Streams

Open Phones: Finding Diversity

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Picking up on one of the "conversation starters" listeners proposed, today's question is "Why is it hard to have a diverse set of friends, and should we care?"   And joining us in the studio is Dr. Valerie Salwen, the listener who inspired this segment, to talk about her search for more diverse friends.Call us at 212-433-WNYC or comment.

Guests:

Valerie Salwen

Comments [54]

anna from new york

I keep returning to this topic.

"Leave the suburbs and move (or visit) neighborhoods in NYC boroughs. Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx offer many ways to experience new foods and be entertained by diverse cultures.
What can be more shallow and idiotic?
Brenda, are you familiar with such concepts as "history,""national literature?" "roots, deep, deep, deep roots?"

Apr. 13 2012 06:50 AM
anna from new york

OK, people, I googled and I do have a recommendation for dr. Salwen. Why don't you, Valerie, familiarize first with history of your OWN ethno-religious group, before going internationally, so you don't end up like your brother being praised by a notorious bigoted monster for "charitable" activities. The world had many "internationalists" (Lenin and Stalin, come to mind) and their "goodness" cost humanity millions of death.
dr anna

Apr. 12 2012 02:04 PM
anna from new york

"I would suggest contacting a refugee and immigration service in your area."
Ginger, there are some good comments here pointing out the this "lady" had plenty of opportunities too have a diverse circle of friends.

Personally, I am convinced that it's unfair to impose on innocent refugees who have enough of problems already an overfed, selfish, bigoted and ignorant "liberal."

Apr. 12 2012 09:35 AM
anna from new york

"Growing up in Brooklyn!! How much more diverse can you get. Dr.Salwen is obviously making decisions that result in her being surrounded by those very similar to herself"
Of course. I didn't hear the whole thing. She reminds me of a woman who responded to Brian's invitation to share the Holiday (Christmas/Hanukkah) "good deeds" experience. The "lady" who lived on the Upper West Side proudly informed that she had taken her granddaughter to Maine to show how poor people live (it was a week after the NYT article about the poor in Maine). "We don't have such people in New York," she declared. I died (and was resurrected). I despised these people.

Apr. 12 2012 09:16 AM
ginger from VA

I have a suggestion for the woman who wanted to have more diverse friendships. I would suggest contacting a refugee and immigration service in your area. (I know Catholic Charities is one of them). They always need volunteers to help the families get set up in the U.S. It's a way of establishing life long friendships with people from diverse backgrounds.

Apr. 11 2012 06:12 PM
tom LI

Doctor Val...? Could it be her rarefied Doctor world where she has isolated herself and family from the miscreants across the tracks...?

We get what we earn...and certain "Professionals" tend to circulate in a world that isolates them on purpose, they chose that isolation. The rest of us, due to having to rub up against everyone else everyday, find diversity a bore a great deal of the time...

Another poster made a great point, Americans think Friends are anyone we have a passing acquaintance with...we think the people we work with are our friends till we leave, etc..and realize it was a relationship of convenience.

Apr. 11 2012 06:02 PM
anna from new york


I am back to Marilyn's comment which confirms my comment about shalowness of Americans.
"I stayed in homes of their foreign members all over the world when I reached their country and interfacing with them opened up avenues of diverse understanding."
I can assure you that you couldn't get any understanding while traveling around the world and "staying." This is this condescending and arrogant attitude I despise. Yes, other cultures are so simple that a week of stay makes them available to an American (as supergenius by definition) who just understands everything without any knowledge .. of anything. This attitude is repulsive.

Apr. 11 2012 12:20 PM
anna from new york

Marilyn, I can assure you that you can't learn someone's culture by attending meetings, particularly if you don't know this someone's language. Your statement seems to be arrogant. I can assure you it takes much more.

Apr. 11 2012 12:09 PM
anna from new york

"How fantastic then that we Americans can relate to so many different kinds of people using our mother tongue"
A variation of this I heard right before 9/11: "It's so wonderful, everyone in the world loves and admires us, everyone is learning English and getting MBA." I thought: "Sure, friends. Life is simple." Guess who was right?

Apr. 11 2012 12:03 PM
Marilyn Widrow from New York City

Volunteering has brought me in contact with diverse types of people. One that comes to mind is teaching English to immigrants that have recently arrived in this country. Another, is my spiritual group where the majority of members are Hindus and I have learned about their culture by attending meetings. Lastly, travel has brought me in contact with any number of people from different cultures. I traveled with an organization, "Servas" where I stayed in homes of their foreign members all over the world whenI reached their country and interfacing with them opened up avenues of diverse understanding.

How can I get in touch with Valerie Salwen?

