How can we leverage the power of diversity, one of our greatest strengths, to fight crime and violence?
First, what is diversity? I found a definition from the University of Oregon that fits my view of what diversity means when it comes to people and conflict:
“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”
The power of tapping into our strengths (diversity and cohesion) and exploiting weaknesses (lack of tolerance) is paramount in bridging gaps in the social divide. This includes not only racial issues, crime and violence, but matters related to more severe conflicts such as war and terrorism. Often the links between peace and conflict come down to basic human needs and misperceived notions about what those who are different from us think and feel about themselves. It is a form of insecurity that, if left unchecked and aloud to fester into hatred, leads to violence.
I recently read an article by Derrick Boles and Hakim Hazim called “Why We Need to Start Snitching” written in the wake of the senseless murder of a 16 year old honor student, Derrion Albert. The article highlights the code of silence and resulting lack of cooperation between the African American community and law enforcement on Chicago’s South Side. This tragic incident speaks to the lack of understanding and failure to use the great strength of diversity to our advantage. This case underscores the cooperation a community must be willing to afford law enforcement in order to help themselves and provide for the safety of the community at large. Law enforcement needs to understand that community efforts and community policing means more than just speaking about collaborative efforts in a reactive way; we must do something about it proactively. Without a constant, trusted connection between law enforcement and the people they protect and serve, communities and their law enforcers becomes disconnected, and so too do the norms of society and the rule sets that create a stable environment. Collaborative efforts need to be created and nurtured on a continual basis if we truly want to see diversity work its power by having diverse people from all walks of life offering insight into how we root out crime and violence.
When we have opened minds and fully leveraged the power of diversity; when we have achieved shared respect for one another; when we have mutual trust, and that trust becomes powerful enough to reduce conflict and violence, then we will have met the true definition of diversity. The paths that have brought us to where we are today, despite our darkest hours as a country, are still resilient; we need only to leverage the power and strength of our differences. In the same way that diversity is a key to the greatness of our country, it also leads to individual courage, strength of character, rejection of fear and a path to a better way of life.
Employing the power of diversity can lead to safer neighborhoods and greater prosperity if we focus on the benefits that diverse cultural differences bring about: insight, imagination, creativity, innovation and making our lives more secure.