Diversity and multiculturalism

img_7070I ran the NYC marathon last weekend. It was amazing. My fourth marathon, and although it was my second best time, it was my favorite race in so many ways. My family came for the trip, and jumped from subway to subway to follow me along the course, and it was the perfect day for a marathon: bright and sunny, cool temps (low 50s), and no wind at all. Of course, my mind always comes back to the topics of Hitting Bregma, and my time in NYC was no different.

The NYC Marathon is a giant event. I don’t know how many people crossed the start line, but 52,697 people crossed the finish line. It is the largest marathon in the world (there are other running events that have more participants, but those are combined events with marathons, half-marathons, and other races; NYC has the largest number of marathon runners of any event in the world). To make the logistics even more complicated, it starts on Staten Island, and the first two miles are on the Verrazano Bridge, which is the only road that reaches the island from NYC. To handle all the people coming to Staten Island, the marathon provides ferry rides and bus rides (over the bridge) that take runners to another set of busses that drive to the start village. This all takes a lot of time, so runners spend a lot of time waiting in the start village. On top of that, the start times are in eight separate waves beginning with the professional wheelchair division, then the handcycle and athletes with disabilities wave, then the professional men, then a small group of runners who are part of the five-borough challenge, then the professional women, and finally wave 1 (which includes the professional men), followed by three more waves. The first starts at 8:30, and the last doesn’t start until 11:00 AM. For many, this means long waits in the start village. Mine wasn’t too bad, but still felt very long, especially compared to other races that start early with short distances from my car to the start line. My ferry time, just for sake of example, was at 6:30 AM and my start time was 10:15. And this is where we get to the topic that fits here.

During the time in the start village, runners are surrounded by people speaking foreign languages, and every announcement is repeated in French, German, English, Spanish, and probably a few other languages that I didn’t think twice about.

It dawned on me that my reaction to this was likely vastly different from that of others. I LOVED being surrounded by that diversity. I LOVED hearing people speak other languages. I LOVE the influence of other cultures (food, music, art…).

But some clearly don’t like this. They want America to be homogeneous (but still like at least some “ethnic” foods, ignoring the diversity there). They want us to all speak English (oddly, not American, but English; England is a foreign country).

I’m not sure why. I can’t understand why all the richness and diversity of the world would bother people. I don’t know why people want sameness.

I’d like to understand where they’re coming from, but I can’t imagine I’d ever feel the same. I don’t know if it’s fear of “others,” or just being uncomfortable with things that are unfamiliar, but it makes me sad that people can’t find the joy in multiculturalism and diversity like I do. I suspect that much of what underlies these fundamental differences also underlies many of our differences.

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One thought on “Diversity and multiculturalism

  1. You would then love living in NYC, not just competing in the marathon. As a New Yorker, one thing I adore about this city is it’s diversity. Diversity is our strength. Well…diversity and pizza. 🙂

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