Apr. 11 2012 12:01 PM
anna from new york

"When you learn the language Esperanto, you will have friends in EVERY country of the world. Diversity of friends is the essence of Esperanto."
No, you won't. Other people have a different understanding of friendship.
This "I talk to him, so he is my friend" is uniquely American.

Apr. 11 2012 11:47 AM
anna from new york

"How fantastic then that we Americans can relate to so many different kinds of people using our mother tongue"
You can't relate. It's fiction. This "advantage," among other factors, has resulted in provincial, uneducated and extremely shallow population.

Apr. 11 2012 11:42 AM
anna from new york

The search of this woman is interesting/worthwhile, however ... there are obstacles:
- the Social-Darwinist/exploitative nature of this nation which reduces humans to being robots. When people work 80 hours a week (most certainly immigrants) they don't have energy and time for a real relationship.
- getting to know someone/a group requires a lot of time - sound bytes are destructive and playing music isn't enough. I have lived (by this I mean studied and/worked as a local) in three different countries and I know how difficult it is learn to understand someone different - it requires the knowledge of HISTORY, languages and culture of these countries etc. Without it we have what we have in this country - a condescending (and frankly illiterate) approach. Susan Jacobs (the only American who noticed what foreign born people know) was correct when she noticed that Americans are not interested in people as humans - they are not interested in knowing human thoughts, feelings, values. Personally, I know I'll start shooting when I hear again the first question New York "liberals" (the most bigoted group in the world?) ask "Where do you work?" One would think that there other questions a person with a Ph.D., three and half masters, multilingual, multicultural, with a firm set of values, etc. could be asked. The zombie population knows only: "Where do you work?" It's difficult to have any interest in such "askers."

Apr. 11 2012 11:18 AM
Mansi from New York

What a great topic. I admire Val's desire to "diversify" her circle of friends as it really does open one up to the differences, but more importantly, the similarities across different groups of people. I recommend Meetup.com as a great place to find diverse groups of people all over NY metro area who come together over shared interests. Try joining a group with similar interests. Or if you are bold, try a group dedicated to something new you would like to learn about. All of my experiences with Meetup groups have been positive. Everyone has always been warm and welcoming. Disclaimer: I have no formal affiliation with the website. Just a citizen. Good luck!

Apr. 11 2012 11:11 AM
Brenda NYC from Forest Hills

Leave the suburbs and move (or visit) neighborhoods in NYC boroughs. Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx offer many ways to experience new foods and be entertained by diverse cultures.

Apr. 11 2012 11:11 AM
Jacob from San Diego

At the end of the day, we Americans should remember how lucky we are to speak English, such a great vehicle for diversifying the group of friends one has. My wife is Taiwanese and she always reminds me how fortunate I am to to engage with a wide group of people on a daily basis. In Taiwan not only are relationships with foreigners more limited, but relationships with Chinese-speaking foreigners extremely rare (and those who do speak Mandarin are usually from a certain working group, such as educated professionals or Christian missionaries). How fantastic then that we Americans can relate to so many different kinds of people using our mother tongue. What a head start!

Apr. 11 2012 11:11 AM
D.L.Mc

I call hypocrisy. Growing up in Brooklyn!! How much more diverse can you get. Dr.Salwen is obviously making decisions that result in her being surrounded by those very similar to herself. What she really wants is these "diverse others" to enter her zone. Not really diverse opinions, just the skin tone and maybe some cool food. She is seeking the equivalent of an accessory, a colored friend to drape over her arm to show how open minded she is. When the reality is that living in NY you really have to go out of your way to find a neighborhood as white as the one she lives in.

Apr. 11 2012 11:08 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

OUt of topics like NIDA and income inequality, you choose fluff? Please don't become like CNN, I'll have to stop my yearly contributions. I'll quote Lauryn Hill's acoustic album, "Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need."

Apr. 11 2012 11:06 AM
wQueens7 from Woodside, NY

The woman from the suburbs who posed the question misses the point. The 'burbs were created to eradicate diversity. If she wants a diverse group of friends she should move to a city where people mix naturally. The woman from Newark who called pointed out the advantages of city living in a diverse community, which is what the Moses era white flight suburbs were created to stomp out, with the help of the automobile. Move to a city and take a bus.

Apr. 11 2012 11:05 AM

But Mike, there are so many French in New Rochelle.
I don't know if it's the name or the Huguenot history.
What would Abigail Adams say?

