ZACHARY: Diversity strengthens, defines us

By Jim Zachary 

We are a diverse community.

We are Black and white, male and female, rich and poor, conservative and progressive.

We are a microcosm of the nation, once proud of its moniker as the melting pot of the world.

Diversity does not have to translate into animosity or hate.

We used to say that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.

Our rich religious traditions call us to acceptance and inclusion, to pursue love over hate.

Charity does not just begin at home, it begins in the heart.

Hearts of discord, discontent and dissension must give way to hearts of compassion, understanding and grace.

Diversity and inclusion are most certainly about race, nationality, gender and socioeconomic status, but also about ideology, belief systems and politics.

Political compromise does not mean compromising values and beliefs.

We do not have to embrace ideology we disagree with in order to be a nice person and treat people who see things differently with dignity and respect rather than discord and disdain. 

You may not be able to control what others say and do, but you can most certainly control your own words and actions.

Politics has made us forget basic human decency.

Values must mean more than stalwart political positions.

Our values must be about who and what we are — the words we use, the character we demonstrate and the way we treat others.

Our values, our character, our belief systems must be reflected in our words and actions or they mean nothing. 

In fact, the things we say and do are the truest reflections of our values and beliefs.

Disagreeing and vilifying are not the same things. 

Truth telling and hate-filled rhetoric are not the same things. 

Calling out falsehoods and name calling are not the same things. 

We can say we are not racist, that we believe in diversity and inclusion and that we respect our fellow man even when we disagree but our words and deeds determine the veracity of those claims. 

To put it another way, we are known by our fruits.

Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times, CNHI's director of newsroom training and development and president-emeritus of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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