My soon-to-be twenty-two-year old recently had an action packed weekend in a Florida theme park. It truly was a super Saturday with his level of enjoyment overflowing the brim. He had spent the day with new friends that he had made during his current internship with the Walt Disney Company. What made me happy about the whole thing was that the group of boys all belonged to different cultures: American, Japanese, Taiwanese, Russian, Guatemalan; and there was, of course, my kid with an Indian heritage.
Nestled in the “Peach State” of the USA, Johns Creek in Georgia is home to more than 83 thousand people that represent many countries and cultures around the world. The city hosts the International Festival where different countries showcase their food and drink, music and dance, and art and crafts by gifted artists. The festival is nothing else but a tribute to diversity, a symbolic representation of unity in the midst of multifariousness.
As the world is progressing on various fronts, the discussion on diversity has gained prominence too. The question is: Have we embraced diversity or shunned it?
It’s a bitter truth that the history of intolerance has been amazingly long and fraught with endless tales of injustice and unfair practices. Almost regularly, stories of discrimination, prejudice, and bias fill our ears. Sadly enough, many have failed to realize that despite being dressed in varied garbs, beneath the lining we are all the same human beings. If mankind could only adhere to this thought, all hatred and problems could have been put to rest.
Well, hope is not all lost, and it is heart warming to observe how on different platforms, the world is making strides in diversity. Be it in politics, films, business, or everyday life, we sense and perceive the acceptance of heterogenous elements.
It is technology that shapes and will continue to shape the future of this planet. And in no other field have we seen the fiesta of diversity to such an extent besides the business and technical sectors. The United States is appropriately called the melting pot where different cultures and ethnicities meet. It is a matter of pride that immigrant CEOs have brought about a global dignity to American business. To name just a few, iconic American companies like Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, 3M, and Adobe have foreign-born CEOs at the helm of affairs.
The Roman Catholic church also broke new ground when in 2013 it selected Pope Francis from Buenos Aires, Argentina as the sovereign of the Vatican city state. While every Pope since the Syrian Gregory III in the 8th century happened to be from Europe, the appointment of a Pope from a South American nation hints at the acceptance of multiculturalism.
As the ongoing debate continues of whether men make better politicians than women, we hear that an unprecedented number of women are running for Congress in America. Air Force veteran M.J. Hegar, who is contesting for the congressional seat in the 31st district of Texas, voices her thought that as barriers have been removed for women with young children to run for office, the country is going to witness more and more women running for and elected into office. Just this week, twenty-eight year-old Latina woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent shockwaves across Washington as she ousted 10-term incumbent House Democrat Joe Crowley in the 2018 primary for New York’s 14th congressional district. This speaks as to how race and gender bias have been sidelined; quite a refreshing news!
“Whoever you love, Madrid loves you” was the tagline as Madrid in June 2017 hosted WorldPride, an event that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues on an international level through parades, festivals, and other cultural activities. The issue of LGBT rights has stirred immense controversy across the globe with camps sharing diametrically opposite views on the matter. But just as we have witnessed anti-LGBT stances, we have seen people from this community as heads of government and holding key positions in international bodies. Though there is still a long way to go, the fact that there is some acceptance on this front needs to be appreciated and encouraged.
The film world too has attempted to make a departure from established norms and set the trend to create an environment where color or gender preferences are ignored. Who says that it’s only Batman, Spider Man, and Superman who can save the world? Diana Prince the warrior princess crushes all stereotypes as she valiantly sets forth to stop World War I in the DC Comics-based film Wonder Woman. It also helps that the film’s director, Patty Jenkins, got the honor of having earned history’s biggest opening for a female director upon the film’s release. The biggest box office success for a black director, Disney’s Marvel Studios film Black Panther is a celebration of African culture and pride and an emblem of Hollywood diversity, artfully shedding light on the plight of African people over the years while also calling for love instead of hate in the face of oppression.
A new bold trend that has surfaced in recent years is the alteration of the background of beloved fictional characters as they are adapted into new media. Artemis Fowl, the science fantasy adventure film that is slated for a 2019 release, will present a major change from the original novels it is inspired from. Oscar winner Judi Dench will play the role of a cigar-smoking elf named Commander Root. This indeed is an interesting development because the character in the book versions has always been a male figure by the name Julius Root. Walking the thin line between good and evil, Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton and Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson are two characters that have always intrigued DC Comics fans. Over the years, the two assassins have been portrayed as Caucasian men. But African-American Will Smith’s Lawton portrayal in Suicide Squad and part-Maori Manu Bennett’s nuanced performance as Wilson in the show Arrow (one of my boy’s all-time favorites) paved the way for these characters to be appreciated in bold, new ways by audiences.
It is imperative to understand that the test of humanity lies in its ability to look through differences and achieve harmony by accepting diversity. Every individual or group is special, and we need to respect their uniqueness even though they may not conform to the principles or theories we live by. A quote from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina beautifully drives home the point: “All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade.” An artist uses various colors on his canvas, and the combined effect results in a masterpiece. The world, similarly, is the playground or the meeting point of multitudes of people who bring with them numerous hues and shades. And only by delicately mixing these colors can we hope to achieve the magnum opus, which is making this globe a safe haven and a happier abode for its denizens.