Diversity Awareness

Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and attending public schools meant that I was surrounded by a relatively diverse group of peers from a young age. I never realized that this was different from how all children grow up, it just was. This is the case for most children I think, they grow up thinking that their own experiences are shared by all people. This is why educating children about other experiences and teaching them how to be aware of their own perspective is so vital. It is also so important that we all become aware of how our brains work and how to become aware of the “hidden brain” as writer Shankar Vedantam coined it. I thought this quote really summed it up well,

So the problem is not that the plane has a pilot and an autopilot function. The problem is that sometimes without the pilot even being aware of it, it’s the autopilot function that’s flying the plane.

Shankar Vedantam

By learning about how the subconscious sections of our brain function, we can better understand what causes us to react in certain ways and evaluate if we are “piloting the plane” or if we are allowing our automatic reactions to drive our decisions.

Over the years, I have worked as a part of many teams. From my own experiences, I have observed that teams that are comprised of diverse individuals seem to work better. This is also supported by in the article How Diversity Makes Us Smarter from Katherine W. Phillips.

Finally I wanted to address being uncomfortable. In some situations, exposing ourselves to diverse experiences can feel uncomfortable. I think that this is completely normal and actually a good thing. The feeling of being uncomfortable is a sign that we are extending beyond our current levels of knowledge and understanding.

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8 Responses to Diversity Awareness

  1. Kaisen Lin says:

    Thanks for your post. At the end of your post, you mentioned feeling uncomfortable when exposing to diverse experiences is normal. I am curious what you will do when you have this feeling. Do you do anything to overcome it?

    • abramds says:

      Thank you for the question. I think that the first step in overcoming the uncomfortable feeling is simply being aware of this possibility so that it is not unexpected. In terms of overcoming these uncomfortable moments, my natural reaction in these situations is to start talking about some of my interests in order to create some shared connections. In general, I think it is important to develop skills and techniques to make these situations more comfortable, but I also think that it is important to embrace being uncomfortable. This is what I was getting at in the post. We need to be able to recognize the feeling as sign of growth.

  2. Wejdan says:

    I agree with you, from my experience I can say that working in diverse groups are much easier. I believe it’s due to how everyone understand what the others went through and has a similar experience and struggles, which all can avoid.

  3. Sara says:

    Your comment about children assuming their experiences are shared by all people really resonates with me. I remember when I was very little and I learned that not everyone dreams the same thing every night. In my mind, it was like the whole world turned on the same tv in our brains at night and everyone had the exact same dream. I was shocked to learn that wasn’t the case! But also – how exciting to learn that’s not the case. Consciously remembering that others grow up differently, think differently, work differently, etc., is a critical first step to being inclusive.

    • abramds says:

      It is so interesting how we can fall into these assumptions that our experiences are somewhat universal. It makes me wonder about how much of this is learned versus innate.

  4. Amy Hermundstad says:

    I agree that teaching about perspective is so important. I remember so much of my education being taught facts and truth. And I did not realize that value and importance of perspective (my own or others’). One simple example is how I viewed history as a student. I remember learning about history as a series of dates and facts and I did not engage in other perspectives or confront my own. Even in my engineering education, I often tried to find the “right” answer. But engineering is not so simple. We have to choose which problems to solve, select a design, identify requirements, etc. And those all are influenced by perspective.

  5. D. Gupta says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Sometimes, we just tend to stick to being normal. We should definitely try not to walk on the beaten paths. Working with others might be uncomfortable at first, but the different skills and experiences that others bring to the table is definitely worth the initial “discomfort”.

  6. Chang says:

    This blog recalled my memory when I just entered college. Actually before college I just staid at my hometown and the all the students were from the same city and share the same dialect and living habit. But in college, students were from different parts of the country and have various experience before they came to the same college. I agree with you that sometimes people feel uncomfortable when they have to deal with diversity. But it’s inevitable since the integration of the society, everyone should learn to work with people from different background.

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