’t be diverse,” said Minneapolis resident Reginald Grant.
Older adults offered up different answers too.
“People of color mostly, that kind of thing. My neighbor is black,” said James Monteth of Plymouth.
A tapestry of cultures
No matter the definition, there is no denying the northwest suburbs have become more diverse. And it’s not hard to find examples: from the African International Market in Brooklyn Park to Hmong dancers in Brooklyn Center. If you drive down Brooklyn Boulevard in Brooklyn Park, some say it looks like a “mini United Nations,” with many people dressed in traditional African or Hmong clothing.
“When I’m visiting my grandparents in Wisconsin, it’s a lot more white people, or Caucasian people, so it’s always great coming back home seeing all this great diversity here in this area,” said Park Center student Sam Kil.
Dark side to lack of diversity
So what happens if there’s a lack of diversity? Some people feel the need to assimilate and try to hide or change their identity to fit in with the majority population.
“I did try at one point to bleach my skin, if that makes sense, just so I could walk around without getting stares,” said Ashley Bolden of New Hope. “And I got older and I just figured, ‘hey it’s my skin, love me or not.'”
The number of hate crimes reported in 2016 rose by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year according to FBI statistics. And the northwest metro isn’t immune to racial bias. Racist and sexist slurs were recently put up on a sign that not only negatively impacted a Brooklyn Center restaurant, but the community too.
“It is a horrible thing. It’s a horrendous display of racism,” said Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson. “I believe in our city, doesn’t reflect where our city stands, on diversity, cultures, ethnicity.”
Starting the dialogue
Some people may say we’re all the same and race and ethnicity doesn’t matter. But Duchess Harris, a professor of American Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, says that shouldn’t be the case.
“We are not the same, but I think that is a good thing,” Harris said. “I think that some people feel very hesitant about the fact that we are not the same. Many Americans still think our national identity is one that is one of white people.”
We are not the same, but I think that is a good thing.” – Duchess Harris, Macalester professor
Harris wrote a book about race and culture in America. She’s most known for a book she wrote about her grandmother titled “Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA.”
She believes it’s important to talk about race.
“I think if you meet people where they are, and get to know them, and learn about the differences, and respect the differences, then we’re able to get along much better,” explained Harris.