It is all well and good to showcase different cultures on this blog, but if I am going to be true to its title I better get to actually creating some mosaics. I have to admit I don’t have very much practical knowledge or skills where this is concerned. I am going to be winging it here with a few practical tips. If you want to enjoy everything the amazing mass of humanity has to offer, without the expense of travelling abroad, if you want to learn about and appreciate cultures outside your housing tract experience I have a few suggestions.
- Volunteer: Especially in urban schools and food shelves. You will meet a wide variety of people among both your fellow volunteers and those you help. You will also see first hand how the less advantaged live and may find yourself less prone to being affected by sound bites about “welfare queens” or arguments from moderate Dems who say things like “I want there to be a safety net but so many people take advantage.”
Also, these less advantaged neighborhoods tend to be more diverse than you average cul-de-sac. Many have immigrants from many cultures. You will interact with people from Sudan, Lebanon, Somalia, Mexico and who knows where else.
- Shop in the City/Poor Neighborhoods: Seriously, especially your grocery shopping. Go to the discount grocery stores. You’ll get better deals anyway and you will surround yourself with people outside your usual community. It will be brash at first, like jumping right into a hot shower after shoveling snow in the winter, but once you are used to it, you will find yourself seeing different people in a different light.
- Go to Street Festivals: Especially the ones in the Inner City. Again you will be surrounding yourself with something different and finding yourself having a fun time. If you go to enough and find yourself staying awhile, you may find yourself smiling at and laughing alongside people who used to inspire you to cross the street when you saw them walking your way.
- Find Workshops: Many local college campuses have them. You have to pic up their school paper, or check out its website, but you can find them. This is usually a more somber setting, but you can learn a lot. Most of them have activities that will challenge you on your own preconceptions of others. Do not let that hold you back, it is a good thing.
OK, this is just a quick and dirty first list. It is not very deep, nor terribly well thought out, but I truly believe these activities are all useful. You will notice there is nothing there for those in the Inner City to do, because frankly it is hard for them to get into your neighborhood, and when they get there, they can’t afford to do anything. If you have a park, will they get harassed by police, and if that happens, will you stand up for them? Maybe not now, but start doing some of the above, and you might find yourself viewing people outside your circle as actual people, and you will stand up for them. That is always a good thing.