It's time to talk. And we're starting NOW.

I'm going to make you get comfortable with talking to others and looking inside yourself.

I’m so late with the #DiversityMeans kickoff that I’m horribly embarrassed. I don't curse often (in blog posts). But holy hell, y'all. I think I’m allergic to European internet. People work here. People are able to do their jobs in top, fast-paced fields. Surely the press and delegates attending the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, are able to connect at fast speeds. But, me? I'm that girl in the corner with the thick glasses and crazy hair, peering into her laptop and unintentionally giving the wrong impression that I know about things like connectivity, cloud storage, and humbldeydink drives. The truth? I can’t get a single video file to upload because… well… I’m inept. I’m perfectly good at taking in Alpine views and watching other people ski (I didn’t bring the Tin Man Oil that my knee seems to require). But a working vacation requires work. And I’ve been clumsy at doing so this time around!* But, I’m thrilled to announce that the campaign is ready to go. {Cuing mental cheers of hooray!} 

A dear friend (who was quoting her editor) once said “Nothing is too insignificant for the internet.”

Every day our social media feeds are inundated with listicles, weird news, and other tidbits. It can be fun, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to have so much content rolling before our eyes while more and more of it is devoid of real meaning. I love where I live. I’m appreciative of the rights I have. Especially when traveling abroad to progressive countries and finding that many things I take for granted aren’t so easy for every modern society. 

Like… you guessed it… the internet!

But here’s the rub… we while so many things come easily to Americans, we can’t talk about the things that are important. These topics are the rubber bands wrapped around the core of what entitles us to those rights.

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  • Who qualifies as being a fellow human?

  • What makes them so?

  • How do we treat our fellow humans? The way we want to be treated?

  • Does that mean we have to be best friends?

  • Does this mean we have to understand each other?

It would seem that these questions should have already been solved by the scholars, priests and philosophers who shaped our human moral code, correct? Yet as the world grows smaller through the lens of listicles and blurbs, one might come to the conclusion that fewer people have received the messages of the sage ones than one would suppose--which I hope isn't actually true. 

As we peer even deeper into the wider population’s interpretation of these moral codes, we’re forced to examine the accuracy of those interpretations within ourselves. How are they stacking up to the original grand ideas that were once placed before us?

On American soil (and on other soil, but I don’t have enough knowledge to delve into that today), the cultural lexicon has managed to place the word diversity within the margins of these big questions.  

'Diversity', as a word, has been removed from it’s original context.

'Diversity' has become a cultural marker for discomfort. 

'Diversity' has become something that gauges how much self-evaluation we are capable of handling.

Tweet: 'Diversity' has become something that gauges how much self-evaluation we are capable of handling. ~@ShaniRGilchrist #DiversityMeans

Diversity is a touchy subject in the United States. One of the most poignant lessons I've been learning since I was old enough to think--but not quite old enough to articulate what I was thinking—is that the word diversity holds different internal meanings for everyone. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of DIVERSITY is:

1 : the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety, especially : the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organizations

2 : an instance of being composed of different elements or qualities : an instance of being diverse
— Merriam-Webster Dictionary; definition of diversity

Honestly, I was surprised to see the definition of the word written with so much modern cultural context. I don’t have proof at the moment, but I feel positive that 20 years ago the definition was much more scientific. 

The book I’m writing is technically a memoir, but in my case the genre (to allude to M-W again: a written account of someone or something that is usually based on personal knowledge of the subject) is a means to an end. I’m using my past experiences and those of my family as a doorway that opens onto a conversation people have never been willing to have. Nick Kristof’s idea of a White House-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission on race in America seems to have gone unnoticed. Probably because stringing such words together makes 2015’s political players a bit hot and stuffy under the collar. We cheer and jeer at the outlandish Facebook posts of our contemporaries as candidates and analysts watch, leaving the professional political crowd to believe that the mention of a word as powerful as diversity will put the next voting cycle at risk. 

My memoir is truly geared toward an examination of the many ways diversity is treated by the varying mindsets that fill up the United States. I know my experience, but that falls flat if I don’t know more about yours. This is true of writing this book, but it’s also a fundamental factor in how we interact with fellow citizens on a daily basis. The less we discuss it, the more fearful we become of each other. The more fearful we become, the more vulnerable we become, as a nation, to opinion formation via mind-controlling marketing tactics.**

image via public domain. words via Dr. Martin King, Jr.

image via public domain. words via Dr. Martin King, Jr.

Are you ready to talk about it? Are you ready to burst through the discomfort to arrive at a place where we won’t cringe at the idea of examining our moral core?  

 

It’s actually going to be quite easy. You’ll forget that you’re learning anything. You’ll forget to sweat. I think you may even have quite a bit of fun.

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So, without further ado, I introduce #DiversityMeans--a social media/video campaign where I'll be interviewing individuals about what diversity REALLY means. Every other week I’ll post an interview via my YouTube Channel, asking the participant five questions:

  1. Off the top of your head, what is the “textbook” definition of DIVERSITY?

  2. What is your personal definition of DIVERSITY?

  3. How does this personal definition of DIVERSITY reflect or differ from the examples you saw or lessons you were taught growing up?

  4. Why is DIVERSITY is so polarizing?

  5. Will DIVERSITY ever just be a word?

In the meantime, we’ll be rotating these questions through social media channels on a weekly basis. This is your chance to talk about it. When you see one of the about questions asked with the corresponding hashtag, answer the question (don’t forget to add the #DiversityMeans tag, yourself!). You’ll receive bonus points if you retweet the week's question! ***

Since I’m the one pushing this on, it wouldn't be right for anyone but me to be the first guinea pig to answer the questions. So, without further ado, here’s my (slightly imperfect) YouTube video, featuring a look at what #DiversityMeans.

*admittedly, drinking hefeweizen in the bar with Aaron and his colleagues while waiting on uploads wasn't incredibly helpful. extremely fun, but not very good for expediting the task.

**There's going to be SO much on this later. Brace yourselves!

***be sure to follow me on twitter, facebook, pinterest!