Diversity and inclusion: Critical to region’s vitality

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How about this for multiculturalism?

Mother born in Casablanca, Morocco; father hails from Bucharest, Romania.

Birthplace of their progeny? Israel.

That would be me, which makes me a crossbreed of sorts. While both of my parents are of Jewish extract, they came from such vastly different parts of the world, their union was scorned by some in the faith as an act of intermarriage.

Such were the times.

My mother’s ancestors had fled from Spain to Morocco amid persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. Dad’s family traces to Medieval Germany, with a relocation in the late 1800s to Romania for reasons no one in the family ever figured out. Could have been the pogroms aimed at dispersing Jews at the time, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, their marriage, according to the views of disapproving types, was problematic because Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews simply weren’t supposed to mix. Their faiths might have been the same but they spoke different languages, ate different foods, chanted prayers differently, celebrated common holidays in different ways and certainly looked nothing alike.

My father was fair-haired, blue-eyed; mom is raven-haired and has brown eyes, though what really set her apart from dad is her olive complexion.

As you might imagine, my parents experienced a measure of prejudice as a result of their decision to marry, though it never approached the biases felt by blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others in this country. But my folks felt discrimination nonetheless, so much so that it was one of the reasons they left Israel and moved our family to America in the late 1960s.

At that point, the civil rights movement in this country was at its height. The ideals of that social upheaval are still elusive to many, though I believe there’s a greater understanding than ever that diversity is something to embrace, that the mingling and mixing of ethic groups and races means we are evolving into a more open-minded and inclusive place.

Of course, there are plenty of Americans who still don’t feel this way.

You can get a sense of the lingering suspicion and even hostility by reading the FAQs on the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum’s website:

“Is this some form of social engineering or community manipulation? Shouldn’t a community reach a natural level of diversity without you or someone else trying to influence it?

Are you trying to encourage a tidal wave of gays and lesbians, immigrants, African Americans, Hispanics, etc., to invade our city?

Here’s how the Forum responded to both questions:

“This effort is not about singling out any one identity. It is about creating an inclusive environment for all people.

“We are not trying to recruit anyone to move to our city. We are about creating an inclusive environment where the people who already live here will want to stay.

“… If others are attracted to our environment and want to add to the things going on here, we think that would be a positive step for the health of our community.”

Amendment 2, the anti-gay-rights measure born in the Springs in 1991, created an image of the city as an unwelcoming place.

But I believe it’s an unfair characterization and largely inaccurate, despite some of the questions and challenges that the Forum — and segments of our community — continue to see.

That said, there’s still a lot of progress to be made on this score.

A number of area corporations have lent their support to the Forum. More need to do so, especially our largest employers.

We also need to have more community events of the sort hosted this spring by Vanguard Church. Nearly 500 people attended Vanguard’s panel discussion on homosexuality. Among the panelists: a representative of Focus on the Family.

The economic vitality of this region depends on our ability to change perceptions about our alleged intolerance.

You can help address this on Tuesday, when the Diversity Forum will be giving out its 2010 diversity and inclusion awards to for-profit and nonprofits in the region.

You can read about the winners in next week’s Business Journal, or you can grab an early copy of the paper by attending the awards presentation at a lunch at UCCS sponsored by Adams Bank & Trust, Wal-Mart and the Business Journal.

Colorado Springs is a great place to live, not only because of its physical beauty, but because of the great quality of life it offers. That includes a mix of people, cultures, intellectual and creative resources made possible by our social and cultural diversity.

We need to do more to celebrate our diversity.

If you haven’t made plans to join us at the lunch, please consider attending. You can register at csbj.com, by calling 719-329-5230 or by sending an email to our Tessa Anderson at tessa.anderson@csbj.com.

I hope to see you there.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at 719-329-5206 or allen.greenberg@csbj.com

One Response to Diversity and inclusion: Critical to region’s vitality

  1. Thanks for this great piece Allen! Your readers can get their very own “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers, which debuted in Colorado Springs after the Amenement 2 debacle, from Citizens Project at http://www.citizensproject.org or by calling 719-520-9899.

    Barb Ferrill Van Hoy
    August 6, 2010 at 11:06 am