The answer to both of these questions is fundamentally the same.
Diversity, whether it be the diversity of thought, or the diversity in an ecosystem, makes the entire collective much healthier. In terms of ecosystems, having a more diverse array of flora and fauna increases the overall productivity of said ecosystem. Even within a singular species, diversity in the gene pool means that a species can adapt more readily to challenges and threats.
The bottom line is this: we need diversity, especially diversity of thought, in order to move forward. How can we, as a society, make informed decisions, if we refuse to listen to all people’s perspectives?
One of the most obvious ways to understand this diversity of thought, or lack thereof, is through politics. This is not to say that all diversity of thought is politically based, just that it is an obvious illustration. And in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, we generally accept differences so long as they are not conservative.
In this community, it appears that those who harbor conservative beliefs are forced to be closet conservatives. Of course, in predominantly conservative areas elsewhere in the state, people who harbor liberal beliefs may be forced to be closet liberals. However, since I am a native of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community, I will address this lack of civil discourse and seeming intolerance.
I believe that the root of these issues stems from three things: we don't remain curious, we make assumptions and we assign labels.
A minority of people simply are not curious. They do not make an effort to understand other people or their beliefs. For example, when passing a pride rally or even a protest, a non-curious person may simply ignore the people and ideas they encounter.
Most of us make assumptions about others. Once people hear about or see someone, they automatically believe they know more about that individual than they likely do. For instance, when someone finds out my mother is a Christian minister, they assume that she must be a conservative Republican (little do they know she is a lifelong Democrat).
Lastly, everyone assigns labels. By assigning labels, people ignore the many complexities that exist. This is seen with the simple label of “conservative” and “liberal.”
So, how do I think our Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, and country as a whole, can value all people and their ideas? We can start by remaining curious, questioning assumptions and suspending labels.
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