My Diversity Challenge

I pride myself on being a person who welcomes diversity.  I fancy myself to be open to all varieties of humanity, even those I have not yet encountered.  I don’t use the word “different,” or worse “real differ’nt,” as an epithet, the way I heard it used in my hometown when I was a child.  Yet recent events have brought my touted tolerance for diversity up short.  The barrage of print and TV news about the (successful) attempt by the Minnesota Vikings to secure public financing for a new stadium has reminded me there’s one group of people whose culture I just cannot fathom:

Sports fans who paint their faces and bodies, dress in jerseys with players’ names and numbers on them, and bellow with beery breath.

I probably have more difficulty “accepting” rambunctious Vikings fans than Green Bay Packer cheeseheads, for example.  My education in Scandinavian history and culture left me wary of anachronism.  Horned helmets?  A misreading of ancient ritual artifacts.  Huge, hairy guys in bearskins?  Well, look at my puny Danish relatives and try to conjure up their ancestors. Beer drinking?  That’s well documented.

Living in proximity with another social group can enhance our understanding—or confirm the adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  The wonderfully restored Open Book building, which houses the Loft Literary Center, where I teach, sits almost next door to the Metrodome, the inverted teflon bowl where the Vikings currently play.  The new stadium will block a bigger chunk of sky from our classroom windows.  On game nights, Loft students get jammed up in traffic on their way to class, rejoice over distant parking spaces, and scramble through the Viking hordes.  I remember one evening when a student staggered into class fifteen minutes late looking harried and pronounced solemnly, “They’re not our tribe.”

Yes, that’s the problem.  I’ll hold fast to my ideals and maybe someday grow fond of these folks.

2 comments to My Diversity Challenge

  • neil berg

    You can imagine how hard Lorna’s family gathering are for me. I love all the women like sisters, the men too I suppose, but our conversation wears thin really fast. Thankfully a few of the next generation are more on my wave length.

  • neil berg

    Maybe you should reach out to them. Fun just picturing you in purple and yellow face paint.

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