This Africa Day, Let Us Celebrate Diversity

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Have you ever noticed how most people speak about Africa differently than they do other continents? People don’t say “I’m going to Europe” when they’re planning a week’s vacation in France, or “How long did you live in Asia?” when someone lived abroad in China. Instead, they name the country itself.

However, when speaking about anywhere in Africa, people generally refer to the entire continent. It’s rare that countries or cities get singled out. Rather than “a safari in Tanzania,” people say, “a safari in Africa.” For some reason, it’s not the default to be specific or differentiate between countries when talking about Africa.

Africa is a continent made up of 54 independent nations, each with diverse cultures, traditions, languages and histories.

So why do we talk about Africa as if it is all one place?

It’s human nature to generalize that which is unfamiliar, that which we don’t understand.

Typically, in the United States, Africa is portrayed as a distant, foreign, war-torn, disease-ridden continent where lions might wander into villages at any moment.

In reality, across Africa, people are more likely to die from a respiratory infection than HIV/AIDS or malaria; Ethiopia alone has 134 accredited universities; Namibia, South Africa and Botswana have the highest rates of income inequality in the world; and only 13 countries in Africa are ranked less peaceful than the United States.

This gap between assumption and reality is no different when some people talk about individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

If Mosaic believed that everyone with an intellectual or developmental disability has the same experience, we would not exist as we do today.

But we recognize that each individual’s needs, goals and dreams are unique. Each individual defines “meaningful day” differently.

For Mosaic to develop individualized service plans for the people we support, we have to know each person we support individually, whether they’re in Moshi, Tanzania or Omaha, Nebraska.

Countries and cities are unique. People are unique. To think otherwise is to lessen their value and contributions to our global community.

Today, Africa Day, let us celebrate diversity: in Africa, with its 54 countries and 2,000 languages; and in the world, with its multitude of races, beliefs and abilities.

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