The guest stands on the small cement porch nervous with anticipation. His nervous energy generates extra heat that pushes its way out through the sweat that is pouring out of his palms. He wipes his palms on his khakis, inhales deep, and slowly exhales hoping to calm his heart that is knocking against his rib cage.
This is the first time he will meet with this group outside their 8-5 schedule and dinner parties have never been his stage. He reaches for the small lit doorbell that sits to the left of the door. His host greets him with a warm, welcoming-smile and with a soft firm handshake the host pulls him in to the party. The guest quickly and instinctively scans the room and in the large open living area he sees 4 clusters of 3-4 people each. He wonders which cluster will welcome him in to their conversation. As he walks in to the room, the clusters stop and all turn and acknowledge him with a wave or warm smile.
Over the next 30 minutes he moves from group to group and stops long enough to have easy, natural conversations and the nervousness is quickly evaporated.
The host calls all to the table. There are name tags on each plate and on the left side of the table about half way down the guest finds his name. He is relieved the head of table was not designated for him. The conversation throughout dinner continues to be easy and not forced. People reach out to him to include him and he reaches back. As his comfort with the group increases so does his charm and he is relieved that the “real him” is emerging.
The night concludes and he leaves happy, relaxed, relieved. On the ride home, he calls a friend who immediately asks how the evening went. He replies that it went well. The friend asks, “So if you had to describe the evening with one word what would that word be?”
“Welcome!” The guest quickly and thoughtfully replied.
Recently, I was asked to be a part of a group to celebrate and encourage diversity. There is something in me that really gets excited about having the diversity conversation. Maybe it is the DNA of my white mother and black father screaming to be heard and united in harmony. Maybe it is the understanding that I have gained from living as a child of color in a white family which has given me this very unique view of both sides, almost naturally creating somewhat of an expert in diversity. Whatever the reason, it is a subject that I feel very comfortable talking about.
As I sat with this group, I began to wonder what the majority thought about this whole idea of diversity. Do they think that giving in to diversity means losing something else? I wondered what the majority thought the expectations were from those in the minority and then this idea of a guest at a dinner party came to mind. The guest has no demographic information revealed in the story above. He is identified as male but you could easily replace him with a female. What he feels and why he feels it are universal themes and that makes him easy to understand and easy to relate to. He doesn’t expect special treatment and is relieved when it is not given. In the end he just wants a seat at the table in an environment where he can feel a part of the group, and welcomed.
When I think of diversity, as a minority this is all I want; good conversation, mutual respect, some good eats, and a comfortable average seat at the table.