COLUMN: Holidays a good time to speak about diversity

There is no better time than the Christmas season to have wonderful discussions as family members...

There is no better time than the Christmas season to have wonderful discussions as family members from near and far gather to enjoy the festive time. As the New Year approaches, parents should take the time to speak to their children about how beneficial it is to celebrate diversity outside of their own culture and vice versa.

In some families, the children understand it, but the parents don’t. If this is the case, it’s important for the children to stand up and correct their parents in how their family can become more welcoming in establishing cross-cultural relationships. Communication is often the key element to breaking down these barriers.

In the spirit of celebration and giving, it’s also a beautiful time to develop diverse friendships. One of the things that often surprise me is I rarely see people from different backgrounds walking together in our community. And if I do, it sure brings a smile to my face. For how large our multicultural community is, I should be witnessing this more often. I recall growing up in the area and it would be a common occurrence to see many people from our diverse population together. So, why the drastic shift? Well, there are many theories and one is parents sometimes have influences on their children on who they can keep as their friends. I know it’s hard to imagine, but it’s real and must change. Segregating on racial profiling is not how cultural diversity is celebrated.

A few of the students who wrote into the Abbotsford News School Diversity Essay Contest, which we held recently, shared some examples of isolation occurring at their schools in how students interact with each other. In this day and age, there is simply no excuse, not to have a diverse group of friends. If your son or daughter doesn’t have a diverse circle of friends, maybe it’s time to sit down and discuss how this can encouraged. Pointing the blame on a certain group is easy to do, but it’s not going to help and improve the situation. My parents growing up always supported us to have a diverse group of friends to do activities with. I remember when this lady shared this unique story with me. She said: “I was visiting this country where there was no diversity and couldn’t wait to come back to Abbotsford where we are so enriched with diversity from people all over the world.”

One of ways to improve this situation is to move away from ethnic communities creating their own sports teams or leagues. It may appear to be a good investment, but in the long haul the entire community loses out and creates tunnel vision for everyone involved. Diversity is about including people into your lives, not excluding them.

Ken Herar writes monthly on diversity issues.