What difference does being different make?

Is it good or bad to be different?

Every day we are bombarded with mixed messages about our differences. On one hand, we are encouraged to “think out of the box!”, “find your unique selling point!” and “be who we want to be”. On the other hand, we are told to “fit in”, “adjust our language and message to fit the occasion (or client style)” and “integrate with the society we live in”.

Is it good or bad to be different? The answer is not black or white. It is more like all the colours in the colour spectrum. For example, while ghettos can emerge from segregation if those who share a difference can’t or don’t integrate, a sense of belonging can also emerge from segregation.

The diversity mantra that “everyone can do it” has been repeated so many times, that it is easy to underestimate how being different makes a difference. The video of the $100 race game is a shocking metaphor for why “everyone has been born equal” is a myth in the race of life. Despite increasing inequalities around the world, it is very easy to ignore the difficulties faced just because we are different, especially if we have been successful in our careers.

This was the case for Ingrid Silva – the black Brazilian dancer turning the ballerina stereotype on its head. In her recent interview with the O Globo newspaper, Ingrid reveals how at the start of her career she never thought that being the only black woman was a problem. She recalls the moment the pin dropped when she joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem: “I opened the door and everyone looked like me, [and] I thought: ‘How weird’.”

Ingrid is now an advocate of diversity. She created the EmpowHerNY to provide a safe environment for all women to discuss their experiences, difficulties, and achievements without judgment, while always encouraging sorority and dialogue.

“It’s my differences that make me a stronger dancer.”

Ingrid Silva

Stories like Ingrid’s give me hope for genuine diversity to be cherished and embraced in the future of our planet. If you have other inspirational stories or ideas of projects to strengthen people and groups from a diverse background, we would like to hear from you.

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