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August 20, 2017

9:01 PM

Normal life may not get too much attention, but its message is powerful

Francisco Miraval

Recent incidents in the United States and in Spain, not to forget so many other similar incidents in so many other places both now and in the past, are a reminder of how difficult is to live a normal life interacting with different groups if one group, regardless of its origin or ideology, refuses to acknowledge the humanity of other groups.

Those incidents, precisely for the death and destruction they cause, get all the attention from the media and from politicians. The reason is obvious: nobody pays attention to what is normal, but only to what is exceptional.

Let’s assume, for example, that there is an eclipse happening everyday (something that could be happening at some exoplanet). Because of that, we probably won’t pay too much attention to the eclipse, because it would be “normal”. And no headline will ever read “No plan crashed today”, as I explained so many times to my journalism students.

That means that when interethnic relations are positive, constant, normal, and mutually beneficial, then nothing about that will be said in the media. There will be no panel of experts (or pseudo-experts) talking for endless hours about every possible angle of the story.

But normality is real and I have seen it and experience more than once. Several years ago, for example, I worked in an education project with young students from 53 countries, speaking around 40 different languages, and representing all major religious, cultures, and political ideas. In that context, diversity was a normal occurrence and nobody saw it in any other way.

There were, of course, some cultural misunderstandings, sometimes with hilarious consequences, and sometimes more serious issues. Everything worked very well for several years until somebody, not from any “minority” group, decided that from that point on there was only one way of doing things (his) and that everybody should speak only one language (his). Shortly after that, the project ended.

You don’t need to be part of a global education project to see positive interethnic interactions. If you go to a supermarket, chances are one cashier is a woman from Africa and the one a local White teen. And the African American managers is giving instructions to a Mexican employee. Or all the way around.

There was a time, but not anymore, when Mexican didn’t go to Korean restaurants and Koreans didn’t eat at Mexican restaurants. And restaurants offering plates from India or Nepal are not exclusive for people from those countries.

We also need to mention those community festivals where food, music, languages, cultures, and colors mix one with the other in absolute normality. In fact, last weekend I attended a global festival in Aurora, the most diverse city in Colorado and one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Many people don’t march, don’t carry torches, don’t extend their arms, don’t scream to others. They, therefore, will never get the attention of the media. Yet, their message is profoundly transformative because they don’t preach it, they live it. 

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