In recent years, some parts of the world have become more susceptible to acknowledging other cultures. You would think that with all of our technological advancements and human rights campaigns, more respect would be given. And while it has, to some degree, we have to ask ourselves a serious question: Is what we’re witnessing celebration or merely toleration?

We already know that the world is full of different people. The races and colors are innumerable. The backgrounds and beliefs are vast. Yet and still, there are some who have the appearance of celebrating others, but inwardly deny the authenticity that should accompany such.

It’s one thing to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month and share social media posts of important figures. It’s another thing to actually take time to understand and learn about those who represent those cultures. It’s one thing to fight for Asian Rights or promote the equality of Indigenous People. However, it’s a totally different ballgame when we sit down, have a conversation, and hear the language of their heart. This is where the fine line between celebration and toleration becomes one to double-dutch upon. But what we really need to do is land on the side of celebration.

No matter what your ethnicity might be, it’s vital to appreciate the variety around you. Yes, be excited about who you are. Yes, love and honor those of your culture. Yes, appreciate the sacrifices of those who came before you. Yet, you must also learn more. You must also reach for more. You must also go beyond what you’re used to and break barriers to see what else is available. This is why celebrating any heritage month is important for all people, not just those of that culture.

We have to learn why Maya Angelou and Aretha Franklin were such powerful women in the African-American and Black Communities, just the way we should know the contributions of Tantoo Cardinal and Alanis Obomsawin. We must get to know the uniqueness and creativity of Anna May Wong and Joyce Chen in the same manner that we learn of the leadership skills in Emilia Casanova de Villaverde and Dorothea Dix.

What’s the point? We could all benefit from and have benefitted from these women, in some way. We might as well bridge the gap and allow our differences to point us in the direction of unification and elevation. This is the essence of heritage month.

When you can learn to love all aspects of your culture AND the cultures of others, you are giving yourself permission to love the world you live in – one heartbeat at a time.