Major change is occurring in the ethnic composition of the people who make up the United States. No longer are we a nation where the majority of us trace our roots to European countries. "White" Americans will soon be a minority, as racial and cultural diversity continues to expand. The students we teach, and the colleagues we teach with, are an exceptional mix of individuals with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Helping students to understand the benefits of interacting with others, from different backgrounds, is a challenge. Students may be hostile to those different from themselves. They tend to associate with groups only of their own kind. Being with people who are "different" can be an anxiety provoking experience. It is more comfortable to remain with the known. However, in our rapidly changing world we will need to feel comfortable with each other in order to interact successfully in both the workplace and in social situations. We all need to embrace values which include tolerance, respect for others, and a sense of responsibility for the common good. Understanding between cultural groups must be cultivated. I believe that this is the first step toward acceptance of others who are different from ourselves.
A beginning step in the process toward inclusion of all people is to gain some knowledge of other ethnic or racial groups. Learning about the customs, celebrations, and holidays associated with diverse cultures is one small way of achieving that goal. Studying the ways of people different from oneself can be an enlightening and positive experience. This learned knowledge can enhance communication and promote mutual understanding, which in turn can lead to multicultural strength and unity.