Apr. 11 2012 11:04 AM
Alex from Brooklyn NY

Most people, even very open minded have this problem. they have two modes in life, or staying in their own universe, or, they seek out a most talked about minority, because people watching would understand that its the right thing to do, and why they are doing it. but in reality they never feel comfortable hanging out with something in between.
It's even reflective in the WNYC programming. WNYC programming makes a point of covering the popular minorities of NY, but makes no effort covering the not so known minorities.

Apr. 11 2012 11:03 AM
Marty from Brooklyn

Playing pick-up soccer in Manhattan over the last five years, I have met people from a variety of backgrounds. Yes, they are all soccer fans and most of them are male, but the similarities end there.

Apr. 11 2012 11:00 AM
wendy from nyc

Could you ask for or provide a little more info about the kind of travel club the caller from montclair mentioned. Not just as an interesting way to travel expensively, but sounds like something meaningful

Apr. 11 2012 10:58 AM
Fahmida from Brooklyn, NY

Capoeira is a great way to meet a diverse group of people. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art (disguised in a dance). It is a great work out, you play instruments and meet wonderful people. The people you find there come from all backgrounds. I am Latina and I met my husband who is Chinese there.

Apr. 11 2012 10:58 AM

I am a black Puerto Rican descent woman, I grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and have always been curious and sought out relationships with people from all over the world. I've always thought of myself as a citizen of the world but find that this is a rather unique out-look. As diverse as NYC is, people tend to stick to their own ethnic group in general. It is a minority that really move outside their own circle.

Apr. 11 2012 10:58 AM
galit from NYC

At a park! But you have to go and start the conversation. Sitting quietly does not work!

I think making friends as an adult is always difficult. We have all forgotten how much effort it really takes to be and make a friend. In school we first shared sandwiches, then shared homework, then invited each over for a sleepover, then maybe became friends.

We all have to remember to put ourselves out there and understand that it takes lots of effort and time. One meeting cannot make a friendship.

Apr. 11 2012 10:58 AM
MICHAEL from Hillside, New Jersey

I am a caucasian of mixed ethnic background. 13 years ago I relocated from a perfectly lovely white bedroom community to a slightly less lovely bedroom community in order to diversify. When my sister married 15 years ago, at the wedding we counted at least 8 different colors of skin and 9 different religions. I have friends from many walks of life; they are of different races from different ethinicities. Life is good.

BTW, I too vote for the laundromat when you area traveller rather than a tourist! Hardware stores are a close second.

Apr. 11 2012 10:58 AM
Shereen from Fort Greene

This topic makes me nervous for three reasons: it solicits people's stereotypes about what "Others" like to do with their time; it downplays what it means to accept and embrace "difference"; and it erases the reality that people need to have a paradigm shift (they need to reflect on their own "identity kit" - ways of behaving and being in the world) in order to develop real relationships with "diverse" peoples.

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

John made his comment in a nasty way, but he does have a point. Go to where the people are that you want to meet. Too often, I think white liberals wonder why (for instance) more black people aren't coming to their (white) church. It's easy to have diversity. BE THE MINORITY. Go to where there aren't that many white people. Take djembe or taiko drumming. Join a mostly black gospel choir.

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
susan from nyc

get a friendly dog, and take leisurely walks at the same time of day over a period of weeks or months, through central park, especially the northern part (north of 96th street). you will meet people from a broad range of backgrounds, who are happy to chat once they recognize you over time. the conversation will start over your dogs, and move on to other things. we have met and visited, in our home and in theirs, people that we got to know through our pets.

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM

Join the Libertarian Party. Or the Ron Paul campaign.
There are many intelligent people from diverse backgrounds.
For diversity I do outreach to leftists in poetry groups.

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'd like to expand on Sara's comment: If 1 of your interests is music, go to hear different kinds of music that tend to attract different groups of people (& you'll see how diverse the audiences are!).

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
Anna Loizeaux from Westchester

I also live in a relatively homogeneous Westchester community - I've met people at my yoga class and I enjoy doing things in more diverse communities like going to bars, restaurants, etc. Also, like has been said, volunteering or becoming involved in community centers, political groups, or religious centers (I'm not religious but enjoy my parents' church for their community and diversity).

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
jenny from NY 10011

check out the website themeetingboard.com it enables you to people in your community. Its free, easy and you communicate through the site

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
C.G. from Manhattan

Does Valerie speaks a foreign language? She could arrange a language exchange with someone who is not a native Anglophone. You both can improve your knowledge of a foreign language including idiomatic expressions and other cultural fine points while getting to know someone new in a personal way.

Apr. 11 2012 10:57 AM
Ericka

primatology, vegetarianism, congolese soukous, haitian art, art deco, animal rights, photography, backroads, luddite-ism, tropical drinks, city planning, the next plane ticket....curiosities lead down different roads.

