One of my fellow commuters said that all this diversity in the Frederick area (and D.C) made him uncomfortable. I asked him what he meant. He said that it’s not that he had any animosity and he didn’t think he was prejudiced, but being around so many people of so many ethnicities, languages, and religions just unsettled him.
He reminisced about the town in which he grew up, saying that it was pretty homogenous – everyone of the same race, of the same beliefs, of the same socioeconomic background, of the same shared history. He knew that he belonged there, that he was an accepted part of a group, that he understood those around him and that they understood him. It was comforting and familiar.
I tried to understand where he was coming from and while I can get it intellectually, I’m not sure I can fully sympathize. It’s funny, because the way he feels about his hometown is the way I feel about the multicultural communities I grew up in.
Because we were of so many races, beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds, and histories, we accepted it as a matter of course and related to each other through both our differences and similarities. Many of children I grew up with were bilingual (English and their heritage language) and well on their way to multilingual through their interaction with other kids of other cultures. It was just the way it was. We knew we all belonged there, that we were an accepted part of a group, and we understood each other or learned to. For us, THAT was comforting and familiar, and while most of us could easily adjust to life anywhere because of it, we were a little bit unsettled when we found ourselves immersed in homogeneity.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that in itself, when there’s no hostility, hatred, or bigotry involved. It’s okay to be a little unsettled. Maybe that is the point – we all find ourselves out of our comfort zones sometimes, whatever they may be – and that is where we find the common ground between us.
Does all this diversity in the area make you uncomfortable? What are your thoughts?