Diversity is not a bad word

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Over the last few weeks, I have read articles and heard of people being targeted and attacked over encouraging diversity in the state of New Hampshire. I have lived in New Hampshire my entire life and it is very disturbing to see how people have reacted to a mere mention of “diversity” in the workforce of the state. Diversity is not a bad word and we should be celebrating and encouraging our diversity here.

Growing up here in Manchester I attended St. Anthony’s Elementary school and St. Joseph’s Regional Junior High. Both schools are Catholic-based and charge a tuition to attend. The majority of students who attended those schools when I did were white. As a child, I was not exposed to many people that didn’t look like me – until I began playing basketball and traveling with my AAU team around the New England area.

In eighth grade I joined St. Anne’s CYO basketball team. I was one of three white kids to be on the team, out of the 23-player roster. It was the best experience in my basketball career – and life. The team had players who were originally from at least seven other countries, each with their own unique culture and story. We learned about each other’s customs and languages through playing basketball. I still see some of my former teammates around the city and it’s like we never stopped being on the same team. We didn’t just create a great team for that one year, we created a family of different cultures.

Entering high school, I left the private Catholic school scene and went where most of my family had attended, Manchester Memorial high school. Compared to the Catholic school system, the public schools had five-times the amount of diversity – and even more today. As a teacher at Memorial now, I have learned just as much as my students have about diversity and cultures from around the world. My students have come from and grown up in many different countries, cultures, and religions. They bring with them to class an understanding of different ways to do things. Not everyone has had the same life experiences, and I encourage my students every day to talk about theirs. My goal is to teach my students to become better decision-makers inside and outside of the classroom. If they can learn from other students as well as me, then they will have a very broad knowledge of how the world works.

I feel that it is very important for students to know how to respect, understand, and be kind to others, regardless of how different they are or where they originally come from. They need to understand that everyone is different and that is what makes each person unique. No one should assume that because you look a certain way that means you will act a certain way. We have to stop assuming how people will act and get to know who they are. Judging someone based on their skin color, ethnic background, or religion is not fair. Sadly we have all done this at least once in our lives and not just based on looks, either. We have to stop judging and assuming things about others. We need to show respect and open-mindedness.

I love how diverse our city is and encourage more people of diverse backgrounds to come visit and live in Manchester. Being diverse should not have a negative connotation. The sad thing is that national current events sometimes affect how people view others locally. This gives others the excuse to attack people who do not look or act like them. Differences of any kind do not mean you have the right to judge or disrespect what is different.

I hope that a positive conversation can come from these negative attacks on diversity in New Hampshire. It is important to have this discussion, as hard as it may be sometimes. I believe the true spirit of New Hampshire and especially Manchester is understanding, kind, and respectful.

Thanks for reading and until next week, live and be happy!

Ben Dion hosts The Weekly Dion live Thursdays at 6 p.m. on 95.3 FM WMNH, Manchester’s only downtown radio station. Follow him on Twitter @BenDionNH and @TheWeeklyDion. Contact Ben at theweeklydion@gmail.com