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  • Want to become a better person? Try attending a wedding from another culture.
Want to become a better person? Try attending a wedding from another culture. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles…)
August 22, 2013|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | For RedEye

Forty percent of white Americans have exactly zero non-white friends, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. Let that sink in. Forty percent! That's a ridiculous number of people who haven't experienced the glory that is watching bad TV with friends of another race.

It occurs to me that while some of this startling number can be attributed to the fact that so many white people like living in areas where there are only eight other humans in a 600-mile radius, a lot of it might be because people of all races— shoot, blacks clocked in at 31 percent—don't know how to make friends with others who are culturally different.

Stats like these should be surprising, but the fact is, we're not as integrated in each others' lives as we should be. A lot of folks are scared of things they don't understand, not to mention the horrible people pitching BS rhetoric and hate speech to folks who may not know any better. Sad to say, but I get it.

Now that we've identified the problem, let's start working on the solutions—and I mean this for all races. Take a few seconds and ask yourself, do you have:

>>A crazy uncle who pretends he's still cool?

>>A racist elderly member of the family who you ignore because he or she will be dead soon?

>>An underachieving family member who may or may not experiment with drugs?

>>A family member who acts like his or her stupid, ugly kid is the first baby to ever exist?

>>A technologically unsavvy parent who treats an iPhone like a caveman would treat a fighter jet?

Guess what: EVERYONE DOES! See? You officially have something in common with 92 percent of everyone else on Earth. Start a conversation! Be yourself and embrace your differences!

The cool thing about having a diverse group of friends is getting to observe and participate in unfamiliar traditions. From attending Indian weddings to singing along to country music songs featuring rappers who haven't been popular since '02, seeing the world through someone else's eyes can only make you a better person.

Here's hoping we all get down with the swirl sooner rather than later.

AND ANOTHER THING!

Now that I've said that, here's a message to the people who expect a cookie because they have diverse friends: If you're a former Grand Wizard who went out of his way to embrace cultures you used to hate, then props to you. If that's not the case, then stop being that a-hole who thinks he's special and crows to anyone who will listen that you associate with folks who don't look like you. How desperate for attention are you that you have to keep going to that well? It should be the norm, not the exception.

Ernest Wilkins is Chicago's wingman.

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