Apr. 11 2012 10:56 AM
Mike from New Rochelle

You want diversity in Westchester...EASY! Move to New Rochelle, it's like the U.N> here. My wife and I moved from the upper West Side about 11 years ago to have more room for a family. The diversity of our friends is broad. My boys swim on a team that looks like a diversity training group. Most of our friends come through our kids and their schools and athletic teams. The broad diversity reflects the community.

Apr. 11 2012 10:56 AM
Renee from Greenwich, CT

Through schools!
Our daughter goes to a school that offers an International Baccalaureate program- most of the families are expats from all over the world. Having grown up as an expat in Asia- I cherish this diversity.

Apr. 11 2012 10:56 AM
Kim from Brooklyn

Move to Brooklyn!! Take a salsa class in the city! Or Tango night at Belle Epoque!

Apr. 11 2012 10:56 AM
Anna Loizeaux from Westchester

I also live in a relatively homogeneous Westchester community - I've met people at my yoga class and I enjoy doing things in more diverse communities like going to bars, restaurants, etc. Also, like has been said, volunteering or becoming involved in community centers, political groups, or religious centers (I'm not religious but enjoy my parents' church for their community and diversity).

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM

When you learn the language Esperanto, you will have friends in EVERY country of the world. Diversity of friends is the essence of Esperanto. Our conferences are not geared towards mostly politics but rather building friendships. The Esperanto Society of New York is generally composed from immigrants from 20 countries. All Esperanto speakers show their cities to visitors and a thousand three hundred of us volunteer to host foreigners in some 100 countries for free via Pasporta Servo.

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM
john from office

I bet she is not looking for diversity with her kids schooling.

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM
Johanna from East Village

MLK said that 11 o'clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours of the week. Being a part of a diverse community of faith is extremely important to me and that is why I go to Middle Collegiate Church in the east village. It is part of their mission to be a multiracial, multicultural community since knowing people from different backgrounds makes it more difficult to "other" eachother. All are welcome!

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM
Mike

Bizarre choice that you guys picked today for the show. I would think that our time as listeners would benefit more from a conversation without such an obvious answer.

She lives in the suburbs!

Go to where the people are that you want to meet!

Really it's that simple!

People and cultures are generally accepting as whole. Go find them!

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM
Rosemarie Gift from Westchester

Try a service organization like Rotary

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

Come to NYC and go to Marble Collegiate Church! If you happen to be Christian, there are oodles of churches which are dominated by particular ethnic groups. Start going to one dominated by people in an ethnic group other than your own!

Take up a kind of music that is not from your ethnic tradition. Djembe or Taiko drumming, for instance.

Apr. 11 2012 10:55 AM
Marie from Brooklyn

I've met a diverse group of people while volunteering in the woods of Prospect Park. We work with a common goal but come from various backgrounds.

http://littermob.blogspot.com/

Apr. 11 2012 10:54 AM
john from office

A pathetic white liberal, filled with guilt. I live in a white area and dont meet enough brown people, help me meet them please !!. Try moving to NYC.

Apr. 11 2012 10:54 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Because the socioeconomic fault lines created at the birth of this country were racial, and they persist. Too few of us understand this, but it is critical to solving the persistent structural socioeconomic challenges we face.

Nevertheless, individual interpersonal attempts to bridge divides are honorable and may have positive effect.

Apr. 11 2012 10:54 AM
Sara

Salsa! The NYC-area has an incredible, wonderful, diverse salsa dance scene. All levels, all sorts.

Apr. 11 2012 10:53 AM
Stephen from Scarsdale

Especially in Westchester, where some areas are very white and usually affluent, traveling into the city best lends itself best for finding racially and ethnically diverse types of socialization. Try to find activities that cater more to races and ethnicities other than one's own. Pop the bubbles in which we are born, or that we inadvertently build around us.

Apr. 11 2012 10:53 AM
jmurphy from long island

I think this is a very important issue, especially here in the suburbs of Long Island, which are very racially segregated. I am white, I find myself living in a white republican neighborhood where, in 2008, a neighbor actually called my husband out regarding the Obama sticker on my car.

We are actually considering moving out of state (for financial reasons as well) to someplace like Atlanta which I understand to be more racially mixed. The boroughs are great, but too crowded for our taste and I can't abide NYC public schools.

Apr. 11 2012 10:53 AM
Peg

A laundromat is a good place to meet a diverse group of people. Cleaning clothes complements conversations.

Apr. 11 2012 10:51 AM
kate from Glen Ridge

Dog Park, Dog Park, Dog Park!!!!

Apr. 11 2012 10:50 AM

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