Diversity and Inclusion.

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(Picture found on the UTDiversityMatters’s Facebook page)

I’m frustrated. It’s not uncommon for me. You probably know that, but today I found myself so overwhelmed with all of these negative emotions that I couldn’t even form a thought that made sense. So, naturally I’m writing about it to try to form something coherent.

This morning in my Law and Society class we talked about immigrants. Immigrants are people, and that’s all that really matters to me. I don’t care where they’re from, why they needed to leave their country, what they’ve done… All I care about is that they’re people that need help. But we (America) don’t do a good job at helping them. We make citizenship impossible to achieve. We arrest, detain and deport them just for existing. Because somehow it’s possible for a human being who God placed on this planet to be illegal for just breathing. We make it loud and clear that we are exclusive.

It’s like we’re saying “Sorry, we’re known as a melting pot but we actually don’t like anyone who doesn’t look, act or talk like us. Oh, there’s political conflict, natural disasters, war and stagnant economies in your country? Well, that’s just too bad you’ll have to deal with it or find somewhere else to go because I have to eat my post-dinner ice cream, fill up my new car with gas, charge my iPhone and watch my Netflix shows. I don’t have the time, energy or resources to help you.”

Are we really that afraid of people who aren’t like us? Are we so afraid of diversity that we’ll risk their lives? Like our luxuries and  privilege are more important than their lives. They leave their country out of fear. They don’t want to leave their home, everything they know and love, but they have to. They don’t have this big agenda to destroy America. They’re seeking refuge, and they think they can find it here. But they don’t because we don’t give it to them. Because we make them live in fear here too. Instead of being welcoming and kind, loving and caring, we make them continue to live in fear.

That entire conversation in my class this morning reminded me of the current big UT issue, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion. As most of you know, there is a bill trying to defund the office for In God We Trust decals for law enforcement vehicles and minority scholarships. Now, I have a lot to say about what they want the money to go to, but I’m going to skip that to talk about the importance of why we need diversity and inclusion. A more important conversation.

We need diversity because we’re scared of people not like us. Why is that? Because we aren’t exposed to them. Why is that? Because we aren’t inclusive. We kick people out of the country, our bakeries, our churches, you name it because we’re exclusive. Just like segregation. Only whites allowed. Only white, Christian, heterosexual, men allowed. And there’s always stereotypical reasons to allow this discrimination and oppression to happen. All blacks are criminals, all Hispanics are trying to take our jobs (like we have an entitlement to those jobs), all Muslims are terrorists. They don’t seem wrong, though, because some (a tiny minority) have done those things. We have seen them do it. But it is absolutely essential for us to remember that not everyone falls under those categories. This is why categories are so damaging. They lump all people who look the same into one category when maybe that category doesn’t fit them at all.

And I know. Trust me, I remember 9/11. I know that it scares us, it scares me. Some terrible things have happened because of outsiders. And I’ll be honest, I don’t have the magical solution. I don’t know how to keep all “bad” people out and let all “good” people in. It’s hard and complicated and tricky and risky. But all I know is that they’re people even the “bad” ones. They’re people who deserve to be treated like human beings, like a precious life worthy of living.

And I also know that less than 20% of all immigrants commit serious criminal acts. Most immigrants are arrested and deported for minor crimes like a broken tail light or not using a signal light or for simply existing in the wrong place in the wrong body.

Like I said before, I am frustrated because I want everyone on this planet to be recognized as a human. I am so tired of dehumanization, and we do it all the time. Just the other day I was reading an article about Jajuan Latham, the 12 year old who was shot as an innocent bystander by gun violence, and the comments were absolutely disgusting. The racist language being used was so dehumanizing towards all individuals of color. The violence in their words was almost as bad as the crime itself.

Dehumanization is the third step of genocide, and oh goodness are we there. I’m so scared for this nation and our inability to care or maybe our unwillingness to care. We don’t even care about our own citizens, about our neighbors, let alone the rest of the world. We only care about two things: ourselves and profit. Caring about and helping others doesn’t get us there, does it? So we just don’t do it.

I will say this. It’s easier not to care. Sometimes I miss the times when I didn’t. Caring and acting on that care is exhausting. It takes work, but it is so worth it in the end.

We’re all people created by the Creator and deserving of love and kindness because that’s what Jesus mimicked for us on the cross. He loved the unlovable, cared for the ones not cared for, sought out the ones who were ignored. I strive to be more like that every day, and I really hope you do too. We can start right here, right now on UT’s campus, not allowing the legislature to defund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion because diversity matters.

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