Won’t you be My Neighbor? Let’s Welcome Our Local Diversity

Holly Lynch New Yorker Logo
Holly Lynch New Yorker Logo
Holly Lynch New Yorker

Won’t you be My Neighbor? Let’s Welcome Our Local Diversity

Holly Lynch: Citizen Advocate
October 25, 2018

As a child growing up in New York City I took diversity for granted. My neighborhood was filled with people from different countries, ethnicities, classes and sexual orientations, so I assumed every place and child’s life was as rich as mine.
As an adult, I understand how lucky I was to live in such an openminded and integrated community. New York is a place where difference isn’t a threat. It defines and improves us. Perhaps that’s why we’re called unique. We’re the largest city and the economic capital of the nation (and world), because nearly half our population wasn’t born here. 

Now, as I reflect on my life, I realize my upbringing was so rich, because I actually experienced how the poverty, health crises, and homelessness that plagued us made us stronger. The generations. of Irish, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic, Italian, Polish, African American (and African African) immigrants that brought their differences here have made us stronger, and indeed richer, as a communal melting pot. 

But just because we’ve melted together, doesn’t mean we’ve melted equally. In fact, the racial pay gap hasn’t improved in over 35 years. “Black men earned 73 percent of white men’s hourly earnings in 2015 — the exact as in 1980. Pay disparity for Hispanic men has gotten worse: they earned 69 percent of white men’s hourly earnings in 2015, down from 71 percent in 1980,” writes Kirsten Salyer for TIME Magazine. 
Why should this matter? Because diversity makes ideas, government and our economy stronger.
I sat down with, Steven Choi, the Executive Director at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC.org), the oldest and largest organization of its kind to explore the topic. “Diversity is important,” explained Choi. “Because you have a stronger pool of job applicants, contractors and experiences coming to the table.”
In short, when different peoples have a voice, they add value we wouldn’t have otherwise. Gino Perrotte, a lecturer and educator on diversity at Baruch College, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Columbia University 
(http://rightbrainjourneys.com) put it this way: “Diversity is a great teacher. We all share some common experiences that define what it is to be human. And yet because of the intersectionality of our identities, we experience life differently from others. So, understanding, recognizing, and embracing our diversity allows us to bond and grow stronger through our similarities, “The collective wisdom shared by a diverse group creates synergy,” he surmised. “Together we are more than we could ever be on our own.”

So, what can we do to embrace our diverse neighbors, narrow this pay gap and grow the communal economic pie? Give our new neighbors an economic and political voice. Let’s tell our representatives we want everyone in the conversation. Let’s literally talk to our neighbors— greet them in their native tongue, or help them learn ours... And most important: Let’s spread the wealth, by prioritizing our neighbors’ businesses and literally spending our values where they make us all richer.

Holly Lynch New Yorker
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