Respect for diversity is very important in order for us to coexist in a world where no two people are alike. Diversity provides us with an outlook on what is necessary for growth and development as a society. Diversity allows us to be empowered, to learn as well as teach those who may not be familiar with something that is distinct in another person’s eyes. Diversity can mean different things to different people based on their perceptions. As an African-American male, my identity was shaped through diversity. Growing up in a city where mostly every person was African-American allowed me to see things differently over the years. I was gifted with the insight of seeing the differences between socioeconomic statuses and ways of thinking. Although these were people who looked like me, they were not me. They were unique in their own way and it was something I had to accept.
Over the years, I was exposed to many forms of diversity that made me this accepting, nonjudgmental person that I am today. Sure, there were some things that I did not understand during my childhood years, but I was able to get a better understanding, challenge my beliefs or face my fears to conclude that we are all human no matter the differences in our lives. I remember as a young child assuming that anyone who was not African-American descent would treat me unfairly based on my skin color. This was proven wrong as I became a teenager and coming into contact with persons of other races who reformed my assumptions.
As a therapist of fourteen years, I have the opportunity to work with many diverse individuals. I have worked closely with various populations, such as the LGBTQIA, elderly, and individuals with intellectual disabilities. Also, I learned about different cultures from working with individuals whose racial and ethnic backgrounds differ from mine. From these experiences, I have learned and grew to appreciate the uniqueness that these groups and cultures bring to making this world special.
As my thoughts and attitude have changed, so did my behavior. I am more open to helping those who may act differently than I do. Instead of passing judgment, I now go out my way to help when I can. I make it my business to correct those who make negative remarks.
Vashonte James, PsyD, LCSW