The Garden City Telegram
10/1/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Common ground

Annual event helps promote understanding among cultures.

Garden City has long welcomed immigrants who've filled labor needs ranging from railroad, beet field and sugar plant work to meatpacking duties.

It's made diversity a common theme in a community that's a melting pot of cultures, with more recent newcomers of Burmese and Somali descent adding to the mix.

But while Garden City has an admirable record of embracing diversity, there's no simple, foolproof formula here or anywhere for successfully bringing together different cultures. Miscommunication, misunderstanding and more serious problems happen in all communities that attract people of other lands.

Credit local government and other entities for acknowledging those challenges and being proactive in pursuing cultural understanding between current and new residents.

To that end, the Cultural Relations Board works on ways to help the entire community understand various cultures as a way to develop trust, friendships and other successful relationships.

One of that board's ventures — the annual Diversity Breakfast — is set for Oct. 11, with a celebration of African culture as this year's theme.

Such efforts to improve cultural awareness and understanding became all the more necessary in recent years as political rhetoric started fueling angry, knee-jerk reactions and wrong assumptions about foreigners who come here to live and work.

Yet at the same time, we also know an embrace of different cultures must go both ways.

Newcomers have an obligation to learn and understand as much as they can about the cultures of people already here. English as a Second Language classes and many other good programs help those new to the area assimilate, and are worthy of continued support.

Efforts by immigrants to better understand their new home and neighbors should go hand-in-hand with those that help current residents learn to live in harmony with newcomers.

Even Garden City — a community often cited as a model for multicultural change and progress — has a long way to go in that regard.

Consider the Diversity Breakfast among good opportunities to better understand different cultures, and also acknowledge the many positive efforts of those determined to encourage people to co-exist in a community still growing in terms of cultural diversity.