Daniel Goleman introduced the idea of emotional intelligence back in the 1990s — the idea that an increase in self-awareness and self-management will help us to improve our social awareness and our relationship management. Yet, every day I see evidence, throughout our nation, of a clear lack a self- and social-awareness. More frequently, we’re seeing segments of the population challenged with embracing diversity and understanding the importance of it.
As I prepare for a new year, I have been reflecting about the present. Topics that stand out have been cultural diversity, divisiveness and most recently, sexual harassment. All three of these social problems are outcomes of a lack of self-awareness and self-management. Why is it so hard for us to embrace differences, value other perspectives and respect people as equal human beings?
As I enjoyed Independence Day and Labor Day, I thought, what if fireworks or balloons were only one color? Would it be as impressive if they were all the same color and the same style or design? Would we still “Oooh” and “Ahhh” if there were no diversity?
Truly embracing diversity takes action, otherwise it is just a word on paper. As I watch the exhausting and unfortunately timeless conversations around race and diversity spill into gender and equality, it seems as if, as a nation, we can only embrace diversity and differences when it’s wrapped in a form of entertainment. When we are trying to decide on what is for dinner — is it Mexican or Thai? We are fine hearing hip hop in our commercials and at sporting events; it’s cool that you just scored front row tickets for Jay-Z and the Queen B, and that our sports teams did so well in the draft that we are now in the championship. Yet, when we see the diversity move into our community, our schools and neighborhoods — now hold on a minute! Perhaps it is not as welcomed.
I moved to Colorado Springs about five years ago from Chicago. One piece of advice that was given to me by everyone I met was, “Make sure you drink lots of water.” It’s great advice — insight that is intended to help acclimate to the higher altitude and drier climate. But just like the idea of diversity, it is only beneficial to us if we put some action behind it. A glass of water on the table by itself does not benefit me unless I drink it. Being hydrated in Colorado takes the same amount of effort and action it takes to improve our knowledge of cultural diversity; understanding what other people are facing every day.
This year, people in our community and our nation have had important things taken away from them because of natural disasters, violence and terror, and even legislative policies. Maya Angelou said we are “more alike than unalike.” We are more similar than different. I challenge you, moving into 2018, to look for ways to stay hydrated by learning about your neighbors and learning something new about a culture. Stop relying on social media echo chambers or media sound bites to educate yourself. Be your own teacher. Begin a journey to learn about different cultures and lifestyles, learn what people like and dislike, and discover how you’re more similar than different. I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and make a new friend that is completely different from you — #unitedshadesofamerica. I am challenging you to pick up that glass of water over and over again, to keep your mind hydrated.
Stay thirsty, my friends.
Anthony Perez is president of the Colorado Springs Hispanic Business Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.