Friday, June 1, 2007

Valley should embrace diversity

How and why did we privileged white people become so judgmental and unaccepting of people not exactl


By TRICIA SWARTLING

I am privileged to be part of a diverse community group working to develop a multicultural center that will provide services to our thriving and growing immigrant populations. This center will also offer diversity and leadership training to help our community be more encouraging and accepting of cultural, language and ethnic diversity.

I am also glad to work in a professional environment that is accepting of all people. It is a place where English speakers are encouraged to learn and speak Spanish and where Spanish speakers are encouraged to learn and speak English. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have had in my life to work with and learn from people from different cultures. I am thrilled that the Blaine County School District offers a dual immersion program through which many of our children can learn to read, write and speak Spanish and English fluently and to high academic standards.

I am also mad and very sad about the frequency of statements made by many people in our community that indicate a lack of acceptance of diversity. Recently a woman even wrote a letter to the editor upset about her niece's learning and speaking Spanish. I also regularly hear people say, "I don't mean to sound racist, but ... " and then make a racist comment. I hear stories first-hand of discrimination against people in our community, including children.

How and why did we privileged white people become so judgmental and unaccepting of people not exactly like us? I am not sure. I think there are many misconceptions about different ethnic and cultural groups in our community. Perhaps it is a lack of exposure to the people who are being judged, or an unwillingness to embrace the richness of diversity.

With others, I am committed to working toward creating change in our community. I am happy that my children attend school with children from other cultures. In my opinion, it is time for all of us to challenge ourselves to be open-minded and to work on learning from and about people different from us and, above all, to be accepting of difference. A great place to start is to get to know people from different cultural backgrounds. Talk to them. Learn from them. Educate yourself. Take advantage of the College of Southern Idaho's Spanish Institute in June, which includes language classes and sessions on different cultures in Mexico, and Central and South America. Commit to being part of the change that will make our community a better place for everyone to live.

_______________________________________________________

Tricia Swartling is a resident of Ketchum. She serves as the executive director of the Hailey-based Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.




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